MM 18 June 2017
1 John 3; 1-2 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Today is fathers day, and all over the country children old and young, will be putting their attention on their fathers. For some, this will have brought joy and a sense of thankfulness for a father who has given his best for the sake of his child.
But for others today it will be a time of great sadness - our hearts go out to the hundreds of families who have lost their fathers in the murderous attacks on innocent people at the pop concert in Manchester or on London Bridge in the last month and then this week the tragic fire in London when a large block of flats went up in flames.
Not just children who have lost their fathers and their mothers but also fathers and mothers who have lost their children - any day that followed would be unbearable but the added trauma of knowing that today is Fathers day will be too much for those distraught families to bear.
Lets just close out eyes and bring them to God in prayer
This morning each of us will have our own special thoughts about our own fathers and the role they played in our lives. I was born in August 1940 - my dad was in Germany - the 2nd world war was well under way. I shared on Wednesday in the Friendship Club how I saw my dad for the first time in 1941 when he came home from leave at the birth of my brother Sam - I can‘t remember it but I know he came as I have a photograph of us taken at Jeromes in Bradford.
I can’t remember seeing him again until the war ended in 1946 and then he seemed to be a stranger. He was badly traumatized when he came home because of the awful things he had seen - he was there at the liberation of Belsen.
When he started work he was on nights from 6pm until 6am and so again, I didn’t see him until breakfast time when he came home from work and got us ready for school.
The next time was at tea time when he got up had his tea and then went off to catch the bus to work. Five nights a week - 12 hours a night. 60 hours a week and then if that wasn’t enough in the holidays he went to work with Howgates setting up bird shows up and down the country - we never saw him but he was there working hard to provide food and clothes for us as a family. Like many other fathers in those days, dad sacrificed a lot for me and I will never forget that.
We thank God for our fathers and the sacrifices they made in bringing us up - for the impact they made on our lives.
Of course when we think of our Fathers we are reminded that God wants us to know that He is our father - our heavenly Father . I want us to think about God our Heavenly Father, about His perfect and unfailing love for us His children, and our response to Him as our Father, how important it is that we live in close harmony with Him, so that we can reflect His character and His love, in the world in which we live.
We come every Sunday, to fellowship together as the family of God. Brothers and sisters in Christ - family and celebrate our Father and His love for us, we come to tell Him that we love Him. We come to praise Him and thank Him for giving us life - real life in all it’s fullness.
We come, as any loving family would, to share our experiences of the last week in our sharing time. We come to talk to our Father. We come to listen to Him, We come to learn from Him, to seek His advice and hopefully to respond and act on His advice. We come to bring our needs to Him so that He can minister to us.
Our Bible reading stated that John wrote 'how great is love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God, and that's what we are! (1 John 3 1-3) You and I this morning are ‘Children of God , and God is your Heavenly Father
I remember, that when I was a young lad, and the ice cream man came round with his bicycle with the ice cream cart on the front, all the street used to go out to meet him. Hardly anybody had a fridge in those days, and so you couldn't keep Ice cream in the house. The choice was limited then, no 'feasts' or cornetto's, just the choice of a vanilla ice cream in a cornet or a wafer. If you were flushed, you could have a choc Ice which was simply a 'sandwich' with a chocolate wafer instead of a plain one.
The Ice cream man would then fill the mould with ice cream. If he liked you, he would pack the Ice cream in until it was deeper than the mould, and then sit the wafer on the top. It was so big, you couldn't get your mouth round it. If you were on your best behaviour, He could be very generous, very 'lavish'.
God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children.
Paul writing to the church at Rome reminded them of this when he wrote; All who are led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God and by Him we cry Abba - Father ( Romans 8;14) if we live obedient lives - whatever that may cost us - as His children we become heirs of the Father. WOW!
Like any good Father, He loves us, we are precious to Him. He cares about us, He's concerned about the quality of our life, that's why He sent Jesus, to give us 'life in all it's fullness'. That's not about money, fast cars, a successful business career, it's about the quality of our lives, and the things that really matter.
He wants us to be able to live;
Lives that are lived in the freedom of forgiveness,
'Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have redeemed you; Isaiah 43; 1
Lives that are lived in the knowledge that God called us personally to be His child.
I have called you by name; you are mine’ said God.
The knowledge that to God 'I am precious and honoured in His sight’ Isaiah 43; 4
Lives that enjoy the confidence of knowing that whatever the world has to throw against us, He cares, and is there for us us. 'Fear not, for I am with you'.
The knowledge that ‘He loves us’ Isaiah 43; 4 That's the love of a Father who cares. That's the love of ' Our' Father . A Father who chooses to live within His people, and the only condition is that we 'love Him in return, and are obedient to Him. Jesus said 'If you love Me you will obey My teaching, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him. These are not just My words, but the word of My Father'. John 14; 23
Shortly before Jesus went to the cross, He shared with His disciples what was going to happen to Him - He loved them and He wanted them to know that it wasn’t the end but the beginning of a great new era in their lives.
John 14; 1-14 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'?
‘Lord Show us the Father’ cried Phillip ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ replied Jesus. Paul writing to the Hebrews , said this ' The Son is the radiance of God's Glory, the exact representation of His being'. And so Jesus rightly said to Philip, 'He who hath seen me, hath seen the Father'. The Father is seen in the son.
The family likeness - everyone who looks at my grandson Joshua can see the family likeness in him. Even though he’s a ’Brown’ he’s a proper little Cowgill. When I look at photographs of myself as a young lad, it’s like looking at Joshua. When I look at pictures of my own sons, Kevin and Stephen, it’s uncanny - I can see the family likeness.
Gods word said; Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is. Of course it’s not necessarily what we look like but if we have the family characteristics of our Father. Loving, compassionate, generous, caring - that’s what really matters. 2 Corinthians we with unveiled faces are being transformed into his likeness
At the beginning of this year we spent a few weeks looking at what God says in His word about being transformed, changed, reborn into the family of God. Transformed by the renewing of our minds, changed in our attitudes and responses to others, rebirthed by the power of the Holy Spirit to become like Jesus.
As parents and grandparents I guess that we all see something of ourselves in our children and grandchildren. I guess that our Heavenly Father likes that too when he looks at you and me - His loving, obedient children.
When we look at babies we often say to their parents - ‘He’s go his fathers eyes, or his mothers nose. It is so often true that as the child grows up they begin to take on some of the characteristics of their parents. The more time they spend with them, the more like them they become. In just the same way, spiritually the more time we spend in the presence of our Heavenly Father, the more it will show in our actions, our thoughts, the things we share and do.
As born again children of God, the more time we spend in His presence, the more like Him we become. That’s why John says that when He appears, we shall be like |Him - which presumes that we have taken time to be with Him. Graham Kendricks song ‘Shine Jesus shine’ says ‘As we gaze on Your kingly brightness, so our faces display Your likeness, ever changing from Glory to Glory, mirrored here may our lives tell Your story - Shine on me’.
The world came to really know the God in a way they had never known Him before when they saw the Father reflected in the Son - Jesus. That’s how when Thomas asked Jesus to ‘show us the Father’ Jesus could rightly say ‘Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father’ I am in the Father and the Father is in Me’
We grow to be like Him when we discipline ourselves to spend quality time inHis presence, reading His word, talking to Him in prayer - the more we do that - and together - the more our own selfish self will be transformed by His loving, gentle presence.
I’m glad God wanted me to know Him as my Heavenly Father - I don’t know of any other religion where the relationship between God and man is that intimate or personal. That’s the extent of God’s love for you and me - that He wants to be our Father and wants us to be His children.
I’m glad that God is my Father and that I am His child.
Everyday should be our fathers day as we glorify Him in the way in which we respond to His love and live our lives - reflecting that love.
MM Sunday 11 June 2017
Last Sunday I asked the question What is the church like today? What is this Corps like today? And ended by saying I believe the words of William Booths song ‘Send the Fire’ is so much needed today - we need another Pentecost - Lord - send the fire’. To the disciples the task must have seemed formidable, when Jesus commanded them to ‘go and make disciples’, and yet, they did it! Empowered by the Holy Spirit. Because of the obedience and faithfulness of just twelve men, the message spread out from Jerusalem, to Samaria, all Judea and into the uttermost parts of the earth. They captured the vision and made real the 'impossible dreams' of those visionaries thousands of years earlier.
The speech that Peter gave on the day of Pentecost was very bold, honest and extremely challenging He didn’t mince his words in his condemnation of the people who stood before him as he reminded them that it was they who put Jesus to death on the cross - then came the altar call , ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’
The result was that; Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Reminds me of the Salvation Meetings we used to have at the close of every Sunday when we would see folk come and kneel at the Penitent form. Maybe not 3000 but certainly one or two most weeks. When I first came in 1947 the place was full - over a hundred soldiers on the roll.
Acts tells us that Peter certainly stood for Christ when he preached his first sermon. He had first hand experience of what he is now voicing - Repent - was the first step and that’s what Peter had done when Jesus forgave Him for denying Him. Three times Jesus forgave him - every fault and sin needed to be confessed and forgiveness received - and that way, even today, God will fill His people with His Spirit.
As Peter spoke, the power of the Holy Spirit came upon all those who heard, and we are told that Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
This morning we are going to continue with what Luke records in Acts 2; 42-47 headed The Fellowship of the Believers 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
We are then told what happened
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And;
43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. Lame man outside the temple healed in the name of Jesus
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. Don’t forget, that’s over 3000 people! And then, as if 3000 were not enough,
47 The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
WOW! That’s awesome! And the awesome truth that Pentecost says to us today is that that’s how God wants His church to be today and the power is still available - all we have to do is Repent our past - and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.
Earlier this last week I read an article in the Salvationist headed ‘Pentecost Power’ that said all the things that God had inspired us to look at over the last few weeks and asked a few questions. A few of us looked at these questions in our Bible Fellowship on Wednesday evening.
I wonder how you would answer them?
The first question was this; the disciples reciept of power was preceded by persistent prayer. How much of a priority is prayer in your journey of faith and in the life of you Corps or centre?
We read a couple of weeks ago how the disciples had been told by Jesus to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the promise the Father had given them - and that’s exactly what they did they went back to their room and spent the time in prayer Different prayers, some repenting their doubts and asking for forgiveness -all of them seeking to know Jesus and the secret of His power and strength.
That’s exactly what I did over 40 years ago after my first miraculous healing - I knelt at the mercy seat and cried to God - ‘I want to know You Lord like David and Dorothy Murden do‘. Before the operation I had been in the Army for over 30 years doing all the stuff Salvationists do, band, songsters, even becoming bandmaster - I thought I knew God but God showed me I didn't and that He wanted me to know Him. They laid hands on me and I was miraculously healed and didn't need a second operation.
How much time do you spend in prayer? Is it just a Quick prayer when you have problems - or have you disciplined yourself to make time every day to come before the Lord in prayer to seek His presence and help for whatever the day has in store for you.
The second question was this; Some suggest that Pentecost is a one off event like the incarnation, the Crucifixion - unique and never to be repeated again- what do you think?
Of course the first Pentecost was unique but as we are promised by God through the prophet Joel - the promise is for all time - that’s why William Booth could write the song ‘we want another Pentecost - send the fire today’.
The Holy Spirit is the same presence that filled and empowered Jesus - and who empowers and equips people like you and me to do the right, to conquer in the fight against sin and evil, to live in harmony with one another and to win others for Christ
Question 3 was ; How desperate do you want the ressurection power of God at
work in your life? Sadly many are content to stand by and see the empowering in others - probably through fear, insecurity of their own faith or fear of what it might cost them.
The last question was this; Are you willing to venture with God from Holy Huddle to a hostile world where discomfort, uncertainty and ridicule wait?
The song that we sang at the beginning of our meeting says it all ‘I’ll stand for Christ for Christ alone - amid the tempest and the storm. Where Jesus leads I’ll follow on - I’ll stand, I’ll stand for Christ - Alone is easier to sing than it is to actually put into practice - the great thing is that we are not expected to do it alone - it’s a together activity as we read in Acts.
They were a together people - no divisions - together with one another and with God through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It was the togetherness of the early church that brought strength and growth.
It was when the people around those early followers of Jesus saw their togetherness and what could be achieved by that togetherness that they were attracted to join then and in addition we read that ‘daily, God added to their number those who were being saved.
In our Bible reading we read how the disciples and the new followers responded to the baptism of the Holy Spirit - they couldn’t get enough of being together during - ever possible chance they had - every day in fact they met for prayer and fellowship.
Our bible reading tells us how eager they were to meet together. It was the same when the Salvation Army came to Bradford in 1875. Elijah Cadman reported it this way; Holiness for the early day Salvationist was imparted by the indwelling Spirit. How else could they hold indoor and open-air meetings every night of the week - and three times on Sundays - summer and winter, rain or shine, unless they had the power of the Holy Spirit? What else could have kept every Salvation Army Soldier at his or her post seven days a week and taking part, if possible, in every meeting?
Sadly Today we are lucky if we can get folk to one mid-week meeting let alone every night and three times on Sunday and it’s the same in other churches too, who looking at their notice boards of weekly activities seem to look more like social clubs.
As for Bible Fellowships, prayer meetings? They fill their time with other activities Plenty of people through the doors mid week but empty seats on Sunday Such a contrast to the early church who were now so on fire for God that they loved to meet together as often as they could to share their blessings, seek further direction from God and be re-energised for more service.
Where has the powerful energetic life giving church that we read about in Acts gone? What’s happened to our churches. What’s Changed?, the message is the same, the power of the Holy Spirit is still available - what’s changed - To our shame - the church has.
When I look at today’s church, I see a people who are happy to be with one another - busy doing what they feel they are good at in serving one another - happy to play their part in what they think will keep their church going.
Sadly though that’s not what Church is all about - it’s main purpose is that the members become a people who mirror the life of Jesus and desire to share the ideals of God with those who as yet don’t know Him. The purpose of Church to share the good news and bring the lost to faith in God.
I believe that as a fellowship of Gods people in the Salvation Army we need to look seriously at our commitment. If we are committed, what are we committed to.
These seats have been empty for too long - we need to do something about it. I believe that as we have read in Acts, the pattern that God set is there - it starts with Gods people being obedient to God and make prayer their starting point both individually and together as a Church.
It starts with prayer and progresses through to seeking to know what God will for us as individuals and as a fellowship by reading His word together.
I’ve said it before - but I believe that God hasn’t just provided us with a beautiful church and Community hall here at Idle without reason - I believe that there is so much more in store for you and this fellowship. We want another Pentecost - Lord send the fire
MM 4 June 2017
As I read books like ‘Trailblazers’ that record the thrilling early days of our movement the stories of transformed lives are simply amazing. Samuel Logan Brengle, Elijah Cadman, people who reached out armed with nothing but the name of Jesus and saw thousands come to Christ.
Today we live in a different society, where as we read in Acts, the fellowship of believers grew to become the living body of Christ in the world - the church of God today, sadly it seems that in the main, the church has lost it’s way, lots its vision and become a social club for the few instead of the spiritual school for the many. Today we live in a society where spiritual poverty abounds.
All around us churches have closed down. The Idle Methodist closed which meant the few who remained had to either join the Methodists at the bottom of Thackley, the once thriving Upper Chapel has now only a handfull who meet in a house somewhere whilst the magnificent church building has become a dancing school, the Methodist Chapel at Five Lane Ends has been demolished to make way for a block of flats. Where has the powerful energetic life giving church that we read about in Acts gone?
The church today need the infilling of the Holy Spirit who energises, empowers and equips Gods people to become in essence the Living Christ in a dying world. People need Jesus and we who are still in the church need the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to minister to them and bring them to Christ.. A Spirit filled life of Holiness should be the aim of all Salvationist
The closing words of the preface to the book ’Trailblazers’ says this; Holiness for the early day Salvationist was not just imputed but also imparted by the indwelling Spirit. How else could they hold indoor and open-air meetings every night of the week - and three times on Sundays - summer and winter, rain or shine, unless they had the power of the Holy Spirit? What else could have kept every Salvation Army Soldier at his or her post seven days a week and taking part, if possible, in every meeting?
Sadly Today we are lucky if we can get Salvationist to one mid-week meeting let alone every night and three times on Sunday and it’s the same in other churches too who looking at their notice boards of weekly activities seem to be social clubs and coffee mornings. Bible Fellowships, prayer meetings? Plenty of people through the doors mid week but empty seats on Sunday
As the world has grown in technology and is able to keep in touch with people across the globe - the church is loosing touch with God and the world is taking over. Even the Christian festivals that we have grownup with are changing emphasis. Christmas - every year it gets harder to find a Nativity card in the shops. Easter is more about Easter Eggs, Whitsuntide has gone completely but Halloween - every shop is full of severed arms, ghost costumes - everything associated with evil.
What is the church doing about it? Nothing.
When I was a lad the village green was chock-a-block with people, families, church fellowships all gathered together for a united service of thanksgiving for Whitsunday. Whats happenneing this weekend here in Idle as far as uniting with other churches to celebrate Pentecost? - nothing. What’s Changed?, the message is the same, the power of the Holy Spirit is still available - what’s changed - To our shame - the church has.
On Wednesday at the Friendship Club I shared the life of Smith Wigglesworth a local Bradfordian who is known all over the world, particularly in America and Switzerland - but here in Bradford where it all began?
Smith was born 10th of June 1859 to a very poor family in Menston and started work when he was six, pulling and cleaning turnips which meant that there was no schooling for Smith and it wasn‘t until years later when he was married that his wife taught him to read and write. When he was seven he joined his father in the mill. Life was hard in those days. Rising at 5am in the morning, he had to walk two miles to start work at 6am and didn't finish ‘til 6pm. He never went to school.
In 1875, a new revolutionary church, 'The Salvation Army' opened fire in Bradford meeting in theatres and evangelising on the street corners. Smith went along - liked what he saw and joined them.
Years later he wrote ‘I delighted to be with these earnest Salvation Army people. Every week we prayed for and saw scores of sinners yielding their hearts to Christ. I continued with the Salvation Army because it seemed to me they had more power in their ministry than anybody else at that time. We used to have all nights of prayer. Many would be laid out under the power of the Spirit, sometimes for as long as twenty-four hours at a time. We called that the baptism in the Spirit in those days. Those early Salvationists had great power and it was manifested in their testimony and in their lives. We would join together and claim in faith, fifty or a hundred souls every week and know that we would get them. Alas, today many are not laying themselves out for soul-winning but for fleshly manifestations '.
Smith saw in the Salvation Army a movement that had captured the Spirit of the Acts of the Apostles - who empowered by the Holy Spirit shared their experience of Christ with people who would not be accepted by the established church of that day as they were seen as the undesirables. When the Spirit came, the windows of heaven were opened to all - Jew and non Jew alike. The Jews who saw themselves as Gods chosen people rejected any concept of Jesus being the promised Messiah the fulfilment of Prophesies and went all out to get rid of the new Christians. Saul himself had been one of them until He encountered the Living Christ on the Damascus Road.
In Smiths eyes, the church of his day had lost it’s vision and become a holy club of members who wanted to keep their respectability in worship and reject and deny the very people they were called to evangelise.
Such a contrast to the early church who were a mixed bunch of Jews and Gentiles who were now so on fire for God that they loved to meet together as often as they could to exchange notes, share their blessings, seek further direction from God and be re-energised for more service.
They lived in the surety of Christ’s indwelling
They moved in the power of the Spirit
They won victory after victory as they learned to rely on God and not their own resourses.
These were ordinary folk like you and I, who had been called by Jesus to follow Him and trust Him. Men and women who had been called out of their ordinary everyday lives and shown, by first hand example what could be achieved this side of Heaven, when you put your life in 'His hands.
Some of them had seen the glory of God revealed in Jesus, they saw His devotion to the task, His compassion for the people, His love for them, they saw Him do the impossible. They saw how in return for their trust, Jesus provided for their every need, and equipped them for every task.
They saw God mirrored in Jesus and were encouraged to emulate Jesus by themselves being indwelt by Him, and so empowered to continue His work.
They were fired with enthusiasm to tell others about Jesus, 'Come and see the Messiah' they would say, they saw for themselves, and then became 'eyewitnesses 'to all that they had seen and heard.
They had received forgiveness, been cleansed from their sins and now Jesus was going to fill them to overflowing with The Holy Spirit, the power force of God, to enable them to fulfil the commission that He had given them. 'Don't leave Jerusalem, Jesus said, 'but wait for the gift that My Father promised. John baptised you with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit'.
That’s was the command of Jesus and I believe that command still stands today. God not only calls, He equips. Don't ever let your own doubts and uncertainties become an excuse for not responding to the call of God. Those He calls - He equips, Beryl bless her found that out - when we first met she was so shy - even had a nervous twitch but after receiving the call to become an Army Officer - to lead - to speak in meeting, something she would never have thought possible - God took hold of her life and filled with the Spirit she was empowered and enabled to speak for God and let others see in her life that Jesus was real to her.
'When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power, and you will become My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. That's where you are now, our Jerusalem is Idle, Thackley, Eccleshill, Cottingley, Guiseley, wherever you live - that’s our Jerusalem, our starting point to share with the folk you live with and know, and then the net widens to include the community at large, then to those of different cultures and so on to the ends of the earth, that's the world for Christ.
To those eleven disciples the task must have seemed formidable, impossible, and yet, they did it! They did it! WOW!
We read last week how Joel had prophesied years earlier, that 'in the last days, God would pour out His Spirit on all people, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams, and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved'
When the day of Pentecost came, this prophesy began to be fulfilled. I say began, because I believe that that is God intention today. God wants to equip those who confess Him as Lord, by filling them with the Holy Spirit.
When I look at this the Church today, and this Corps, I see all the ingredients that were there in the early church, folk who have been called from all walks of life, to fellowship with one another as the family of God.
In the sermon I preached at Pentecost 21 years ago - just one year after Beryl and I had been made commanding Officers of this Corps I said this; In our own fellowship there is the opportunity to pray together, to study Gods word, in order that we might 'know Him' and not just know 'about Him'. I see a loving, caring, sharing fellowship. I see a people who love to be together. Co-workers in our church - and that’s great - but it’s only the start.
I see people who’s desire is to grow spiritually, people who although they themselves have not been given a 'Vision', have somehow captured the vision of what God wants to do in their lives and the life of this Corps. People who themselves are seeing their lives changing, and receiving and enjoying the New life that God is blessing them with. I wonder what God sees when He looks at this Corps - or more directly, as He looks at you and me. That was 21 years ago - A lots changed since then.
When I look at today’s church, I see a people who are happy to be with one another - busy doing what they feel they are good at in serving one another - happy to play their part in what they think will keep their church going. Sadly though that’s not what Church is all about - it’s main purpose is to become a people who mirror the life of Jesus and desire to share the ideals of God with those who as yet don’t know Him. The purpose of Church is not to build a holier than thou club that is foreign to the neighbourhood, but to share the good news with bring the lost to faith in God.
God’s desire is for a people who, are seeking in their own lives to know Him better and who’s desire is to share the good news with their neighbours. People who have captured the vision for the future, the vision of Evangelism, that will enable more people to come to know Jesus for themselves. And for that reason Jesus at His ascension, the last time the disciples saw Jesus, He promised them that the Holy Spirit would be given to equip and enable His people for any task.
After He had said this, He disappeared from their sight. They must have stood their open mouthed, for the word says this, ' they stood there looking intently up into the sky, when suddenly two men dressed in white, stood beside them and said 'why do you stand here looking into the sky'. In other words, 'you heard what Jesus said, what are you waiting for, stop staring into space, and get on with it! Stop staring up the steps, and start stepping up the stairs!
We have been called to experience the transforming power of Almighty God, who gives us this 'New Life', this 'Abundant life' 'life in all it's fullness' for ourselves, and then to go and become witnesses to that which we ourselves have experienced, in order that others will come to know Him for themselves.
Jesus said 'I will send the Spirit, and he will bear witness to me, so that you too will bear witness, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will become My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Our witnessing needs to start just where we are. Here where He has placed us, among our own folk, those who know us best. One of the hardest things to do when we ask Jesus into our lives, is to tell our friends and our families.
We said last week that the problem is not with the telling, but with the showing. People need to 'see' the change in our lives.
Jesus said 'you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem', that was home ground to the disciples, one of the hardest places to start, and yet, if what our loved ones, our friends, our neighbours can see the difference that Jesus is making in our lives, then it must be for real, if they can see Jesus living in us, then how much easier it will be to tell others.
Those first Christians faced hostility from their families and friends as they not only accepted a new lifestyle, they stood up against those who saw them as traitors to the Jewish cause, they were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and put to death for what they believed in. To tell others that they had accepted Jesus as their Saviour and Messiah was to virtually sign their own death warrant. And yet they did it!
Because of the obedience and faithfulness of just eleven men, the message spread out from Jerusalem, to Samaria, all Judea and into the uttermost parts of the earth. Because they captured the vision and saw it through against the most impossible odds, the Christian Church has made real the 'impossible dreams' of those visionaries thousands of years ago, who's arials and dishes were correctly positioned to look to God, and receive messages from Him.
Are you tuned in to God? Have you caught the vision? or are you still staring into space?
Lets read the altar call that Peter gave on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2; 38,41 Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Could this be the same man, Peter, who only weeks earlier had three times, denied even knowing Jesus, the man who fled from the authorities in fear of his life? Notice - Peter isn’t the only spokesman, the scripture tells us that ‘Peter stood up - WITH THE ELEVEN! They were all there together, united in one voice - Peter may have been the mouthpiece but theirs was a show of unity, they were together in their mission - no longer alone - now ‘The Force was with them’ The Holy Spirit! God.
They were now ready to serve, to rise and obey, to show YOUR power O Lord!
The power of the Holy Spirit came on them and all those who heard them - Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
As the next verses show what happened to new converts? 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
WOW! We want another Pentecost Lord - send the fire. What Pentecost says to us today is that the power is still available - all we have to do is Repent our past - even our present in many cases - and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.
There’s no other way - Sadly we read in 2 Timothy 3; 1 there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – and listen to this! Could this be a reference to many of the churches of today? v5 ‘having a form of godliness but denying it’s power’ - have nothing to do with these people.
I pray that this Whit Sunday - this day of Pentecost will be the day in this fellowship that the Holy Spirit sets us on fire to continue the work that Jesus began.
MM 28 May 2017
Thursday this last week was the day that the church commemorated the ascension of Jesus. We shared this last Sunday - the time when Jesus appeared to His disciples on before ascending into Heaven commanded them to ‘Wait in Jerusalem until you have received the gift My Father promised - John baptised you with water but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit’. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’.
Lets read what followed Acts 1:12-26
The command was to go back to Jerusalem and wait - I said last week that waiting is not something we are good at - we hate waiting - whatever it is for.
When I got married - if you didn’t have enough money you had to wait until you had in order to purchase anything. The first places that offered ‘credit’ or ‘tick’ as they called it was the local grocery shop - but that was only until the end of the week when you got paid at work and you could settle your bill. My mother used to give a few shillings to a man called Willie Walton who collected it every week until she had enough to pay for what she wanted - she was then given a voucher for the full amount that she could only spend at this one shop in Bradford called Dixieland. In other words you needed anything you had to have enough money to pay for it .
It all changed when in October 1972 the first Credit card was introduced - it was called the Access Card and promised instant money for you to purchase things you couldn’t afford and would have had to wait until you could.
The slogan that they put out said this ‘Why wait till tomorrow for things that you can have today?’ ‘Access takes the waiting out of wanting’. Of course the Access card cost you more money that you actually needed. The best way was to wait until you’d saved up enough money to buy what you needed. ‘Waiting’ would prove to be the best and most profitable option.
The great thing is that God has given us His own Access card in the form of prayer. Prayer that puts us in touch with Almighty God and is an immediate access to Jesus. Jesus said ‘Wait’ - wait in Jerusalem for the gift that Your Father promised. The gift was the Holy Spirit as outlined in the book of Joel.
The disciples access card ‘prayer’ is also our access to the Lord. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength
As the disciples waited, Prayer - access to God - took the anxiety of wanting out of waiting as they spent time together in prayer claiming the constant presence of Jesus. Prayer helped them to stay in His presence until His presence came to stay in them.
As I read this account in Acts I was impressed by the fact that the angels who appeared as Jesus was taken into Heaven asked a similar question that the two angels asked Mary when she went to visit the tomb of Jesus. ’Why are you looking for the living amongst the dead? Or to the disciples at Christ’s Ascension ‘why are you staring up into the sky’ He’s not here.
The great thing is that as the disciples were instructed to wait - they found their comfort and strength in praying together. The disciples were obedient to the command of Jesus and went back to Jerusalem to the room where they were staying - all eleven of them - not forgetting Mary, Jesus’s mother and His brothers - and what did they do? - They all joined together constantly in prayer.
Today, it’s easier to keep in touch with one another wherever we are, in or out side - by the fact that most people these days have a mobile phone. We were sitting at the side of the lake at St Ives on Friday and a man a few yards away was fishing. All the time, we were there, he was on his phone talking to his wife - as if she were there.
Prayer is Gods way of helping us to stay in touch and that’s what the disciples did.
This was to be a time of self examination, reassesment, of reflection, of looking at themselves and how far they had come in their walk with Jesus - it was a time to re-strengthening their ranks and re-establish their calling their commitment. This waiting until the Holy Spirit came to empower and equip them to continue the ministry that Jesus had started.
They had been called as Disciples which means learners - now they were being called to be Apostles - those who now having spent three years with Jesus learning from Him are now going to be equipped to go on the mission and continue the work that Jesus would empower them to do - they were being sent as missionaries into the areas all round them and unto the uttermost parts of the world. This would be accomplished when they were filled with the Spirit and in their preaching and ministry were able to spread the truth through to all who would listen to them - starting at Pentecost.
Jesus had said ‘Wait’ and when the Holy Spirit comes upon you - you will receive power - power that will enable you to be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’ --- WOW surely that’s worth waiting for?
No sooner had Jesus said this, than He was taken up before their very eyes and disappeared ‘. They were politely told to ‘stop looking into the sky and get back down to earth’.
Their waiting proved to be a valuable time - it was this time of fellowshipping together, praying together, that bonded them into a ‘together people’. As we all know, ‘The family that prays together, stays together‘. As a together people they would now be able to move forward and accomplish all that God had in store for them to do.
Next week is Pentecost Sunday - the day we look at the fulfilment of Gods promise to His church and the Lords instruction to His disciples to wait until the Spirit came upon them. The birthday of the Church - a very special day.
I believe that as His Church today we should be looking forward to this important time by waiting upon Him in prayer - asking God to show us what needs to happen, or change in our lives to take us forward and become the people He wants us to be.
God want to move us forward from being disciples - learners - to become Apostles - those He has called to go show and tell our neighbours, our families, our colleagues what Jesus is all about and how He wants to reveal Himself to them through us.
It’s a time for reflection, reassesment - a time to examine our commitment to God and seek His empowering - His infilling to move forward and accomplish all that He wants to do in our lives and the life of our fellowship.
It’s a time of re-awakening of the church to be what God intended it to be - the living body of Christ in the world today. That’s you and me.
The disciples went back and as they waited they prayed and as they prayed they looked at re-strengthening their fellowship by asking God to show them who He wanted to replace the one who had betrayed then and led the authorities to Crucify Jesus - that was Judas.
Originally there were 12 disciples but with Judas’s death the needed another disciple to bring it back to the original number. Twelve was an important number, as we know there were twelve tribes of Israel, Twelve disciples, Even today the number 12 is a very significant number, there is 12 in a dozen, 12 months in a year, 12 inches in a foot, before decimalisation there were 12 pennies in pound.
They felt the need to bring their number back to twelve and to make sure it was Gods choice, they would write the names of the two candidates on to rocks, place them into a container, shake it and tip one out. It wasn’t chance - it was God’s choice and their way of finding out what God’s choice was. The person chosen had to be one who had been with them all the way through Christ’s ministry from the beginning. That one was Matthias.
Now they were completely together - now they were ready and waiting on God to empower them to move forward. O that the church today would approach Pentecost in the same way - to get plugged in to what God wants to do in the world today - especially here at Idle.
We need to get plugged in to God. As you all know, a plug has three wires. The live wire which is coloured Red ( or Brown), the negative which is Blue and the earth which is Yellow/green. These are also the same colours on the Army Flag.
The Red Live the blood of Jesus that offers life
Blue The purity of God and the need to live a life of holiness
Yellow The fire and power of the Holy Spirit
Just as in the electric plug all three wired need top be connected to be effective so too we as Christians need to make sure that we are fully in contact with God - we need to get plugged in.
Last week we talked about togetherness as being a valuable result of waiting upon God in prayer. This week we see the need to be open and honest in our assesment of self and the need to seek God in prayer while we await the power from on high to enable us to move forward.
To get plugged in to the power that is not only available but vital to our continued growth as His fellowship. In preparation for next week - could I ask that in your own private devotions - prayer - you seek to ask God to make you aware of how He sees you in your daily Christian walk and to help you change - if needed - to be available and ready when we meet together next Sunday and seek the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our fellowship.
Prayer is the vital key; Last week we looked at the Welsh revival of 1903 which started when Evan Roberts felt the need to pray ‘bend me O Lord to Thy will‘. One man - revival
In America they had what is known as the The Fulton Street prayer meeting that sparked a revival in 1858 that began when one man, Jeremiah Lanphier decided to open his church for prayer. The first meeting he was alone for over half-an-hour, then he was joined by six others. Over the next few days that number increased to 20 - then 40 and within six months there were ten thousand businessmen gathering daily for prayer in New York City, and within two years one million converts were added to the American church. One man - revival.
Our own William Booth also inspired revival when the Christian Mission became the Salvation Army and in his own lifetime the Salvation Army spread throughout the whole world.
I believe that what God is saying to us today is that ‘You won’t accomplish anything of lasting value until I have filled you with power from on high, so wait, get your act together, be a together people and pray. If you do this I will amaze you. I will fill you and empower you to be my church, My witnesses, My people.
How about it?
MM 21 May 2017
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the reinstated Peter who Jesus commissioned to build His Church - which doesn’t mean by bricks and mortar - by Church He meant the people - build the people up - to inspire them and encourage them to know Jesus and be obedient to His ways. To prepare people to live Christian lives that will enable them to grow and be changed - transformed into a new creation - a born again people.
As Peter wrote; 1 Peter 1; 3-9 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Last week we followed that on by looking at what Peter said in 1 Peter 4;7 about how we should behave as Christians whilst awaiting the return of Christ. About loving one another, being hospitable, using whatever gift God has given us be it speaking or serving so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
We ended our meeting by looking at Pauls letter to the church at Rome where he outlines some of those gifts. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12; 4
We can’t be good at everything but together - WOW - but God has brought us together and together we can change the world. We can’t do it in our own strength - but with the Holy Spirit of God inside us - WOW - God can accomplish great things.
This week we look at the final appearance of Jesus which was at His ascension. Of the four gospels, only Matthew, Mark and Luke mention briefly the ascension of Jesus. (Matthew 28; 16-20, Mark 16; 19-20 and Luke in the last few verses of 24;50-53) but then Luke continues in Acts 1 - lets read that together.
Acts 1 ; 1-11 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 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. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
This is the second letter that Luke had written to Theophilus - we don’t know who Theophilus was, but some say he was probably a Roman Official who wanted to know the truth about Jesus and found a good teacher in Luke. The name Theophilus means ‘One who loves God’. Obviously the life of Luke who had been transformed by spending those three years as a disciple of Jesus impressed Theophilus and Luke was able to share the truth about Jesus with him.
I 1n my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. Following the death of Jesus, He appeared to them many times giving them convincing proof that He was alive. He also instructed them to wait in Jerusalem until they had been empowered power from on high. Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Forgiven and Cleansed by the water - commissioned and empowered by the Spirit.
His disciples wanted to know when - but as Jesus said - only God knows -But -WOW! when it happens you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. ’After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
I love this last part - I can just see them standing there Jaw dropping Gob smacked They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
It’s almost like they’re saying ‘stop staring with your head in the clouds - get back down to earth - you’ve got a job to do.
The ascension must have been an awesome occasion - to see the physical Jesus again before He goes back to the Father - to hear His word of commission and then the promise of the empowering of the Holy Spirit who will equip them for the work that God has appointed them to do.
Jesus had told them at the last supper He shared with them before the crucifixion that if they loved Him and were obedient to Him then He and the Father would come and make their dwelling within them by the power of the Holy Spirit and here He was confirming that again. ‘Wait’ He said
Wait! Its not a word that we like - no one likes to be kept waiting, no one likes to wait.
Can you begin to imagine what the disciples would go through in this waiting time - this would be the most agonising time for them - they would be thinking - what happens next - what are we waiting for - how would they spend their time?
Earlier we sang the song from the musical ‘The Witness’ - where the fishermen Peter, James and John sing ‘nothing ever happens here in Galilee, a sleepy little village beside the see. Every days exactly like the day before you’re waiting but you don’t know what you’re waiting for’ Then Jesus came and all of our lives were changed - He brought meaning and purpose to their lives.
Freddie Mercury sings ‘there must be more to life than this’ that’s probably how these humble fishermen were feeling - same life every day, get up, go to work, set sail out in the big blue sea, set the bait, catch the fish, bring them in, mend the broken nets - there must be more to life than this. Do you ever get the feeling? I guess most people do at some time in their lives.
What’s the answer - Yes! there is more to life than just existing, living one day to the next. That Newness of life, that vibrancy of purpose can be found in Jesus Christ. the disciples were to find this out for themselves and then as they shared the joy of a purposeful, meaningful life - go out and share it with everyone else. If someone hadn’t done that years ago - then we wouldn’t be sat here this morning.
When people give their lives over to living Gods way. Ask forgiveness for the past and resolve to find out what it is that God wants of their lives - when folk desire to find what the true purpose of life is then God can transform their lives.
That’s why we meet together every Sunday - to Worship God and seek to know from His word how He wants us to live lives that are honouring to Him - that’s exactly what we did last Sunday.
The disciples had spent three years with Jesus - now it was time for them to move on and put into practice all that Jesus had taught them on how He wanted them to live their lives as Christians - to become the living body of Christ in the world today.
Jesus wanted His disciples to continue the work that He had begun in bringing others into Kingdom life - to grow His church - and knowing that they would never accomplish this in their own strength instructed them to ‘Wait’ for the empowering.
Wait for the infilling - that will equip, enable and empower them to become living witnesses to what the Lord had done in their life and what He could do in other peoples lives. Today I believe He would say the same - Wait. in Idle until the power comes upon you.
We live in a world that says that you don’t have to wait - you can have it now - today.
We have instant Coffee - instant meals microwaves that enable you to prepare a dinner in minutes. We’ve got CD’s that enable you to get straight to the song you want without the need to play all those leading up to it. DVD’s that do the same - why wait?
We live in a ‘ I want it and I want it now - society. The first credit card that came out - was Access with a slogan that said ‘Why wait until tomorrow for something you can have today’ - ‘Access takes the waiting out of wanting’.
As children we don’t like being told to wait and as we grow up, that impatience gets stronger. We don’t like waiting for the bus, waiting for the kettle to boil or the wife to get ready to go out - we see it as ‘wasting time’ We want it NOW! Yet Scripture tell us that waiting is important
Isaiah 40; they that wait upon the LORD will renew their strength
Isaiah 30:18 .... the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. Blessed are all who wait for Him!
Isaiah 64:4 Since ancient times no-one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
Waiting can be profitable - waiting on God is vital in order to claim the promises He has made available for us to share.
In a couple of weeks time we will be celebrating the fruits of that waiting time that the disciples ‘endured’. Pentecost is the time that the church, the body of Christ went public - out onto the streets - not cooped up in mausoleums - dead lifeless ineffective churches.
This was the birthday of the real Church - the church down our street - the time when Gods people realised the awesomness of His indwelling Spirit as they began to move in the spirit and see the very power of God flow through them. Peter and the lame man -imagine how they felt when they became channels of Gods power - right there outside the doors of the church.
Those early converts not only encountered the awesome truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - but knew by experience that Jesus had come to live in their hearts and therefore was integral in their thoughts, their actions, their living. This was revival at it’s best - O how we yearn for the fire of the Holy Spirit to once again set His church ablaze so that the world will see the awesome power of God in us drawing mankind to the feet of Jesus.
The secret is in the waiting - I believe that revival will come again when Gods people humble themselves before Him and are prepared to wait for His blessing. I believe that revival will come to the church when Gods people give themselves in total commitment to His service and are prepared to wait for His anointing, His enabling and His empowering.
I believe that revival will come when Gods people and fellowships cry ‘break me, melt me, mould me and fill me’ Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me’.
Jesus said ‘Wait’ stay just where you are - don’t move out of Jerusalem until you receive the gift My Father promised. The promise? Joel 2:28 I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
Jesus said ‘Wait’ stay just where you are then - Wow!
you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth."
There is a lot of talk these days on healthy diets and the value of E numbers. I believe they are just as important in the Church - Empowered - Equipped - Enabled to be Witnesses to what they had not only seen with their own eyes but been a part of. The humble fishermen, despised Tax collector were to be transformed into fishers of men just like Jesus said they would - but not until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit - just like Jesus. They would be equipped and enabled to do the same things that Jesus had done - Empowered by the Holy Spirit from within.
After Jesus had said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Stop staring up the steps and get back to Jerusalem - wait there and when the time is ripe, I will empower you to step up the stairs!
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
That’s the secret - wait - pray - seek His will and purpose for your life and ask Him to come and equip you to do what He desires of you in His Kingdom building work.
Of course some Christians use even waiting on the Lord as an excuse for their lack of action. I can’t count how many times I have heard people make an excuse for their inactivity by saying ‘I’m waiting until the Lord tells me what He wants of my life’.
Years later they’re still waiting.
The disciples didn’t just wait - they waited on the Lord in prayer - they sought His presence every day - they kept in touch with the Almighty until the blessing came from Heaven and they were off!
Evan Roberts a young uneducated coal miners son waited on the Lord and the result of his ‘waiting’ heralded the great Welsh revival of 1904 when through Evan Roberts, God revived his Church in a might way.
Here was a man who had grown tired of the way in which the church had settled into a rut of complacency. The fire had gone out, the heart of mission had grown cold. He saw churches filled with people who went more out of habit and duty than to meet with God and get fired up to serve Him. They might sing the right Hymns, but in Evans own words ‘ there is a total lack of Joy’.
He yearned for a revival - cried out to God for revival - but before God could use him Evans had to be broken before God - truly repent and give himself wholeheartedly to God. This was ‘waiting time’ with a purpose. And so, Evans, under the instruction of God, waited upon the Lord and during a prayer meeting as Evans prayed ‘O Lord, bend me to Thy will’ He felt a living force grow within him - he was almost bursting and he fell on his knees crying out to God - tears ran down his face - ‘Bend me Lord’.
The power of the Holy Spirit entered Evan Roberts and a wave of Peace came over him. Someone started to sing ‘I hear Thy welcome voice’. I am coming Lord, coming now to Thee, wash me, cleanse me in the Blood that flows from Calvary. From that moment Evan Roberts was a changed man - the answer to prayer that God would bring a young man from the mines to start the revival had been answered. Wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon you - the disciples were told - and that’s exactly what happened to Evan Roberts.
Today as we look at the church - what do we see? A people who have retreated into their own buildings, separated by the division of denominationalism, a place of meeting that could be seen more of a social club than a centre for evangelism. A place of comfort rather than a powerhouse of energy that has set out to change the world.
A church that once was seen as Gods people in waiting - waiting for His return - but using the time to make sure that no one would be left out of the Kingdom - that the message of Gods redeeming love would be actively proclaimed.
Somewhere down the line - the church seems to have lost both direction and the plot.
The church has lost it’s sense of mission and is in maintenance mode. O how we need a revival in these days when we see churches all round us dying on their feet because they refuse to wait on their knees. I believe that there is a great need for a spiritual shake up that will bring the church back to its senses that will restore vision and renew our mission. If we are obedient to Him - He will not only Shake this Church to the core, but Shake this Corps to become His Church
Isaiah 40: 30-31 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Lord teach us to wait on You in prayer until we are filled with Your Holy Spirit and equipped, enabled and empowered to be Your witnesses - not just in word but in deed.
When Beryl and I got married we went to London on a steam train A mighty powerful Steam train that stood in the station all raring to go building up pressure as the fire in it’s belly was stoked and burned fiercly. As the guard waved its flag - it heaved and puffed as the brakes were released and went hurtling out of the station with a purpose.
Today those steam trains stand powerless in the York Museum to be viewed as relics of a by-gone age. Imagine what would happen if somebody stoked the engines and set them ablaze again.
You could say the same about the church in this country today. Relics of a by-gone age when the power of God was seen in the people who comprised those churches. They were on fire - ready to go and show the mighty power of God.
It can happen again as you and I allow the Holy Spirit to come in and set us on fire.
Song Spirit of the living God
MM 14 May 2017
Opening worship Psalm 100 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures for ever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.
There is no better way to come into His presence than through Praise. When we come into His presence we join the mighty hosts of Heaven in worship and adoration of a Mighty God
In Revelation 5;11 - John, exiled on the Isle of Patmos without the visible fellowship of other Christians, was caught up in the Spirit to witness Heavens glorious array of worshippers. John shares with us his vision of Heaven - he says this ‘Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels( not voices) joined together as one voice.
I heard the voice ( not voices) of many angels numbering thousand upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders in a loud voice ( not voices) they sand ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honour , glory and praise.
In other words they - together sang with one voice - united in their praise. When we meet for worship like now we are a together people - united in our praise WOW!
Chorus I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart
Message; Last week we looked at the reinstated Peter who Jesus commissioned to build His Church - which doesn’t mean by bricks and mortar - by Church He meant the people - build the people up - to inspire them and encourage them to know Jesus and be obedient to His ways. To prepare people to live Christian lives that will enable them to grow and be changed - transformed into a new creation - a born again people who will inherit the gift of new life in the perfect world that is to come -
That’s what Peter means when in verse 3 he says Praise God who has given us new birth into living hope.
1 Peter 1; 3-9 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
A living hope through the sacrificial love of Jesus who took our sins to the cross and in His ressurection opened the gates of Heaven for those who seeing the foolishness of their ways sought forgiveness and committed themselves to living the Jesus way.
We have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - an inheritance that will never loose it’s value and will be kept in heaven for those who through their strong faith are protected by God until Jesus comes again - the end times.
This is our reason to be joyful - even though we go through difficult times - these can be a time to grow stronger if we don’t loose faith - to show God and ourselves the genuineness of our faith that will cause us to rejoice and praise God when Jesus either calls us home or when He comes again.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
As we said last week when we thought about Judas who wouldn’t believe unless he saw for himself and could actually touch Jesus - to the unbeliever seeing is believing but to the man and women of faith, believing opens up the eyes of faith to enable you see what the world finds impossible.
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This morning we look at what Peter says in chapter 4; 7 where he takes his listenners a little further and talks about how we should behave as Christians whilst awaiting the return of Christ.
1 Peter 4;7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
7 The end of all things is near.
I can understand why many folk don’t like thinking about the end of the world - because there is fear in the unknown and a kind of comfort in what we do know. Maybe when Peter says the end of all things is near he could also be reffering to life as we know it - so make sure that what you do while you're here is pleasing to the Lord as well as the final end of the world and the coming of the Lord.
The last two weeks have not been easy - saying goodbye to Julia and then a week later to Eddie and Muriel - when I met up with both families and later at the actual celebrations of their loved ones lives I try to share the fact that this life as we know it is not the end - that those who love the Lord and are faithful tin obedience to His will move on top be with Him in Glory. I try to share with the ones who are left that we will all meet again if we accept Jesus as our Saviour and live in obedience to Gods will.
We have just read what Peter said over 2000 years ago - in the light of what Peter says in 2 Peter 3;8 dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. that was only a couple of days ago. Timing is not important - no one knows when the Lord will return - it’s what we do with the time we’ve got that is important. That’s why Peter goes on to advise us how we should spend that time.
What he says here is how God wants His church - you and me to act as His Body of believers - Christians. The end of all things is near Therefore;
7 be clear minded and self controlled so that you can pray.
Clear minded - with positive attitudes and well defined directions in life. Aware of whats going on in the world and making sure that he stays on the clear and so often, narrow path. Alert to the things of God the commands of God and the teachings of Jesus. Firm in what we believe and in how we put it into practice. A sober mind can be defined as clear minded so that we can make right judgements about lifes problems.
To act wisely under the direction of Gods word. To be self controlled - not easily angered, antagonised, prone to flare up when people start to get on your nerves .Understanding, compassionate, caring. The next comment puts it all in perspective when Peter says
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Peter had obviously listened and taken to heart what Jesus told him when he asked asked Him ‘Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me? - Seven times? to which Jesus replied ‘I tell you, not seven times but seventy seven times’ Matthew 18; 21 Why? Because love covers a multitude of sins
When the teacher of the law asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was - Jesus told him - Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and soul and love your neighbour as you love yourself.
God is love and love is the greatest feeling in the world - when you love someone - you will do anything for them. As the popular song says ‘Love changes everything’
9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Knowing you all as I do, I don’t think that anyone of us would have a problem with that one. I’ll have seven at my house for lunch every Sunday and love it - I’ve taken Thelma and Christine out for a picnic lunch twice this week and we’ve all enjoyed it. Hospitality I guess is no problem for any of us.
It was one of the lovely things that the early church did when as Luke tells us that ‘every day they met together in the Temple courts and broke bread together and ate together in their homes with glad and sincere hearts - praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people - and what happened because of that - The Lord added to their number, daily, those who were being saved.
The next attribute delves more into our spiritual state today and how real and how close our relationship with God is.
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
The gifts of the Spirit are outlined in Romans 12; 4 For 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, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Again reference to the Body which has many members, arms, legs etc so the Body of Christ - the Church has many members - you and me and we each have different gifts - things that we are good at - Paul mentions the gifts of prophesy and teaching as well as encouraging, giving, leading and exercising love in mercy.
We together - - the church and should compliment each other by the diversity of our giftedness - make up the body of Christ
We can’t be good at everything but together - WOW - but God has brought us together and together we can change the world.
11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.
I try - I always ask God what He wants me to share each week and have been amazed at how many weeks what I have shared has been confirmed by different folk as being what God has been telling them.
Lastly Peter mentions those who serve in various and differing ways the body of Christ and how important their giftedness is. This Corps would be the poorer without you - Peter encourages those who serve when he says
If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in
all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. We do it together to glorify the Father To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen
Paul, writing to the church at Rome is very precise and captures beautifully all that we as Christians should be like today. Romans 12; 9-21
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.
On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Good advice for us all - If everyone who met together in church as we are doing today would determine in their hearts to live their lives in observance of these Christian Ideals - the world would be a very different place.
The whole of what Peter and Paul are saying here were the principals by which our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ lived and wants you and I to live today.
If the man in the street, our neighbours saw a church live under these ideals then he would want to know more - it’s up to you and me to adopt this lifestyle and honour God.
Sunday 7 May 2017 The privilage we share as disciples of Jesus
Last Sunday we read about the way in which Jesus appeared to the disciples following the ressurection. We read how Thomas wasn’t there and so wouldn’t believe the testimony of his friends - he wanted to see for himself and said that he wouldn’t believe unless he saw it with his own eyes. We read how a week later Jesus fulfilled his wish and revealed Himself to Thomas inviting him to put his fingers in the nail prints in His Hands and feet. Thomas saw and believed. I said then that to the Christians - you and me - believing is seeing - believing by faith opens up our spiritual eyes to what the world sees as impossible.
Jesus said ‘Blessed are they that believe who have not seen’ - that’s you and me today.
We then read how Jesus appeared to the disciples while they were out fishing - getting back to their old way of life - they experienced a replay of what happened when He first called them from their jobs as humble fishermen to follow Him and become ‘fishers of men’. They had fished all night and caught nothing - until Jesus again, told them to cast their net on the other side and their nets broke with the enormous catch of fish.
Jesus then prepared a meal for them during which time He reinstated Peter. Peter had denied knowing Jesus not once but three times and so Jesus gave him three chances to declare his love for Jesus which he did and Jesus said invited him to ’feed My sheep.
This morning we are going to read a letter of Peter - the now transformed Peter - that he wrote to fellow Christians that he refers to as ‘God’s elect and therefore strangers in the world’. In it we see a transformed strong and vibrant Peter - a forgiven, restored and empowered Peter - the Man who showed great power when he spoke at Pentecost and 3000 people were converted and filled with the Holy Spirit - WOW this shows the transforming power of God in the lives of those He has called and chosen to be His witnesses.
1 Peter 1; 3-9 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth - WOW it’s certainly changed Peter who speaks from experience of forgiveness and - new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
That’s exactly what Jesus said and meant - ‘blessed are they that have not seen yet believe’.
This is Peter the changed man - the empowered and equipped man of God - Peter the Rock on whom Jesus will build His Church. Here he is addressing the new Christians who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, rejected their old selfish way of life and are being changed from one degree to another by the power of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling Christ.
I believe that what Peter is saying here centuries ago, applies to you and me today. This is our privilage. Jesus said if you love Me and live in obedience to Me I and My Father will come and make Our homes within you. When that happens a new life has begun and we begin to experience the transformation that can only take place when we acknowledge Jesus and invite Him to live in our hearts.
In Chapter 2 Peter takes this further
1 Peter 2; 4-13 As you come to him, the living Stone - rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him -you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
'As you come to him' as you seek Him with all your heart, as you desire to be in His presence, The presence of Jesus, the living Stone - the rock on which we desire to build our lives, - you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.
Whilst we build temples made of bricks and mortar, He builds His church out of living stones, you and me. His is a peoples kingdom.
Just as God chose Jesus to be the cornerstone stone of our faith, so too God chose us to be built into a spiritual house. Just as Jesus was precious to God, so too we are precious to Him. Just as God appointed Jesus as high priest, so too we are privilaged to become members of the Royal Priesthood, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
To the obediant, Christ is the rock on which we boldly stand, to the disobediant, that rock becomes a stumbling block over which men fall.
But verse 9 You are a chosen people.
I’ve shared with you before about the old master builder who built our conservatory at home saying that he had gone personally to the stone quarry to hand pick the stones that he wanted to use to build our conservatory. He carefully chose the ones that he knew would fit in to the rest of the building.
To think that God personally chose you and me to become a part of His Kingdom is an awesome thought.
A few months ago, the house next to me was up for sale. The people who owned it had died a couple of years ago and their family wanted to sell it. The man who lived in it had been a bit of a do-it-yourself man and so when the new owners bought the house, they started to change everything, knocking down walls, changing all the decorations, new windows, new fences, the house doesn’t look the same anymore.
They chose the house not for what it was but for what it could become - they saw the potential - they bought the old house they came and lived in it and over the last six months started to change it from within until it measured up to their expectations - It doesn’t look like the same house.
I believe that that’s why God chose us - not for what we are but for what we can become in His hands. . He has chose us to become His dwelling place, purchased us with His own life blood and seeing the potential in us, is in the business of converting us. The ‘Vacant possession sign’ has been taken down and God is working on us from within transforming us into a desirable house in which to take residence.
When we make major decisions in our lives, such as a new home, we chose them for one of three reasons.
1 their past glories, their nostalgic or historical appeal,
2 their present appeal or
3 their potential, what they can become in our hands
I believe that when God chooses us, it's for the latter reason, He sees what we can become in His hands. Thank God.! He takes poor unworthy me, with all my sin and doubts, and sees what I can become when He takes a hold of my life and begins to transform me.
We are a chosen people I Ephesians 1 3-9 'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Isaiah 43 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine'
The privilage of the believer is that we have been chosen by God Himself, not for what we have done, what kind of person we are now, but what we can become under His control.
He forgives and forgets our past, takes us with all our faults and failings, and begins to transform us into the person He intends us to be as a vital and integral part of His living Temple, the place where He will take up residence, His Kingdom.
I can't get over the wonder of it all, He Almighty God has chosen you and me.
We are a royal priesthood. The function of the priest are
(a) to reflect the holiness of God and that of the High priest, Jesus,
(b) to offer spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to God
(c) to interceed in prayer on behalf of our fellow men
(d) to represent God to man
That's where the priests and holy men in the Bible fell down. 'Woe to the shepherds of Israel,' said God, who were not being true to Him or his people by witholding the truth.
His chosen ones are called to show the attributes of the priest - firstly
(a) to reflect the holiness of God and that of the High priest, Jesus, in the way in which we live our lives. Jesus showed by example - Jesus lived the truth and we are called to let the love of Jesus be seen in our lives in the way we respond to others.
(b) to offer spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to God - Take time out to pray, read Gods word, get to know Jesus - to give Him time even when we are tempted to do our own thing - to give Him the first call on our time - that can be sacrificial but spiritually uplifting and rewarding.
(c) to interceed in prayer on behalf of our fellow men - think about others and include them in our prayer time - praying for specifics needs in their lives that God will be with them and they will sense His presence through our prayers.
(d) to represent God to man - to give God first place in our lives as Jesus did so that Jesus is seen in our lives. Gods ambasssadors, Gods representatives,
A holy nation? Gods chosen people under the command of Jesus the Messiah - Christians. A vibrant Spirit filled Army moving forward under His command to claim back His possession, the world in which we live for Him.
A people belonging to God.
O how man needs to feel that he 'belongs'. Peter parralels that with the emphasising the fact that although we live in this world, that this world is not our home, we are 'aliens' strangers in this world. He urges us to live such good lives, that everyone can see by the way in which we live our lives, that we are Christians and they will come to know that we are Gods children, and come to glorify Him themselves.
Called out of the darkness of this world, into the light. Chosen, adopted into His family, a holy people, belonging to God - that we might declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. Given new identities. From 'No-body, to somebody all through the mercy and love of our Father God.
Knowing all this we need to be honest when we ask ourselves how our life measures up to Gods expectations does our life honour the calling of God?
A song that expresses the way we should feel as Gods chosen is this one; Give thanks with a greatful heart. And now let the poor say I am rich, let the weak say I am strong because of what the Lord has done for us.
At our Bible fellowship a couple of weeks ago I said that the first time that I realised the importance of those words was when I saw the programme on TV about Jackie Pullinger. A woman whom God had called to go to the walled city of Kowloon. A hell on earth that was the home for thousands of outcast. It was riddled with drugs, prostitution, open sewers of filth, Triad gangs who terrorised the inhabitants.
There where God had placed her, she began a ministry of love with those forgotten people. She brought the light of the Glory of God into the darkness of their world.
She showed them the mighty transforming power of a god who cared. She was an alien in a foreign land, who shone for Christ.
She prayed them off drugs, she showed them that God cared, and as a result, their lives were transformed too as they realised that they were loved by God, and called to become living stones in His temple.
It showed a typical prayer meeting where people who's lives had been transformed stood, with beaming faces of gratitude, with outstretched hands reaching to God in praise and adoration.
They knew the privilage of the chosen, the called, the redeemed, the liberated, of being loved by God, of being precious to Him, and they were grateful to Him and expressed their thanks in uninhibited worship and praise. They knew through the life of the one God had chosen to minister to them - Jackie Pullinger.
And finally - We are a privileged people to be loved with such intensity by God, that He could send His son to die upon a wooden cross to call us back into his fold and family. I hope that we realise that, and that our lives project that to the world in which we live.
In our prayers, I want you to close your eyes, and 'see' God. Picture God, Jesus, standing here in our midst. See Him with His arms outstretched reaching towards you.The one who chose you to be His
Reach out to Him and if you think you’ve let Him down and your life falls short of what you know God wants it to be like - then come and ask Him to give you a fresh start like He did Peter and be prepared to be amazed at the transformation that will take place in your new life under His direction.
Sunday 30 April 2017
Last week we read about the way Jesus drew alongside two of the disciples who were on their way to Emmaus following the crucifixion. It was the evening of the first day of the week - the same day that in the morning, Mary had gone to the tomb to pay her respects to the body of Jesus only to find that He wasn’t there. She had gone with Peter and John who, when they saw the empty tomb and heard the angel say He was risen, ran back to tell the other disciples. Mary stayed and saw the risen Lord.
This morning we are going to look at what was taking place in the lives of the other disciples who were in hiding. This is the same evening that those other two disciples who had met with the Lord on the Emmaus Road had come back to rejoin the other disciples.
Lets read first Lukes account following on from last week - the appearance of Jesus to the two on the Emmaus Road.
Luke 24;33-49 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." :Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
Unfortunately to the world, 'seeing is believing', yet what the disciples saw was still unbelievable in their minds - Luke tells us that - They were startled - afraid - thought it was a ghost - until Jesus said ‘touch Me’ - they would see the nail prints in His hands and feet - a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones - they touched Him and still found it hard to believe - so He had a meal with them - Ghosts can’t eat. They would be left in no doubt that this was the risen Lord.
Then He did what He had done that morning with the other two disciples, He reminded them what Scripture had to say about the Messiah that He would suffer and rise from the dead. In fact there are 300 prophesis about the Messiah in the OT revealing where He will be born to how He would die.
The prophet Zechariah speaks of the 30 pieces of silver Judas took when he betrayed Jesus, and which were later used to purchase a potter's field (Zechariah 11:12–13). Isaiah 53:7 says that Jesus would be silent before His accusers. The same chapter also tells of Jesus' burial place
The disciples should have been left in no doubt - Jesus was there - He loved them so much that He wanted them to know that He was alive and that He wanted them to continue the ministry He began and would empower them to do so.
Now lets read about it from Johns viewpoint - John, the disciple who along with Peter had been with Mary at the tomb that very morning - seen the empty tomb - and run back to the other disciples.
John 20; 19- On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you!
The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. I think that that could be an understatement and that their joy would be overwhelming. Here He was, their beloved Lord. So it was true, Peter, John and Mary were right, He really had 'risen' from the dead, and here He was to prove it.
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! Shalom a Jewish greeting - As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
I like it when John says that Jesus breathed on them and said ‘Recieve the Holy Spirit’ The holy breath of God. Rauch HaKodesh We sing don’t we, Breath on me breath of God fill me with life anew’ that’s exactly what Jesus did. He came to them, like a breath of fresh air and breathed His Spirit into them
And so, here they were, all the disciples, well not quite 'all', Thomas wasn't there, here they were, together, in hiding. The doors tightly shut, to keep the authorities out, frightened, terrified I guess, that they would be the next to be hauled off and killed, like Jesus was. The rumours will been flying round Jerusalem, that the body of Jesus had been mysteriously taken away and the disciples would have been prime suspects. The Jews would think it a good ploy on the part of these so called 'followers ' of Jesus, to support His claims that 'in three days, He would rise again'.
Jesus had told them at that last supper they shared, that 'in a little while you will see Me no longer, but then after a little while. you will see me. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to Joy. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again, and you will rejoice, and no-one will take away your Joy'.
Just as He said He would - Jesus came back to let them see the risen Lord - but Thomas wasn’t there - Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
At last, all the things that Jesus had told them before, were happening, just like He said they would. the pieces of the jigsaw were fitting into place, the light was beginning to dawn, they were seeing, and believing.
Thomas wasn't there with the other disciples when Jesus appeared. He probably thought that they were all 'off their rocker' when they told him they had seen the Lord. They were probably feeling the strain of the last few day's, after all, hiding in fear is forced to affect you some time! Of course they had wished that Jesus would come back, but to actually imagine it, well, he had more sense than that. 'Unless I see, unless I feel, unless I touch, I will not believe it!' Thomas said.
That’s exactly the worlds philosophy - I won’t believe it until I’ve seen it with my own eyes - to the world, ‘Seeing is believing’. Well Thomas is in for a shock revelation.
John 20;26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!"
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
That’s what years later Paul wrote to the church at Corinth - reminding them of the words of Jesus. ‘Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe’
John goes on to say in v 30,31 Jesus’ disciples saw him do many other miracles besides the ones told about in this book, but these are recorded so that you will believe that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing in Him you will have life.
Unlike the disciples then, who were living the story, we Christians today have full access to the written word of God that tells us of all ressurection appearances of Jesus.
As Christ’s followers today we are encouraged to believe by faith that which we have not seen. To us ‘believing is seeing’ faith opens our eyes, our hearts and our minds to believe the impossible.
As the Bible says - ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for’ King James Version or as the NIV puts it ‘ Now faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists’. ‘Believing is seeing’
Sadly, the world still holds the opposite view that ‘seeing is believing’ and that’s often why when we try to share the incredible truths about Jesus and Gods love for everyone - what we say is so often rejected as fanciful thinking.
I love the events following the ressurection and the human frailty that is seen in the disciples. In the accounts of the appearances of Jesus to His disciples after the ressurection Jesus leaves no stone unturned in trying to erase the doubts in the disciples minds, He is concerned that all His disciples know with real certainty that He is alive and well. Not only that - He is concerned about those disciples who didn’t quite match up to what He would have expected from them.
Peter - who would have believed it - Peter had denied even knowing or being with Jesus. Imagine how he would have been feeling now - He needed forgiveness - he needed to feel loved and wanted. He had let Jesus down - not been there for Him when needed. I especially love the way in which Jesus came to Peter and the rest of the disciples to remind them of their calling and why He had called them to Himself.
In John 21 we have what I call ‘a beautiful action replay’. Peter had invited some of the other disciples to go fishing with him. They had been fishing when Jesus first called them to leave their nets and follow Him with the promise that He would make them fishers of men.
They went out, fished all night and caught nothing - exactly like they did three years earlier . The Jesus stood on the shore and asked them if they had caught anything - No they answered - exactly like they had done three years earlier. Throw you nets on the other side’ Jesus called - just like He’d done three years earlier when He called them to become disciples
They did as He said, and the catch was great. Just like it was those three years earlier.
It was only then that John realised who it was and told Peter ‘It’s the Lord’ to which Peter responded by stepping out of the boat and jumping straight into the water. Gone is the fear that he displayed that time when Jesus told him to step out of the boat and walk on water. The others stayed in the boat towing the full nets to shore.
Just like He did those three years earlier, Jesus told Peter to cast the net on the other side - surely that would send their minds clicking, reminding them of their calling - when after they had hauled in a large catch of fish He had told them that ‘one day they would be ‘fishers of men’.
The outcome was that they shared a meal with Jesus and He gave Peter three chances to say sorry - that He loved Jesus
The world might pull failures down, but not Jesus, He knows our difficulties, our problems and our weakness and instead of condemnation, He encourages the weak, lifts the fallen, loves the unloved, and in the case of Peter, forgives the penitent,
That's why I love the story of the catch of fish, and although all the other gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke are quick to tell us how Peter denied knowing Jesus, only John completes the story by showing us how Jesus forgave Peter three times, once for each denial, and then reinstates Peter.
As Jesus cooked the fish and gave it to His disciples, He looked at Peter and asked ' him three times ' Simon Peter, do you love me? each time Peter replied, 'You know I do, Lord'. I guess that each time Jesus asked 'do you love me' Peter grimaced and felt ashamed. But each denial, needed repentance and forgiveness to make Peter feel clean and good about himself again.
The truth here, for each one of us this morning, is this, that if you feel that you seem to be always letting Jesus down, maybe by the way that you live your life, He is willing to forgive you .
If you feel that, neglected Him by not giving Him enough time, you know, that quick prayer at the end of the day, or maybe being half hearted - You know that because He loves you, He will forgive and help you start again. Perhaps we even take that for granted and use it to excuse the way we feel or act at the moment
I want to encourage you by reminding you what Jesus said 'I will never leave you or forsake you' that surely demands the same loyalty from us, doesn't it?
I want to remind you that no-matter what, Jesus loves you, and gave His life for you even though at times, you've fail Him. Jesus is much kinder to us, than we are to ourselves, and to each other.
If this morning, you are feeling unworthy, inadequate, a failure, take heart, Jesus will never leave or forsake, because He loves you, and He reaches out with arms of love and forgiveness to welcome you back into His arms.
The world is quick to pull us down by identifying our failures, the world has little sympathy. But Jesus wants to lift you up by encouraging you and boosting our confidence in Him.
Jesus not only forgave Peter, but He gave him a commission, to look after, to take care of and feed His church. Even though Peter had failed Jesus when the pressure was on, Jesus knew in his heart, that Peter still loved Him and wanted to serve Him with his whole life. and gave Peter another chance.
Jesus knows our weakness, He knows that at times, we are ashamed of some of the things that we do. He knows that even though many times, our actions are not indicative of our true feelings.
He knows that when by our foolishness, our 'giving in to temptation' we seem to deny all that we profess to be, that in our heart of hearts, their is remorse, a wishing that we hadn't done it, said it, thought it, and is always ready to forgive. Why? Because He loves us.
We are His bride - the church that one day He will come and take to be with Himself.
Even though Peter had denied Jesus, Jesus still wanted him on His team, Jesus had major plans for Peter.
Peter needed to Know the forgiveness of Jesus, so that he could then, forgive himself.
When you look at the faces of some Christians, it makes you wonder if the church is full of people whom Jesus has forgiven, yet they can't forgive themselves.
What burdens of guilt are you carrying round this morning?
Just as Jesus wanted Peter to really know His forgiveness, I believe, this morning, Jesus wants you and me to 'really know' forgiveness. There is Joy in heaven over one sinner that repents Perhaps He is saying to you this morning, 'come to Me - lets reason together ?
Sunday 16 April Easter Sunday 2017 John 20 1-18
Mary was devoted to her Lord, He had set her free from the demons that possessed her, and delivered her. She had found healing, love and acceptance from Jesus. Unlike most of the other friends and followers of Jesus, Mary was one of the few who stayed with Him at the cross, until the end. Until it would seem that all hope was gone.
It was early in the morning, while it is still dark, when Mary, this woman with a very dark and sinful past came to the place where late last night, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had laid the body of her Lord.
You can imagine the shock that Mary must have felt when she found that not only had the stone been moved, but the tomb itself was empty. The first thing that she did was to run and tell His closest friends, John and Peter. 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb' she cried, ' and I don't know where they have laid Him'.
Where Mary's reaction at the empty tomb was probably shock, John and Peter would be disbelief. They still hadn't realised what Jesus had tried to tell them at that last supper they had shared with Him. " I will be with only a little longer. Then you will look for me. I am going away, but I will come back to you. I am telling you this now, before it happens, so that when it does. you will believe".
Peter had been shocked when Jesus told him that in the next few day's, he would deny even being with Jesus, that Peter would desert his Lord. He would find it very hard to believe that Jesus could think that he, Peter, the Lords friend, would be capable of such a thing. Yet Jesus was right, Peter had let his friend down, and I would imagine he felt very ashamed of himself.
Peter and John ran with much haste to the tomb, probably with feelings of disbelief, who would do such a thing as remove the body, hadn't the authorities done enough to humiliate Jesus ? I wonder if the words of Jesus at that last supper had started to ring some bells. I can well imagine the thoughts that Peter would have had, knowing that not only had he denied even knowing Jesus, but he had deserted Him at the first sign of danger, and let Him die on the cross alone.
Last week on Palm Sunday I asked the question ‘ have you ever had to get ready to go somewhere that you didn’t want to? We were thinking about how Jesus would be feeling that day - knowing that to go to Jerusalem meant certain death. I believe that whilst John would want to get to the tomb as quickly as he could - Peters legs would be running faster than his head - he probably wasn’t as keen to get there as John - Peter would probably still have that image of Jesus looking at him when Peter denied knowing or being with Jesus,
No wonder we are told that John arrived first, and when he got to the tomb, he would see the bandages that had been wrapped around Jesus's body all neatly folded, not the work of someone trying to get away in a hurry. John saw the evidence, and scripture tells us 'he believed'
Mary just couldn't wait to go and tend to the needs of the Lord she loved. She felt indebted to Him, for what He had done for her, in giving her new life. Life that now had real purpose, a life of hope where before there was only despair. Peter on the other hand would want to believe, but probably held back by his shame.
Today, like Mary, John and Peter those two thousand years ago, many Christians will give a sigh of relief that the pain and trauma of Good Friday is over - but unlike Mary, John or Peter, they didn’t come together to share the pain of Good Friday.
The glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is more fully appreciated by those who have experienced the cross. Paul wrote to the Philippian Church, ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3; 10,11
What are your feelings, what are your hopes as you come together to worship the risen Lord.
Maybe you have come sharing the same mixed feelings that Peter must have had, sadness, remorse for having let your Lord down Perhaps, maybe denied Him in some way or held back from making any kind of commitment to Him.
The way that we approach the empty tomb this morning, could change our lives.
I hope we all share some of the feelings that Mary had, that of intense gratitude for what the Lord has and is doing in your life. A time when you want to rejoice over the forgiveness of sin and the victory over sin that Jesus showed was possible.
While Peter and John ran back to their homes, Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she knelt there, she saw two angels, who asked her why she was crying. "because they have taken my Lord away, and I don't know where they have put Him". Then she turned round and saw a man standing by her side. "Woman, why do you weep, who are you looking for?" She thought he was the gardener, and asked him where he had put the body of her Lord. Jesus turned to her and gently said, "Mary" she turned and instantly recognised Him.
In her deepest need, she found that He was there. Jesus came to her when in utter desperation she cried out for Him. Maybe you feel like crying out to God, "where are you." There are times in our lives when ‘Lord You seem so far away’, yet He’s there beside us, sharing your pain, feeling your sorrow. It is at such times we need to reach out to Him, and realise His presence.
Just as the way we approach the tomb is important, so too is the way we go from it and what we do with our lives. Where Peter and John went home, perhaps to let the truth sink in before seeing the other disciples, Mary couldn't wait, and we are told that she went to tell them that she had found, the risen Lord.
I pray that that will be our testimony this morning that we know that Jesus Christ is risen indeed from the dead. That we serve a risen Saviour who is in the world today. How do we know? Because He lives within my heart!
I love the way Paul who’s life was changed so dramatically when he encountered the risen Lord on the way to Damascus, wrote to the church at Rome saying this;
Romans 5; 6-11 When we were utterly helpless, with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for him. Even if we were good, we really wouldn't expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since by his blood he did all this for us as sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty? Now he will save us from all of God's wrath to come. And since, when we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of his Son, what blessings he must have for us now that we are his friends and he is living within us! Now we rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God - all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in dying for our sins - making us friends of God.
I remember as a young man how on Easter morning, everybody in Idle seemed to go to Church. There were very few cars then, and as you walked to church on - you met people on the way and shouted across the street ‘He is Risen’ Hallelujah. Today, the few people who do come to church, come in cars - so sadly, the greeting is rarely expressed.
On the Easter just before he died, D. William Sangster, who was a deeply spiritual Methodist, who had spearheaded a renewal movement in the British Isles following World War II - painfully printed a short note to his daughter. His ministry had been tragically cut short by a tragic disease which progressively paralysed his body, even his vocal chords. All he could do now was silently pray for others to continue the work. The voice that used to powerfully preach the gospel was now silenced.
On the last Resurrection Sunday that Sangster spent on earth, and only now able to move his fingers, he painfully wrote these words to his daughter; "How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen!' But what is far worse, is to have a voice and not want to shout."
Just as Peter and John ran to tell the other disciples that ‘Jesus was alive’ and in the same way that Mary couldn’t wait to share the good news with others, so too, we here this morning are called know the risen Christ in our own hearts and share the good news with those that we live with, spend time with, or even live next door to -the good news that God loves them, that there is more to life than this - that Jesus is alive and gave His life to save them.
They need to see that in our lives -to see a difference in our way of life, our attitudes, our responses, our goals
Our testimony this morning should be that we know Christ is risen because we Know Christ
We serve a risen Saviour who is in the world today -
How do we know that - because - as we sang earlier - He lives within my heart.
Lets give Him the Glory as we sing Thine be the Glory
Sunday 2 April 2017
Last week we read the letter that Paul sent to Timothy commending him on his faith that was passed down to him through his mother and grandmother. Today we are going to read on from verse 7
2 Timothy 1;7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day
Paul didn’t say ‘I know what I believe’ important as that is - if folk knew what they believed then the JW’s would have a harder time when they knock on doors. What Paul said was ‘I know Whom I have believed’. He knew the man Jesus - How? He’d only met him that one time on the road to Damascus - Paul after meeting with Jesus began to embark on a life changing experience by seeking out those who had been with Jesus like Peter and gaining all the knowledge he could about Jesus.
This would fill him with the urge to get to know Jesus personally through prayer - that come over in his letter to the church at Philippi when he writes ‘I want to know Christ’ and so following on from his conversion experience he began his journey into getting to really know for himself the risen Christ.
What Paul had before his encounter with the Lord he declared was now ‘nothing to him - what’s more I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him - not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ’. Philippians 3; 7-11
On Wednesday nights we are looking at what that means for us today - conversion is only the beginning - that starts the process of getting to know Him so that we can become like Him.
One of the few philosophies that the world and Christian have in common is the statement - ‘It’s not what you know - it’s who you know’ that matters.
God said through the Psalmist ‘Be still and Know that I am God’ and by saying that I don’t believe that He didn’t just mean ‘Read all about it’ he was talking about really knowing Him. In the musical the King and I’ Anna sings a song to the many children of the King of Siam called ‘Getting to know you - getting to know all about you - getting to like you hoping that you’ll like me’ That’s how I believe God wants us to know Him - Personally. God wants to be able to have a heart to heart with you and me and He can’t do that if we’re not on speaking terms.
Paul encouraged the Church leaders to share the wonderful experience of ‘knowing Jesus’ - it didn’t happen overnight - it took time for that relationship to develop.
The disciples spent three years with Jesus, sharing the good times, marvelling at the miraculous things He did, enjoying the feel good factor as Jesus healed the sick. Listening to His wonderful challenging sermons that spoke to their hearts and moved people to repent of their past and commit their lives to Him. The three years they spent with Jesus would be a life transforming experience for each of them a necessary learning curve in their lives.
When the times of testing came for the disciples, the depth and real truth of their understanding was revealed and it wasn’t always good.. Peter, the impulsive fisherman, the one Jesus would entrust the future of His church after He had gone back to the Father went so far as to even deny knowing his Lord. Jesus warned them that this would happen it was just one of those valley experiences that we all go through when times of testing come.
Matthew 26; 30-35 tells us that ‘ When they ( His disciples) had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 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.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
Now look at what happened after the arrest of Jesus v 69-75 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
It wasn’t until after the death and resurrection of Jesus that His disciples began to realise who He really was. It wasn’t until He appeared to them in the upper room and as He cooked them breakfast after a hard nights fishing that the penny dropped.
Who would have thought it possible that after spending three years with Jesus - seeing all that He did, that when the time came to speak up for Him - they remained silent and in Peters case even denied knowing Him.
But then, who are we to judge - there are times when we let Him down, fail to speak up for Him when our friends challenge us. The times when we are with those of our colleagues, friends, family, workmates who don’t know Jesus as we profess to do and we hold back so that we don’t jeapordise our friendship. It’s so easy to compromise our faith, even let Jesus go in favour of our friends.
As God said to Jeremiah 15;19 , when we hang out with others who are none believers we must influence them and not let them influence us. LB We owe it to God, we owe it to our friends and we owe it to ourselves.
Today in many churches there are folk like us, who would call themselves Christians yet let Him down in the way they live their lives.
It’s so easy to confuse ‘knowing Him’ for ‘knowing about Him’. Even the athiest knows about Jesus. Even the man in the street who would never own up to it, knows a little about Jesus but so often our actions, attitudes, reaction tom others and responses let us down and reveal to us the shallowness of our understanding.
Peter, John, Paul and Timothy all needed to feel the assurance that actually knowing Jesus brings. Only knowing Jesus makes it possible for us to live the kind of life that Jesus demands that we should
What does it really mean - to know Jesus?
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, John , writing about Him says this. ‘We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says ‘I know Him, but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. This is how we know we are in Him - whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did’.
To know Jesus means to ‘be like Jesus’ to live the Jesus way, to live at peace with one another, to be eager to see the best in one another and not just the faults, to want the best for one another instead of always wanting for ourselves. To live as Jesus did - for the benefit of others
To be genuine, loving, compassionate, understanding, tolerating the weaker bretheren, standing up for the oppressed, speaking out against injustice, being humble - in fact - being like Jesus - or as we are studying on Wednesday nights, becoming like Him
When that is our desire and we live in love and obedience to God and one another then Jesus promised He would come and live within us - helping us to become like Him.
To be a disciple of Jesus means putting self aside, getting to know Jesus and becoming like Him so that we can make Him better known to others.
In Jeremiah 22 God breaths His wrath on those who live selfishly for their own gain and fortune. God commands Jeremiah to go to the palace of the King and tell him to start ‘doing what is just and right’ Does it make you a King to have more that anyone else ‘Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, he defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.
As Christians we are called to come into relationship with Jesus, tp get to know Him and to become like Him.
Just ponder this question in your minds - ‘do you really know Him - or just know about Him.
Peter thought he knew Him but when the testing time came revealed the truth by denying that he knew Him. What’s your answer to the question ‘Do you know Him or just about Him. What lies hidden in your heart - Knowing Him should encourage us to go deeper until Christ becomes flesh in us.
A teacher looked over the shoulder of a little girl in her class who was painting a picture of a mans face.
‘Who are you painting’ she asked
‘It’s Jesus’ said the little girl
‘But how do you know what He looks like, no one today has ever seen Jesus?
‘No’ said the little girl ‘ but they will when I’ve finished my picture’
O that people will be able to see Jesus in you and me - that can only happen when we really get to grips with what it means to really know Jesus and not just about Him.
Song Lord I pray that I may know Thee
Sunday 26 March 2017 Mothers day read 2 Timothy 1; 1 -7
Today is mothers day, the day that we as a family thank God for that special person that we all love - mother. The majority of us here this morning only have the dear memories of our mothers who have long time passed away - only a few of you still have your mothers - but we thank God for those dear memories that we have of our mothers.
Of course we do have some mothers here with us this morning who will be receiving cards and hugs from their children.
This morning I want us to look at some of the mothers in the Bible. The first is Hannah who was barren and unable to have the child that she so craved for. She was so desperate for a baby that she went to the Temple and pleaded in prayer to God - ’ O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servants misery and remember me and give me a son - then I will give him to You Lord for all the days of his life’ As she prayed this prayer silently to God - her lips were moving but no voice was heard. The priest Eli, who was standing near by saw her and thought she‘d been drinking.
‘No lord, she said, and told him I am a woman who is deeply troubled, I’ve not been drinking wine, I was pouring out my soul to the Lord - I’ve been praying out of great anguish and grief’.
Eli could see that she was desperate and sincere and so said to her ’Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him’. And God did answer her prayer - she concieved and gave birth to a son - she called him Samuel which means ’Because I asked the Lord for him’.
Her prayers were answered, she had her baby boy - but what had she promised God? WOW!
She had told God; 'let me have my baby and when he is old enough', she would take him to the Temple and leave him there to serve the Lord. What a sacrificial thing to do to tell God that if He answered her prayer then she would give him back to God to serve Him in the Temple. That’s what she did, as soon as she had weaned him - she took him to the Temple and sought out Eli saying ‘As surely as you live my Lord, I am the woman who stood beside you praying to the Lord for a child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him - so now I give him back to the Lord - for his whole life he will serve the Lord. WOW the sacrificial love of a mother. Hannah showed her love and gratitude to God in that she was prepared to give him away
Samuel would have been so precious to Hannah but because she had promised God that if He answered her prayer she would give Samuel back to God to serve Him in the Temple- that’s what she did
Hannah had no way of knowing that the young child Samuel would be used mightily by becoming the mouthpiece of God to a rebellious nation. Of course Hannah never forgot her son - every year she made him a special robe and took it to him when she visited him in the temple. God blessed her faithfulness by giving her three more sons and two daughters.
There are other mothers in the bible who through sheer love for their children were prepared to give them away for their own good and safety.
The mother of Moses, was prepared to let her child be brought up by another woman in order that he would not be killed. The mother? whoever she was - was prepared to sacrifice her own desires for the sake of her son.
Then there was the mother who found herself in the centre of a dispute over whom was the rightful mother of her baby. The dispute got to the court of King Solomon who in his wisdom and knowledge of the depth of a mothers love, threatened to divide the baby into two by slicing him in half . Solomon's wisdom was proved in the way in which in order to preserve the life of the child she loved, the true mother was prepared to let the 'other woman' have her child.
It’s amazing the sacrifices that mothers - and dads are prepared to go through in order to give their children a good start in life.
I well remember the hardships that my mum endured, during and after the war, when ration books were needed to get food and clothes. We always had enough coupons, what we didn't have, was enough money to use the coupons. My dad worked 60 hours a week on nights and my mum worked on Saturday night in the local fish shop to earn that extra cash needed to provide for me and my brother Sam. I remember the weeks before Whit-Sunday, mum buying enough wool to knit Sam and myself matching pullovers, complete with a pattern of little boxes all round the middle. She was determined that her boy's would be as well dressed at Whitsuntide, as those wealthy folk up Westfield Lane, and we were.
A few years later, when we needed blazers, she would save hard every week, and pay 'Willy Walton, the Magnet club man ' a little money so that when our turn came round, we could go to a shop called 'Dixieland' in Bradford, and be togged out. Unlike today, with the 'buy now pay later' possibilities, then things had to be paid for first, before you took them home. I knew the sacrificial love of a mother, and father. The same sacrificial love that Hannah showed, for Samuel.
Our Father God so often illustrates the power, and extent of His love for His children, in terms of 'Motherly Love'." How often I have wanted to shelter you under the safety of my arms, as a mother hen with her chicks. God's love is seen in no better way, than in the love of a mother for her children. When we thank God for mother, we really thank Him for the love that she showed, His love, His sacrificial love. If only each one of us could show that same love for each other, that is seen in the love of a mother, then the world would indeed be a much better place.
We read earlier about Eunice the mother of Timothy. When Paul wrote this letter to his friend Timothy, he said " I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois, and in your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded, now lives in you also". Paul recognised so much of the qualities of those two others passed down to their children, that he thanked God for them. Their mothers played such an important part in their spiritual development, that it showed.
We know very little about the mother of Timothy - but what we do know is that
'she lived the faith'.
The faith that her own mother before her had encouraged her to uphold.
A ‘sincere’ faith that she passed through the family and now to her son.
Obviously a passionate faith, a faith that was real, immovable, whatever.
A ‘living’ faith that was evidenced by others because they were convinced of its truth, and lived it. A faith so influenced by a mothers love and devotion.
A faith that made a great impression on her son Timothy
A faith that ‘lived on’ in her son
I thank God that I was brought up in a spiritual home - my mum bless her, lived her faith and played a big part in my early Christian life. She was a Sunday school teacher and every week I can remember sitting on the stairs in my Pyjamas, listening to her talking to the bible class in our house.
Billy Grahams advice to a mother was ‘Let your home be your parish, your little brood your congregation, your living room a sanctuary, and your knee a sacred altar’.
In just the same way as Timothy gained the sincere faith of his mother, and her mother before that, I believe that a little of the sacrificial love of Hannah would rub off on Samuel too. Of course all these qualities come under the umbrella of 'Love', as we know, Love is a gift from God who IS Love.
The greatest commandment Jesus said, is that you" love one another, as I have loved you. "If only man would look at the mess that he is making of the world, learn the lesson that God showed us in Jesus, of the need for sacrificial love. "Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, you are My friends if you do whatsoever I command you". God , in Christ showed His love to mankind.
In the same way as Hannah gave her only son, for the benefit of the kingdom, God gave His Only Son, for your sake, and mine, so that "whosoever believeth on Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." God's sacrificial love for you and me. What is your response to such a love as that ?
Today all over the world people will be responding in gratitude for the love of their mothers and the important part she played in their lives influencing them and making them the people they are. If only - today - people would show that same gratitude to God for the love that He has shown us in giving His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us. Jesus showed love for His own mother when, knowing how she would feel at loosing her Son gave her into the care of His friend John. That’s love - real love.
What is your response to such a love as that ?
Romans 5; 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Like a mother with her young child, who even though at times they are disobedient, she can see the potential in her child and is prepared to give everything she can to instil love in their hearts. That’s how much God loves you and me - He sees beyond the surface, the me and you that everyone else sees - He sees through to our hearts and sees the potential there is in us to be come the person He desired us to be.
When we respond to the love of God and commit ourselves to live a life of love in obedience to Him then Jesus tells us He will come and live within us - so that eventually we become like Him. Wouldn’t it be great if people could see Jesus in us. Jesus said to the disciples ‘if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father’ wouldn’t it be great if people we mix with daily could see Jesus in us.
In the same way that the loving attributes of a mother and father can be seen in a developing child - so too God desires to let His love be seen in you and me to the extent that as Jesus promised His disciples, if you love me and live disobedience to my will then I and the father will come and make our home within you.
The teaching and example of Jesus strengthen and emphasis the message of the New testament in that we are called not just to mirror His love but to become more and more like Jesus - to be indwelt by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do as Jesus Himself said ‘even greater things’ WOW! John 14:12-14 ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.’
Salvation is only the beginning - Salvation starts in our response to the realisation that we are not living the life God wants us to and because of that we repent and say sorry. We receive forgiveness from God and that’s great but it’s only the start. We have a lot to learn which we do by reading His word and getting to really know Jesus and His plan for our lives. Salvation is only the start - sadly many people who call themselves Christian never progress any further. They join a church, become a part of and enjoy the fellowship, but sadly that’s where many people stay.
Gods word is so clear, we are saved from the past, to move forward to be transformed from what we were to what we can become - which is Christlike.
Paul, the passionate Jew who fought against the new church of Christ seeing it as a threat to his long held faith - was stopped in his tracks when on the Damascus Road he encountered Christ. Salvation came but he had a lot of unlearning to do and a lot to find out about the new and living way that God had chosen him to walk on.
That’s why he wrote to the church at Philippi ‘If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
I want to know Christ - and he did, as well as talking to Jesus in prayer he sought out those who had been with Jesus and started to mirror the qualities of Jesus becoming Christlike .
I love the way that when Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica said; Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2; 6-8 He likened the passion he had for sharing the gospel as like the passion a mother has for her children. The same love that Jesus has for us.
Paul went on to write to the church at Corinth “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
1 John 2; 6 NIV Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.
John 13:15 Jesus said ‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’
Today - Mother’s day is a celebration of that LOVE - Jesus love.
Every Sunday is a celebration of LOVE - Gods love for you and me. God IS Love and as His children we need to celebrate that love not just today but every day of our lives. The best way to celebrate that is to live like Jesus and love like Him. Take I ( me) out of LIVE and put O for others in our place
On Friday at our Gather night we were reminded that in order for Us to become like Him - He become like us’
Philippians 2:1-11 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
Just as the qualities we saw in our mothers - are passed down to us as children how much more wonderful would it be if, as children of God, the qualities and beauty of Jesus could be seen in you and me.
Closing Song Lord I pray that I may know Thee
Sunday 19 March 2017 This message was given on the first Sunday following the death that week of a YPSM Julia Barrans, a dear faithful soldier and Sunday school teacher of the Idle Corps. She had been in hospital for three weeks , had a pacemaker fitted and her right leg amputated. Single and living alone as she did, had she survived she would not have been able to go back to her home and would have needed constant care. Everyone had been praying for her and her brother and her loving family who were with her when she went to love with her Lord and Saviour.
Luke 5; 17-26 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.
Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Here we have, what was one of my favourite stories about Jesus when I was a young lad. The healing of the paralytic man. Here was this lame man who couldn’t get to Jesus by his own efforts, had to rely on his friends to carry him there. As a lad, the great part of the story was the fact that the man was let down through the roof and Jesus healed him.
As I grew older, what really challenged me was the concern that the men had shown in the way they carried the paralytic man to Jesus and even when the crowds became an obstacle to them, they found a way to get him to Jesus by opening up the roof and letting him down on his mat.
This was the response that Jesus had when we are told He saw their faith and said to the lame man ‘Friend - your sins are forgiven.
It was because of the efforts of the mans friends that Jesus responded to their concern by telling the man that his sins were forgiven - it was thought in their day that long held illnesses were as a result of the sins of the sufferer - therefore to the onlookers healing could not take place unless repentance and forgiveness were given - but only God could do that - they were blinded to the truth that Jesus was God incarnate..
Lets look at the response of the teachers of the law to the way in which Jesus said his sins had been forgiven.
Luke 5; 21-26 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
In other words, anybody can say your sins are forgiven you - who’s to know if that is true. But to say ‘rise up and walk to a man’ who’s probably been paralysed for years and for that man to get up and walk would be a miracle and only possible if that mans sins were forgiven.
Jesus surprised them by showing that He had both the authority to forgive sins and the power to heal the man.
So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
We said last week didn’t we - that Jesus - the word made flesh - showed by His actions not just the power of God but the sheer love that God has for all mankind - so much so that He would show that love in the way He would give His very life to ransom mankind and pay the price for their sins.
Jesus came to show the love of God in action - He came to call man back into the loving arms of God their maker by putting that love into action so that mankind could see, by His example - how God wanted man to live - loving Him and one another.
That’s the great thing that this account of the healing of the lame man concentrates on - the love and concern that the mans friends had for him in that no obstacle would prevent them from bringing their friend to Jesus. They carried him there and when they found the way marred by the vast crowds they went on the roof and let him down through that roof.
When I think of the number of friends of Julia who over the last couple of weeks have been faithfully praying and bringing their concerns about Julia to God - that, to me showed the same love that these men had for their friend when they brought him before the Lord.
That’s the love that Jesus puts within those who love Him and live in obedience to His will and Word. The love that burns within us for one another is the love of God - that’s awesome - the love of God in action in you and me.
We prayed for healing and I believe that God has answered our prayers - maybe not in the way we wanted - but in the way that was right for Julia.
The tragic events over the last few weeks that put Julia into a comatose state and the removal of her leg would have been extremely difficult for Julia to live with especially knowing that she would have probably have had to go into care. The blessing is that now she is free from pain, safe in the arms of her loving Saviour and hopefully reunited with her sister, brother, mum and dad. Julia faithfully served her Lord and will be receiving her reward of eternity with Him.
Julia had the support of not just her loving birth family but the loving concern of her spiritual family - you and me who brought her before the Lord by our prayers.
The parylitics friends lovingly brought him physically to Jesus and in a way that parralels that, Julia’s Christian friends brought her spiritually before the Lord.
And you know what? in the same way that Peter and John prayed for the lame man who lay begging outside the Temple brought that man to his feet and he danced with joy into the house of the Lord - I can just see Julia - the lame seriously ill Julia, doing the same thing - dancing for Joy - into the house of the Lord.
I can’t emphasise more strongly the loving concern of the parylitics friends who did all they could for their friend to bring about his healing and the way in which so many of Julia’s friends lovingly brought her in prayer, before the Lord. That’s the love of Jesus.
That’s how He wants His people to be - you and me - showing our love and concern for those around us who need to know the Lord.
One of the things that we as a fellowship will be looking at over the next few weeks leading up to Easter is the way in which I believe God wants us to reflect the same love that Jesus had and still has for people all around us - to show His love -genuinely in our lives and actions so that people will be able to see Christ in us and be eager to want to know Him for themselves.
As I said last week you and I are called to be a letter from Christ to the world in which we live - to let people SEE Jesus and how the impact that He has on our lives in helping us through the same trials and problems that they have - to let them SEE how if they place their faith and trust in Him, that God can do the same for them. A picture speaks more than a thousand words.
I believe that to be like Jesus is Gods desire for you and me
Philippians 2:1-11 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
That’s the way the men who brought the parylitic to Jesus thought.
John tells us that ‘Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did‘ 1 John 2; 6
Jesus Himself said ‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’ John 13:15
His Disciple Peter reminds us To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps 1 Peter 2:21
The disciple Jesus loved tells us that “When He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
The converted envoy Paul wrote “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). WOW!
I also believe that there are three things which contribute to our being more Christlike:
1 By Surrendering our lives to God Paul writing to the church in Rome says that worship involves a total self-dedication to God that involves volunteering our bodies as “living sacrifices,” and our minds are renewed and transformed. As John the Baptist said, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30
2 By claiming Freedom from sin Since Jesus lived a sinless life, the more we consider ourselves “dead to sin” and live a life of purity, the more like Jesus we will become. As we offer ourselves to God, sin is no longer our master, and we are more clearly identified with Christ. As Paul wrote to the church at Rome ‘ count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ Romans 6; 11
3 Through Christian Growth When we get saved, we have a lot to learn - we promise to pray and read our bible to help us grow to be more like Jesus - to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
To be like Jesus - this hope possesses me in every word and deed this is my aim
Judging by the events that many of us have experienced over the last few years, you never know when the Lord will call us home - A few weeks ago Julia was dancing around telling the kids her story - today she’s in Heaven. We need to make sure that we are living our lives in line with the desire of God.
The striking truth that comes through the writings of the contributors to the New Testament is that God wants us to become like Jesus. He calls us to follow Him in thought word and deed - Jesus even said that if we love Him and discipline ourselves to be obedient to His word He would come and live within us making us like Him.
That way we will be able to live our lives to His Glory and attract others, our family, friends, neighbours to come to know Him too.
In closing we are going to sing the same song we sang a couple of weeks ago - I then shall live - I’ve come to love this song so much that I’m afraid I might bore you with it’s repetition - but what they are singing about is my prayer for each one of us - today - that we will live as ones who’ve been forgiven and live the life that Jesus lived and show our sincere love for one another and those we will be called to witness to. The song is at the head of these sermon notes.
Sunday 12 March 2017 Luke 5;1 Jesus Calls His First Disciples
Here was Jesus at the start of His ministry which He had outlined in His sermon in the Synagogue that we shared last week. That was to proclaim good news to the poor. Which meant freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
As we shared that last week I suggested that these were no mere traits such as people who were poor, prisoners, physically blind, oppressed but states of mind - poor in Spirit, prisoners to misguided teachings where rituals, sacrificing of animals to claim forgiveness of sins, people who were being blinded to the simple truth of Gods love and concern for them - oppressed by unattainable requirements of the religious laws of the day - Jesus had come to show them the real truth and bring them back to the heart of God who had provided a once and for all sacrificial lamb in Jesus through whom they could attain freedom from sin and a new life that would lead to eternity with God.
Jesus came to show them that re-birth was possible and one of the ways to show them that was in simple parables and by being a living example to show what the power of God could do in their lives . Jesus had come to set them free from the old way to introduce them to a new and living way.
I love therefore the way in which Jesus, knowing that He would need help in His ministry , called His disciples and in a very pictorial way show them what could be accomplished if they would follow Him and become His disciples.
All the way through His ministry Jesus would speak to the heart of man in parables - stories that would help them to understand the deep truths of what He was trying to get over to them which was that God loved them, God wanted them to love Him and one another and that if they did and loved in obedience to His word then He would give them real life - life in all it’s fullest sense of the word and more than that - abundant life that would reach out into the future eternity that they would spend together with their Lord.
This though, is no parable of words, this is a visual parable that would show them what together - in Christ - they could do. Jesus showed them what He was calling them to become and how through obedience to Him, the seemingly impossible could be accomplished in and through them. These were humble fishermen - not learned teachers - here was Jesus calling ordinary people like you and me to become exponents of the word that would challenge and encourage mankind to become followers of Jesus.
They knew all about fishing - that was their job and so what better way than use their way of life to show what, in Christ, they could accomplish as ‘fishers of men’.
Jesus had been teaching people, from the boat moored at the side of the lake and
when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” To which Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.
Wow! All night long they had been out on the sea and caught nothing - I love Simons response, obviously Jesus had made a great impression on them as He had been preaching to them and said But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”
Imagine their shock When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
What a great sight - to see the miraculous catch of fish When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then we have the whole purpose for this show of Gods power and what simple obedience to the commands of Jesus could accomplish. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.
Here is Jesus at the beginning of His life’s work - gathering His team - people who will help Him to accomplish His mission. People who would still be around after Jesus had paid the ultimate price for the sins of the world - people who would still be around to continue the work that Jesus began - people who Jesus would empower to build fellowships, churches that would grow and spread the truth of Gods love and intentions for His creation on into the future - today here and now.
Peter would go on to be the one who spoke at Pentecost when 3000 people responded to his message, were filled with the Holy Spirit and through whom the church was birthed..
It amazes me that still today - God is calling people like you and me to continue the work He began of sharing the good news with the world in which we live - our homes, our families, our work colleagues, our neighbours, our friends and acquaintances.
I wonder if you can remember the time that the message of Jesus became real to you - the time when you realised that what we read in the bible is God s word for us today and that the life and message of Jesus is the only way to live today. I wonder if you can remember the time you responded to the call of God and accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. What’s happened since then?
We all know what happened after Jesus called His disciples - how they teamed with Him, learned from Him, became like Him and after His death and resurrection continued to share the good news with others.
They had been set free from the mere tradition and ritual to see the truth in Christ - as Paul explains to the church at Corinth - We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.
Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, we all are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3;13
On Wednesday afternoon at the Friendship Club and later in the Bible fellowship we watched a vision that God gave to William Booth during a train journey from Halifax to London. A vision that inspired him to start the work he did.
In it he saw a sea of struggling people crying out from the depths of the sea for someone to save them. As Booth looked at the struggling people he saw what he later learned was Jesus leave the splendour of Glory and went down into the sea to save the people struggling there. The people were taken to dry land and were saved.
We then saw how the people on the dry land - happy in their new found state, saved and worshipping their saviour together. We then saw how over the years they became very self indulgent - enjoying lifestyles that now had been infiltrated by modern distracting pleasures such as TV, computer, lap tops that they forgot or ignored the people who were still struggling in the sea of life. Jesus was still trying to save the lost but sadly, many of the lost He had saved had little or no regard for those still struggling even to the extent of ignoring the pleas of Jesus to come and help Him to save them.
The vision showed how that just as Jesus had come to earth to save the lost and called together Disciples to help Him and continue into the future - many in the church had become complacent, happy in their own way fellowshipping together that they had forgotten the work they had been called to do - to witness to the dying and try spread the good news. They were enjoying their fellowship but neglecting their calling.
That was the reason that Booth started the work he did, the Christian Mission that became the Salvation Army. To bring good news to the poor - this time the real poor who were rejected by the respectable well dressed church. He saw the challenge of taking the good news to the oppressed, the neglected, the marginalized and introduce them to a Saviour who was concerned about them and for whom, He gave His life.
When Booth arrived in London, he saw the reality of what God had shown him in fact what God had prepared him to minister to.
In preparing this message I was reminded of the words written by Paul - the converted Saul - when writing to the church at Corinth and reminded them of their calling.
2 Corinthians 3;3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
I believe that that’s what God wants us to be today - a letter - a living letter from Christ to a needy world. Not written with pen and ink - not carved on stone but a living letter that speaks to human hearts.
You and I are a living letter from Christ. In the same way that the word of God to many is just ‘ink on paper’ and the law in the Old testament was a ‘letter carved on stone’ Both are meant to be lived out in the lives of your and me. When our hearts are indwelt by the loving God then Jesus’ love will shine through us. We will then become ‘living letters to a dying world. In the same way as ‘the Word became flesh in Christ Jesus’, so too the Word - Jesus - longs to live in and through us today.
As Christians, we are called to be ‘a letter from Christ to a dying world’. Judging by the news and the way in which Christian values are being eroded, it would appear that the letters are not being posted. In fact - ‘letters’ seem to be a thing of the past - today people communicate through emails or on face book. If the bible were translated into todays language it would probably say ‘you and I are a face book message from Christ to a dying world’.
Whatever way we choose top communicate the truth, we have the stamp of Gods approval, the authority of God - so lets make sure that the people in our own little worlds where we live, receive and can read loud and clear, the message of love and salvation that should be evidenced in our lives.
A living letter is more then mere words, it’s love in action, it’s becoming the Living Word - to let others see the beauty of living lives in the same way that Jesus lived His life - considering others and doing all we can to let them see the beauty of Jesus in the way in which we conduct ourselves.
I’ll never forget what a man at work did and said when, as an apprentice printer I was studying a book on haw a printing machine worked - he simply said ‘Come ere lad I show thi’ a picture speaks more than a thousand words - and it did - he showed me what the words were trying to tell me - this way I understood.
That what God did in Christ when as John tells us ‘the word became flesh ‘
We are called to become living letters that show the world - our family and friends what the word of God is trying to say to them.
It was the same when Jesus called His first disciples, they spent time in is presence so that His love and message rubbed off - that’s what it should be like for those like you and me who are called to come to Jesus, learn from Him and share His love and message with those we spend our days with, our family, friends, acquaintances. We owe it to God and we owe it to people out there.
Jesus called hHis disciples together and told them that from now on you won’t be just fishermen but fishers of men and their response was to pull their boats up onto the shore, left everything and followed Him.
Final word from Paul 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. Ephesians 4; 1-3
When soldiers were called up in the war, they were then posted to a particular place of warfare.
It’s the same in the fight against evil when God calls His army together they are then posted to where He needs them and where they can best serve the Lord.
Our final song asks the question of God ‘ How can I better serve Thee Lord’
Lets as we sing it realise that we are asking God - what next Lord? And be open to His reply
Sunday 5 March 2017 Luke 4; 13-21
Last week we read about the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by the devil in preparation for His lifes ministry.
Following this Matthew tells us that Jesus went to Galilee to preach and then to Capernaeum where he chose and called His disciples.
The gospel of Mark tells us that following the Baptism and tempting of Jesus, He went to Galilee and whilst walking by the Sea of Galilee began to call His Disciples.
John’s gospel tell us nothing of the baptism or temptations of Jesus but tells us of the decleration by John the Baptist that whilst he, John, baptised people in water, Jesus would come and baptise people in the power of the Holy Spirit. The next thing we read is that Jesus then calls His first disciples.
Interestingly it is only Luke that tells us of the way in which Jesus returned to Galilee and on the Sabbath day taught in the Synagogue.
As we have seen over the last few weeks, the most inclusive Gospel is the one written by Luke to his friend Theophilus. In his opening verses of the first chapter we can read how he had carefully investigated everything that happened in the early and ministerial life of Jesus - and nothing is left out
Luke 1;1-4 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
It wasn’t for Luke we would know nothing about the Angelic visits to Elizabeth and Mary, nothing about the visit of Mary to see Elizabeth , the visit of the shepherds at the manger, the boy Jesus getting left behind in the Temple - in fact we have a full four chapters of information regarding Jesus before Luke gets to the calling of the first disciples - yet I feel that this first sermon that Jesus gave in the synagogue is so important in the declaration that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.
Lets share what Luke writes about this very important beginning of the ministry of Jesus.
Luke 4;14-31 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised Him.
He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
He told them straight that His Message was that He been sent to proclaim good news to the poor. Which meant freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant and sat down. Luke tells us that the eyes of everyone in the synagogue was fastened on Him - they were gob smacked at His words and the authority with which He gave them. The He said ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’.
Jesus had read the words that they would be familiar with from Isaiah 61 which were prophetic words from God and applied them to Himself. Some there would probably not dare to accept that what Jesus had just read about the coming Messiah and then confirmed Himself to be that Messiah. When Jesus said Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ He was saying - your expecting a Messiah, well ‘Here I am’
WOW! Jesus is the chosen one who would proclaim the good news to the poor, set the prisoners free, open the eyes of the blind, set the oppressed free and proclaim the year of Gods Salvation.
Good News to the downcast, the downtrodden, freedom for those who were slaves and prisoners of the Old system and let them know that God has a way of Salvation available for those who chose to let go the past and take hold of the future.
Salvation would be made available through the precious blood of Jesus the Saviour of the world. WOW! This was good news. Some responded with a positive attitude for scripture tell us that 22 All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips’.
But there were some were a bit dubious when they questioned Isn’t this Josephs son?
I can imagine that Jesus knew what they were thinking. ‘He’s just a local lad - we’ve know Him a long time, we’ve seen Him grow up - so Jesus put them straight when they He said ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to Me ‘Physician heal Thyself’ do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum’.
Here Jesus refers to another occasion when He had been teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum and a demon possessed man had cried out ‘I know who You are, You’re the Holy One of God’ Jesus ordered him to be quiet then commanded the demon to come out of him which it did after violently shaking the man. The people were so amazed that Mark tells us, they said, ‘What is this, a new teaching and with authority - He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him’.
Jesus then reminded them what had happened years before when the people who were given the opportunity to accept the message, the Jews,, rejected it, the message was given to the Gentiles - that when Israel rejected God’s message of redemption, God sent him to the Gentiles - and so it will be if they refuse to accept Jesus.
This angered the people in the Synagogue v28 they were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove Him out of the town and took Him to the brow of a hill on which the town was built in order to throw Him down the cliff. But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.
Why did they want to get rid of this ‘local lad’? because what He said was a challenge to their selfish lifestyles, their corrupt practices, their idea of a Messiah was one would set them free from those who held them back, and give them a better standard of living, more power, more authority. Jesus came to expose their wrong ideas of God and what God wanted of them. They had all the rigalea, the pious acts, the outward show of a people who were supposedly Godly people but they lacked the love of God, understanding, compassion - Jesus the Messiah had come to show them by example the kind of people God wanted His people to be - Jesus was even willing to pay the price of sin that they would understand in order to set them free and back into relationship with the father.
The re-born Paul who was before known as Saul would know all about this coming as he did from a very strict pious and misguided background who after his conversion said that what he had before was like filthy rags compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and then he went on to live a very different life that followed closely the life and attitudes of Jesus his Saviour.
Jesus came to upset their comfortable lifestyles, their nests of ease, their pious thinking, their corruption of the truth. Jesus came to show them that the most important commandments of God were that they loved God with every part of their being and loved one another - it was Love that Jesus came to show - the love of God.
He came to set mankind free from the bondage of sin, the oppression and guilt brought on by the very laws that had been designed to liberate them.
1 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor’.
To bring people back to the truth and simplicity of the gospel. For too long, mans own ideas, his own philosophy’s had become the substitute for the truth. The rituals, the trappings of a religion that made it possible for man to feel he had been forgiven without being truly repentant, where merely knowing about God had become a substitute for actually knowing Him.
God laid the blame of this on the leaders, those in authority, the so called shepherds of the flock, who instead of feeding the truth, withheld it and starved the sheep. That’s why we read in Ezekiel God saying; Ezekiel 34;2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
Jesus was the appointed one - the Good Shepherd, the Messiah who would lead the sheep back into the fold and bring people back to the truth and simplicity of the gospel. For too long mans own ideas, his own philosophy's had become substitutes for the truth. The rituals, the trappings of a religion that made it possible for man to feel he had been forgiven without being truly repentant, where merely knowing about God had become a substitute for actually knowing Him.
2 ‘The Spirit has anointed me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, -
those who had become bound by their traditions, those who felt that only strict observance of the law, the daily ritual of sacrificing animals as an offering to God for their sinfulness would bring them forgiveness from God and be pleasing to Him. They failed to know that man in his own strength could never attain salvation, that only by the grace of God, could a man be set free from the slavery of sin. Freedom is possible only by through Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist had already said it when he saw Jesus come towards him to be baptised, "See, the Lamb of God ,who takes away the sins of the world".
All man has to do, is lay down his old way of life on God's altar, and give himself in complete obedience to God.
Remember when Abraham took his son Isaac up the mountain with the intention of obeying as he thought the law of God, by sacrificing him on an altar. God saw that Abraham was prepared to go that far, to kill his only son, to offer a supreme sacrifice. God saw his willingness, the desire of his heart to please his God, even if it cost him dearly. God didn't want the life of Isaac, He wanted the Obedient Heart of Abraham.
God doesn't want men and women who are prisoners of the law, he wants people who have been set free by the truth.
It's easy to become slaves to tradition, to men's complicated ideas, rather than the simplicity of the gospel that was revealed in Christ Jesus. Jesus came to set men free!
That’s the devils ploy to so confound the sheep so that instead of placing their trust in and following the shepherd, they blindly go their own way along the path that leads to destruction.
3 ‘The Spirit has anointed me to bring Recovery of sight to the blind, -
not just the physically blind - although He did that, but rather those who have been blinded to the truth by satans lies. The attractions of the world, that seem so glamorous, that try to tempt people into believing they are more exciting, more satisfying than anything that the church can offer. Sin is so powerful. so strong that it can prevent a person from seeing the truth, even when it's before his very eyes.
There were those who would see Jesus do all kinds of miraculous things, designed to show the power of God, and validate the claims of Jesus, yet some of them would reject the truth. Thomas believed only when Jesus stood there, before his very eyes.
Jesus came, not only to give sight to the spiritually blind, but to show the proud self righteous who think that they see, that they are blind. How we need to be open to the word of God, always willing to learn the new things that He will reveal to us each day.
4 ‘The Spirit has anointed me to release the oppressed - those who are held down under the cruel force of tyranny, those who live in fear, those who feel weak and of little value to the Kingdom. The devil is so cunning that He some times uses the success and ability of others, to make people feel inadequate.
Jesus uses ordinary folk, those who are willing to let Him rule in their lives, those who realise their own weakness is of great value to God, to allow His strength to show forth. Jesus came to set the oppressed free!
Some are oppressed by illness and find it hard to cope - even in those situations Jesus offers the comfort of His love and His presence - life can be so hard that even when you feel that your world is crumbling and we don’t know which way to turn, Scripture reminds us that God is our refuge and help a very present help in times of trouble’
5 ‘The Spirit has anointed me to preach the day of the Lords favour.
To herald the new Kingdom - where people would repent their sins, receive forgiveness from the Lord and live under His rules. A Kingdom where we live and serve under the authority of the King of Kings. I believe that it also alludes to the Kingdom to come to come. A kingdom that begins the moment that we accept Jesus into our lives.
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
This local lad, this young man they had all grown up with, the man from the crowd who had been presented to the world by God Himself, now makes that calling, His own. Jesus takes the responsibility of His calling as He prepares to undertake His commission.
The sad thing is, that whilst Jesus said the things they wanted to hear, He was accepted, but as soon as He said anything that was contrary to their thinking, He was rejected, Rejected and cast out by His own people, who plotted to get rid of Him, and crucified Him. He came unto His own, but His own received Him not.
I wonder what would happen if Jesus came back to the church tomorrow, would he be more recognisable and acceptable to the man in the street or in the church.
Down through the centuries, Men of God have tries to continue to preach the same values as Jesus
To preach good news Repentance brings Salvation through the cross of Christ
Freedom for the prisoners Freedom from the desires of sin, freedom from self freedom from mere religion
Recovery of sight for the blind, eyes opened to see what God wants for and from His people
To release the oppressed, To stop ‘Doing’ and start ‘Being’
To proclaim the year of the Lord’ Jesus Here and Now offering New life Now, a foretaste of Heaven to come
That’s man’s journey from being Self obsessed to being God possessed
A journey from Sin to salvation Freedom from mere Religion ‘
Eyes Wide open - to SEE clearly the pathway that God has made available for His people to walk on.
The journey from Bondage to Freedom
Where are you on this journey?
Jesus knew His calling - He knew what had to be done to bring man back to His senses, to realise that God loves His creation and wants His people back on track.
Jesus set His cards on the table from day one and was determined to see His mission through even to death on a cross if that’s what it was going to take.
He did it for you and me today so that we could escape the corruption of sin in the world and start to live a life of freedom in Christ that when Jesus comes again for His church - we will be among those who He will invite into the Kingdom.
Make no mistake - Jesus is coming again. The bible is full of prophesies that tell us this. In the New Testament Jesus tells us to keep watch for the signs that will herald His return. Earthquakes, Famine, a time when armies will surround Jerusalem.
You only have to watch the news in these days to see that those signs are already there.
No one knows the day or can even predict it exactly like they try to do - but we are told, by Jesus that when these things start to happen they are signs that the time for His return is near so make sure that your ready and on the winning side.
Jesus the Messiah came for you and me to save us from the wrath to come caused by sin. Jesus wants to come and take up residence in your heart - as this last song says - ( King of Kings) ‘God of heaven living in me‘. Why not proclaim Him to be Lord of your life and acknowledge Him as the King of Kings.
Sunday 26 February 2017 Matthew 4; 1
Next Tuesday is pancake day - the day when we all enjoy and savour what in past times would have been our last ‘fatty’ food in preparation for the ‘self denial’ period of Lent that follows from the following day - Ash Wednesday.
We call next Tuesday Pancake day but it’s real title is Shrove Tuesday. it’s when we remember the way in which our Lord Jesus went into the wilderness following His presentation to the world as the Messiah by John the Baptist.
It was the time that Jesus got away from the everyday life in the world in preperation for His life ministry with a time of fasting and praying. For us today it’s a time of denial. When I was a lad we used to decide to give something up for Lent, sweets etc for a whole month. With me, it never seemed to last past the first few days.
It’s a time for us as Christians to take stock of our lives and if we find that we have gone off course, determine to get back on track to become the people that God wants us to be. David the Psalmist realised the importance of taking stock when he wrote Psalm 139 ‘ Search me O God and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting’.
The period in the wilderness was for Jesus, a time of separating Himself from all that had gone before - a kind of purging in preperation for all that was to come.
Here we see Jesus on the verge of His earthly ministry, that of putting man back on course into relationship with the Father by living a life of example to us all and then dying on the cross to pay for our sins and make it possible for us, by repenting, to receive forgiveness - to be re-birthed and enter into the privileged position of being a child of God with all the promises that brings. Abundant life - life in all it’s fullness - to bring wayward mankind back to the heart of the Father and for this - He had to be prepared to give His own life.
God in Christ wanted to show mankind that his rituals, his vain oblations, his pretence and outward show - his playing at it in an attempt to appear religious was not what God wanted, What the Father requires is that His children be obedient to His will and seek to honour Him by living lives that will ‘produce fruit that is in keeping with repentance’. Lives that, as Peter put it, ‘declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His glorious light’.
Our God cares about His creation, you and me, so much that He came - in Christ - to share our humanity, to experience life with all it’s emotions and show us by example how it is possible to live in victory.
I believe that by allowing Himself to be led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, He showed us the victory that can be achieved when we realise that God is with us - whatever we face in life and if we are obedient to Him - He will see us through whatever life throws at us.
And so, Jesus, full of the Spirit, and that’s important to know - fully armed with the sword of truth that He would have studied for the thirty years leading up to His great commissioning was led into the wilderness to be tempted.
This was no mere picnic. To go alone without any provision into an arid wilderness that was the desert, would have been seen as almost suicidal. We could never imaging the sheer hell of forty hungry, lonely days in the blazing heat of the desert and probably forty cold nights
Jesus, full of the spirit, was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the opposition into giving up His mission even before He‘d started and instead of succumbing to the devils wiles, declared His intention of declaring war on sin.
The Israelites in the Old testament had been in the wilderness for 40 years during which time, God tested them and showed them that if they obeyed Him He would see them through. Now here is Jesus, the Messiah leaving the world spending 40 days alone in the wilderness to show that by obedience to the word of God, one could resist the devil.
Jesus after 40 days without food was hungry. Satan knew this and playing to His weak spot said ‘if you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves of bread;, Satan knew that Jesus could and certainly Jesus also knew that He could. Satan was tempting Jesus to use His own miraculous powers to meet His own need. Throughout His ministry, Jesus consistently refused to do this - His power was for the benefit of others to bring them into the Kingdom.
That’s why the answer He gave was from scripture Deuteronomy 8v 3 ’ It is written ’ man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.
The second temptation was to throw Himself off the highest pinnacle in the temple and this time it’s the devil who quotes scripture in an attempt to get Jesus to do what it says ’ If you are the son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written (Psalm 91; v12) ‘He will command His angels concerning You and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’
I love the way that Jesus answers again by quoting scripture when He says ‘It is also written ‘ Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ ( Deuteronomy 6;16) A great lesson here to remind us of the importance of knowing scripture and what God says.
The last temptation is one that the world today has succumbed to that in order for mankind to gain power and authority, mankind has sold itself to the devils ploy of Materialism, political power that results in greed, selfishness and often, war.
The devil leads Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour ‘All this will I give you, he said, if you will bow down and worship me’. Away from Me, said Jesus and then answers him again from scripture Deuteronomy 6;13 It is written. ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only’
I guess that there are times when we feel as if we are going through a wilderness experience - times when we feel alone - times when we feel vulnerable and our faith is tested. O how important it is to know the word of God and the promises that He has made available for His people.
On Wednesday night at our Bible Fellowship we watched a short film of the testimony of Richard Wurmbrand a Russian pastor who because he refused to bow the knee to Communism was jailed for over 25 years, three of them in solitary confinement in a whole hardly big enough to walk around in. No windows, no light complete darkness for three solid years. A silent world where even the guards wore soft padded shoes to kill any sound. Sometimes all he had to eat was a slice of bread a week. He was tortured daily until the soles of his feet were worn through to the bone.
What kept him going was his memory of Scripture and the experience of knowing the presence of God with him every moment of every day.
It’s at such times as these that Knowing the word of God - in fact - Knowing God - as a living present reality - something we have been looking at over the last few weeks, Knowing God - who if we place our faith and trust in Him will see us through whatever we are called to face.
The devil is quick to work on our weak spots - especially when things are not going too well in our lives. Illness, Loss of a loved one, problems at home or in the work place. Difficulties in our families - trying times that can so easily test our faith.
The devil even uses what we believe to test us when he challenges us with the thought ‘why if God loves you does He allow this to happen to you’ - What he fails to remind us is the truth that we live in a fallen world where, because man has rejected God, terrible things do happen - and what he fails to tell us that in scripture it says that ’whenever we go through trials, when it seems that your whole world is collapsing around you - hang in there because God has promised to be with you and will see you through Psalm 46 God is our refuge and strength an ever present help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear thought the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea - 11 the Lord Almighty is with us.
There will come times, if we are not already facing them, when we feel that God wants us to go deeper, times when we feel that God is calling us to commit more of our lives into His service - but everything seems to be against us - it’s at such times that we need to know what His word says and experience the comfort of experiencing it’s truth in knowing that He will see us through.
Jesus was about to embark on His life’s mission of bringing the love of God to a rebellious world. A mission to bring man back into the arms of a loving God.
Here He was - thirty years old - just three years to go before His sacrificial death - being tempted by the devil who challenged the truth of Jesus’s divinity.
Thankfully Jesus would be strengthened and encouraged by the way in which He was able to combat the taunts and temptations of the devil and put him in his place. Following the wilderness experience, Jesus would go on to preach and call people to repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
What does this mean for us here this morning? The answers that Jesus gave tin response to the things that the devil tempted Jesus with are the key to Joyous living in Christ.
The first temptation was for bread. Jesus put the devil right when He told that ‘I ( Jesus) am the bread of life he who comes to Me will never go hungry John 6;35 and that ‘Man cannot live on bread alone Luke 4;4
The second was for Jesus to test God by sending His angels to save Him from the dangers of falling - the reply Jesus gave is so true, we don‘t need to put the Lord our God to the test - we believe in His providential care in whatever we are called to face in this life knowing that He will keep us from falling - by the exercising of our faith.
The third temptation was to fall at the feet of the devil - to worship the god of this world - seek after earthly things to make our life complete and fulfilled. Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only
The evil one tempts with the things of this world, wealth, possessions God offers His presence and that’s all that we need. Gods word is so clear when we are reminded ‘In all thy ways acknowedge Him and He will direct your paths Proverbs 3;6
The period of Lent is a time when we as Gods disciples are called to look at our lives - our response to our calling - to examine where we are at in our Christian lives and if we are found wanting, to get right with God and determine to place our confidence and trust in Him.
The whole purpose of Jesus ministry was to bring people back to the heart of the Father, To begin the school of faith whereby a rebellious wayward people could get back to learn and know how God intended them to be in relation with Him and one another. His teaching and example would encourage His followers to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. That’s how much God loves us.
John 3;16 ' God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him ’
We used to jokingly call going to school as learning the three ‘R’s Reading, Riting and R - ithmatic. Well I believe that in the school of Christian thinking we also have three ‘R’s’ Repent - Receive and be Re-born
I pray that this time of Lent will for each of us be a time of ‘self Realisation, a time for Renewal and Regeneration
The Christian life is maintained by living in obedience to God - saying we’re sorry for the past and showing our determination to receive forgiveness and be born again. As I said last week;
He came to us now He wants us to come to Him
He shared our humanity so that we could share His Divinity
He died for us so that we could live for Him
I believe that today God is calling His people to;
Repent and Reclaim Let go of and Take Hold of
Stop staring up the Steps and Step up the Stairs
Sunday 19 February 2017 Psalm 100 A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. 5 For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.
There is no better way to come in to His presence than with thanksgiving and Praise. When we meet like this, with hearts full of praise and gratitude to God we come into His presence - that’s awesome - the presence of Almighty God - we join the mighty hosts of Heaven in worship and adoration of a Mighty and Loving God.
Rev 5;11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
WOW! The apostle John, exiled as he was on the Isle of Patmos, without any visible fellowship of other Christians was caught up in the Spirit to witness Heavens glorious array of worshippers.
John had been transported in his worship into Heavenly realms - into the invisible realities of Gods presence. His vision of Heaven was both Spiritual and real. We have that same privilage when we meet together to worship Him - to be lifted in our Spirits to realms above.
I’ll never forget the time when Beryl and I went to see one of our dear comrades, Eva Walker as we were going,. She thanked us for coming to see her and said ‘ that just by being with her and sharing an hour with her - we had lifted her spirit’. WOW! If we can do that just think what our Father God can do when we come into His presence - when we take time to be with Him.
Psalm 46; 10 God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Worship begins with the realization of God and who He is - if we don’t know God, how can we worship Him ?
Remember the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman who met Him at the well.
‘ we worship what we know, for salvation comes from the Jews. True worshippers worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks - God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship in Spirit and in Truth.
You Samaritans worship what you do not know! We worship what we do know - the truth will set you free - free from the slavery of sin and bondage, free from selfish ambition, free to serve, free to worship.
To worship Him in Spirit and in Truth we need to really know Him
God made every effort to make Himself known to rebellious mankind - In Christ Jesus He came to share our humanity
As I was writing this message yesterday I had visitors at my door - Jehovah’s Witnesses. I never turn them away as I feel it’s important to share the truth with them - I told them that and said I admired the way they gave their time to witness to their faith but sadly they don’t have the whole truth and I wanted to share that truth with them so that they would be true witnesses of God. I challenged their own translation of the bible and who it says Jesus is - sharing that I believed that He was God incarnate -
I reminded them of what Jesus said in response to the plea of Phillip to show them the Father God, Jesus said ‘if you have seen Me you’ve seen My father’ I and the Father are one John 17:11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. John 17:21 one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. She refuted that and eventually went away.
I believe that God was so concerned about the way the world He created was going astray that He left the splendour of Glory and became a man like us -
Paul writing to the Philippians ch 2 says this; In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Jesus shared our humanity - He felt like we do - He hurt like we do - He knew sadness - He wept - He experienced grief - He knew what it was to be disappointed, hungry, thirsty, despised and hated. He experienced all that because of His love for us. In Christ Jesus, our God came to us.
Jesus shared our world and gave us an insight into the realities of God. He came to show us what God was really like that Gods is love - He came to redirect mankind from the selfishness of their ways back to the heart of the Father.
He brought a chance for forgiveness for mans foolishness, waywardness, selfishness, greed. He came to give us life in all it’s fullness - hope for the future - to share eternity with Him.
All He asked in exchange that we should accept Him as our Saviour, be prepared to leave our selfish foolish waywardness and share His new world. He came to call us back to the Father - to help us see a new and better way - to set us free - to show us truth so that we could worship Him in Spirit and in truth. He came to invite us to ‘enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.
We pray don’t we ‘come Lord Jesus, come down and be one amongst us - well He’s done that already - He’s been here - He’s worn the tee shirt - What He wants to do now is to lift us up to where He is - to bring us into His presence.
In Psalm 103 David Praises God with all His inmost being and starting with verse 3 we see that as he praises God, he reminds us of the benefits of belonging to the great family of God ‘who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s‘.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
His love is immesurable, Higher, deeper, wider -
He loves us as a Father should. He has compassion on his children,
His love is everlasting to those who love Him and obey Him.
He has removed out transgressions from us.
And so he calls us to Praise the Lord, and when we do we are lifted in our Spirits into the realms above - we come into His presence. Awesome!
I hope that’s what it’s like for you this morning - is our worship like that? If not, Why not? It is possible to come to a meeting and feel that -Yes, we’ve had a good sing, good fellowship, yet not really feel that you’ve been a part of it. Whilst for others that same meeting has been special - theirs been a good spirit and they have felt their spirits rise to enjoy the presence of Almighty God in their midst. God’s desire is that we should all come into His courts with Praise and realise His presence.
So far this year - we have shared together the awesome testimonies of Paul and Peter who’s lives were dramatically and wonderfully transformed. Ordinary people like you and me who’s lives and purpose were changed by their encounter with Jesus.
Lives that were transformed so much that the letters they wrote to the early churches were so profound and God inspired that they set the pattern for the Christian Church teaching them that if they gave their lives to God by repenting their past and seeking to live in obedience to His will they would begin to experience the Lords presence intheir lives and more than that - become partakers in the divine nature of God.
WOW! They would become Christ like in their actions, their response to others and their love for one another.
How do you feel this morning in relation to all that we have read about the quality of our lives once we have accepted Jesus as our Saviour and declared our willingness to live in obedience to His word.
Do you really feel that you are in the presence of Almighty God this morning - that He is here and that when we leave this place, His presence will go with us to help us live a life that is pleasing to Him and encouraging to others.
It’s when we realise and admit our disobedience that we can begin to be obedient.
He came to us - now He wants us to come to Him
He shared our humanity so that we could share His Divinity
He died for us so that we could live for Him.
It’s when Gods people are honest with Him that New Life begins
I believe that today God is calling His people to
Repent and Reclaim their God given promises
Let go of the past to enable them to Take Hold of the Future
Stop staring up the steps and start stepping up the stairs
It’s time for Gods people to get real - to be the people God called us to be -
to really know Him so that we can make Him known to others
It’s then that we will begin to realise the truth of the verses we read at the beginning -
That as we meet together like this week by week and offer our praises to Him that He will lift us to be in and experience His presence
Sunday 12 February 2017 2 Peter 1; 1-8
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
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.
Last week we looked at the first five verses of this thrilling letter of Peter. who ‘s calling card highlighted his servanthood - both Servant AND Apostle. With Peter there would be no Lording of his authority, he aligned himself with his people, and indeed with his Lord, who came not to be served, but to serve and was willing to show that when He washed His disciples feet.
Peter made it clear to his audience, that through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, the undeserved gift of Almighty God, they had received a faith 'as precious as ours'.
The same faith that brought the same privileges was theirs. A Precious Faith, precious because you can't buy it, and even if you could, you couldn't afford it, the price has already been paid by the sacrificial death of Jesus.
You can't earn it, no amount of good works will make it possible, it's a free gift, like the Queens birthday honours, it's bestowed upon you by Royal Charter. It‘s yours when you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.
To ensure that we remain strong in our faith, Peter reminds us that 'His Divine Power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, how? Through 'Knowing Him' and we’ve looking at what that means for the last few weeks. It’s through ‘knowing Him’ really reaching out to the One who called us to be His own, and more than that, who invites us to 'participate in the Divine nature' Wow! can you understand that, can we really begin to grasp what Peter is saying here?
To 'participate in the Divine nature' - this is dynamite, this is mind blowing, this shows the extent of God's love and commitment to you and me.
We are precious to Him, He loves us so much that He was not only willing to die for us, He gave His life for us, but He did that so that so that He could empty us of self and sin, and pour His Spirit into our emptiness, filling us with Himself.
He made it possible for us to be 'born again (1 Peter 1;3), to start all over again, this time not just taking on the characteristics of our earthly parents, but becoming like Him - our Heavenly father - God - so that when He appears, we shall be like Him.
We will share the family likeness - not necessaraly in looks but in our being.
That’s 'Awesome' He wants us, His children, to become partners in the Kingdom,
- shareholders in the family firm and as such, beneficiaries of all the promises that brings, inheritors of the Kingdom. As Peter describes the honour as 'A living hope' that can never perish spoil or fade, kept in Heaven for you' (1Peter 1; 3)
That's you and me, and that's our God given privilege. That’s Awesome! Out of this world - and I mean that - out of this world. We live in an age where incredibly people find it easier to believe that' Aliens' are trying to contact the world than to believe in a risen living Saviour
Yes, the Bible talks about ’Aliens’ in the world but the ‘alien’ bombardment is not from other planets but right here amongst them. According to the word of God, the ‘aliens’ are you and me - people who having been born again are now indwelt by the Spirit of God so that the way we act, think or speak is ‘Alien ‘ to the selfish ways of this world. - that’s what it should be like - that’s how it was in the early church and why Peter uses this very terminology.
As Christians we are 'aliens, strangers in the world', by virtue that we have been re-born by the power of the Spirit, your a new creation. That’s why Peter writes Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul 1 Peter 2:11
Jesus said it too "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:18-19
Jesus even described His disciples in this same way when He prayed to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. John 17:16
Paul to the church at Philippi; For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; Philippians 3:20
So important is this to know and to experience that Peter says ’I will always remind you of these things - even though you know them - I think it right top refresh your memory as long as I live’ 2 Peter 1;12 We need to realise how privileged we are.
It’s almost as if Peter is saying 'I'm gonna be a right pain in the neck' because this is important. The god of this world will try desperately to convince you otherwise. He'll find your weak spots, he'll tempt you sorely, he will try to bring you down, to make you doubt yourself, but I, Peter, plan to keep reminding you of the glorious privilege that is ours of being a child of God, 'I want you to know how precious you are to Him'. Trust Him - place your faith in Him and the additives will follow.
Let these additives to faith permeate your life and thinking and you will never fail.
I guess that today, even though YES, we do fall down, YES, you often fail and let God down, but remember this HE WILL NEVER LEAVE us OR FORSAKE us, WHY? because we are PRECIOUS TO HIM, we are His adopted children and He loves us.
Accepting Jesus enables us to live a life that is pleasing to God, a holy, godly life in a depraved and corrupt world? - to 'shine like stars' in the darkness of this world? How is this possible ?
Because God - made Himself known to us, in Jesus. When Phillips said 'show us the Father' Jesus replied 'He who hath seen me, hath seen the Father'. He fills us with His Spirit, makes it possible for us to get to know Him.
3 'His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness --through our knowledge of Him'. 'Knowing you Jesus, knowing You, there is no greater thing! Peter wants to make sure that the church doesn't forget all this, and to help them, to safeguard them, he sets them some homework.
5 'For this reason', and if ever there was a reason to love and honour God with our devotion and life, this is it! 'For this reason', Peter says, ' make every effort to add to your faith', and then he precedes to give a list of important additives to faith.
Yesterday I was looking at an article on the internet that warned of the dangers of certain additives in today’s food stuffs. Additives that have been put in whilst the natural elements -so vital for our health and well being - have been processed out in modern food manufacturing. Even the growth industry, fruit growers, vegetable farmers have added pesticides and other chemicals even before they are processed.
Of course these are harmful additives, the ones that add colour, texture, taste to artificially manufactured foods. In the world in which we live, additives are substitutes for the real thing. Additives that the manufacturer has to put into the food to make it look, feel and taste like the real thing, why? because in the process of mass production, all these things have been lost. But there are important natural additives.
Every morning I take Selenium which used to be a natural part of Bread but through the modern production methods has been lost and, unless you eat plenty of nuts, is lacking from our daily diet. Today there is a steady market in vitamin tablets - why - because so many of the good additives have been manufactured out of our foods.
Back to the important - life giving and enhancing additives that Peter talks about - additives that are important in order to foil the devil and not fall fowl of his devious temptations that evoke wrong desires in us ‘to escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 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.
Down the years, all these 'additives' that Peter lists here, have slowly been lost from our lives and culture. As all the goodness that the creator put there in the first place, has been slowly eroded. We only have to watch the news to be aware of the effect of the sorry decline in morals and spiritual hunger today. No wonder the additives listed in our Bible reading are difficult to find in todays society.
Things like, 'Goodness, Knowledge, Self control, Perseverance, Godliness, Brotherly kindness and Love'.
When I was a lad, you could leave the door 'on the snack' or 'on the latch' without fear of being robbed. There was a mutual trust between neighbours.
If you ran out of anything, there was no corner shop to go to, you just asked a neighbour, and went round with a bowl.
If anyone was ill in the street, it became the concern of the whole neighbourhood, who tended the sick person, saw the kids of to school, took in the washing, did the shopping until the crisis was over.
Running short of cash didn't stop you from going to the corner shop and get your groceries 'on the tic'. The shop keeper knew you and trusted you. He knew that you would pay at the end of the week, and sometimes if it was really hard, you could run up the bill into the next week. Try doing that in Morrisons!
The things that Peter talks about here have gone from the world, and are getting scarce in the church. He paints a pen portrait of the man and women who 'lives in Christ', who has set his mind on the things of the Spirit and who is determined top live in the power of His new nature. That portrait begins with faith and culminates in love, for without faith you cannot begin to please God and everything He does in you is to enable you to live more fully in His love.
These are the marks of the man of the Spirit.
1 He has a firm faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,. that will not be shaken by circumstance or situation.
2 He is determined to show the goodness of God in his life.
3 He is increasing in his knowledge of God and His purposes as He, God, reveals His word, and as he shares the word of God with others. 2 Colossians;3 'In Him, Christ Jesus, lies all the mighty untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge'.
4 He exercises 'self control' which is a fruit of the Spirit, to curb his old selfish desires, so that he will give no place for the desires of the old nature and enable him to resist temptation.
5 He will persevere in his dependence and trust in the Lord, even when the going is tough, when the fire is hottest, when he is up to his neck in the troubled waters of life.
6 He manifests godliness by letting the beauty of Jesus be seen in his life.
7 That brings Brotherly Kindness - like all the disciples of Jesus shared.
All wrapped up in Love that binds them all together.
Made possible by exercising faith that allows the Word ( Jesus) to become flesh in him. In other words by letting the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit be seen in his life,
As you’ve probably realised five of the additives that Peter lists here are in fact fruits of the Spirit - the outward manifestation of the inner presence of Jesus as listed in Galatians 5 22 Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.
2 Peter 1; 8 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.
Peter shows the downside of not having these qualities 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'. In other words he is lacking in the vital - main - basic ingrediant - faith
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. By putting faith into action 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. WOW! A rich welcome in Heaven. That's worth the struggle, the battle, the pain and the hardship, that makes it all worth while.
That's not just a 'O hello, were pleased to see you, glad you've made it.' That's a loving Father flinging His welcoming, loving arms around you - His faithful child, and putting the best robes around you, making you feel special.
That's the Fathers Joy as His child comes home. That's the promise of our Father who has prepared the most sumptuous banquet for each one of us That's a hero's welcome.
You've fought the fight, You've won the race. 'Well done thou good and faithful servant'. You've made it! And great is the rejoicing in Heaven
Perhaps you have been a Christian for a long time, yet feel that somehow, you have not moved very far along the Christian road, I pray that the enthusiasm of the word encourage you to seek make your calling and election sure.
You might feel that Peter makes it all sound so easy, like shaking a six and moving round the Monopoly board as if there are no other players. You never go to jail. Trouble is, real life isn't like that. It's not easy. There's always someone on your back, trying to get you down. We do get shaken by situations and circumstances in our lives. The old devil doesn't want us or let us forget our past sins so easily does he?
He knows our weak spots, he knows exactly where to plunge the knife in. When the fires hot and the storms of life are up to our necks, it's not easy.
Even Paul realised this, When I want to do right, it all goes so terribly wrong and I do the wrong thing'
Even Elijah despaired, and David cried out many times to God in desperation.
It's not easy, but one thing is for sure, He knows, He cares, and He loves us all the same. He wants us to succeed
It's all about trying, going for it, sticking it out, persevering, persisting. And if we do, then the reward is there for us!
The important thing to remember is this- that these are additives to FAITH - without that basic ingrediant - Faith, it’s impossible - Paul tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11;6
So there we have it - as Peter, the man appointed by Jesus to build His church says;
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
And what’s the reason? Gratitude to God for the blessings He has made available for those who love Him and are living a life of Faithfulness. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
How you we doing? Can you and more importantly, others around you see these additives, these fruits of faith evidenced in your life? Goodness; Knowledge; Self-control; Perseverance; Godliness; Brotherly kindness; Love - I hope so
Sunday 5 February 2017 saiah 35
For the last few weeks we have been looking at the way God transformed Peter and Paul - Peter from Fisherman to fisher of men and Paul from persecutor of the Christian Church to one of it’s most powerful Evangelists. Peter was commissioned by Jesus to build His Church and Paul commissioned to take the truth to both Jews and Gentiles. Their lives were completely transformed from what they set out to be and do - to what God wanted them to be and do.
Paul’s life so impressed people like Luke and Mark and Peters life so impressed Paul. They encouraged one another to not just worship the Lord but to live promoting Christ for the whole world. They not only spoke volumes to the people around them but they continue to speak volumes to us today.
Last week we looked at how transformation takes place - by the renewing of our minds - the old self with it’s old ideas has to make way for the new things that God wants to do in our lives. Peter wrote ‘As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance, but just as He who called you is Holy, be Holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘be holy, because I am Holy‘.‘ 1 Peter 1;15
At the beginning of the New Year we read how God told His people ‘See I’m doing a new thing, can’t you see it, I’m making a way through the wilderness and paths through the desert’ and I will be with you all along the way.
This week we have just read from Isaiah about the path that God has prepared for those who love Him and want to live in obedience to Him. That path is the ‘The Way of Holiness’ ‘and an Highway shall be there, it will be called the way of Holiness - only the redeemed will walk there and the ransomed of the Lord will return and enter Zion with singing, everlasting Joy will crown their heads and Gladness and Joy will overtake them - sorrow and sighing will flee away’. Isaiah 35
I love the text that was on this back wall - facing me - all the way through my childhood and growing up in the church. It simply said ‘O Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness’. Psalm 96; 9
As a young lad I thought that Holiness was almost unattainable - I saw it as a requirement from God that I be holy - holier than thou - I know now that what it really means is really get to know Jesus - be transformed in your thinking by the renewing of your mind - and start to live and think like Jesus - impossible in my own strength but a reality when God, by the power of the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us - furthermore I began to realise that it’s not just what we do here on Sundays that matters - it’s how we conduct our lives out their in the real world - in our everyday lives.
This morning we are going to look deeper into what God means when He says we are to ‘Worship Him in the beauty of Holiness’ - Worship Him in the beauty of Holy living’.
The Salvation Army is of course, first and foremost a holiness movement. The whole of William Booths life was given over to God and through him God showed him and the Salvationist converts what it meant to live lives of holiness - to be imitators of God - to have the mindset of Christ who came to serve suffering humanity and went so far as to give His life for us.
The following paragraph in italic was obviously not in the sermon I preached but added this morning 6 February 2017, , I am amazed at the way God answers prayer when I ask Him what He wants me to share in the morning message such as this one - On Monday morning before I started to put this on the internet for you to read, I read the Salvationist and received the conformation that this is what God wants His people to think about this week - page 14 contains an article by John Coutts entitled ’What happened to Holiness’ and talks about the very things and people that I had spoken about in my message that Sunday morning - the things that you are reading now - WOW!) Back to the message.
One of the early leaders in the Salvation Army was a man called Samuel Logan Brengle. He became one of the Army’s greatest teachers of holiness and what it meant. He wrote lots of book - and I have them all at home - let me read you an extract from his book ‘Helps to holiness’.
‘On the 9th of January 1885, at about nine o clock in the morning, God sanctified my soul. I was in my own room at the time, but in a few minutes I went out and met a man and told him what the Lord had done for me. The next morning, I met another man on the street, told him, and he shouted and praised God and urged me to preach full salvation and confess it everywhere.
Two mornings after that, just as I got out of bed and was reading some words of Jesus, He gave me such a blessing as I never dreamt a man could have this side of heaven. It was a heaven of love that came into my heart. I walked out over Boston Common before breakfast weeping with Joy and praising God. O how I loved! In that hour I knew Jesus and loved Him till it seemed my heart would break with love. I loved the sparrows, I loved the horses, I loved the dogs, I loved the urchins on the streets, I loved the strangers who were hurrying past me - I loved the heathen - I loved the whole world.
Do you want to know what Holiness is? Do you want to know what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is? It’s not mere sentiment, or anything that will go away in the night - it’s a baptism of love that brings every thought into captivity to the Lord - that casts out all fearm that burns up doubt and unbelief like a fire, that makes on meek and lowly in heart, that makes one hate uncleanness, lying, deceit, a flattering tongue and every evil way - with a perfect hatred.
It makes Heaven and hell eternal realities, makes on patient, gentle, pure, peaceable, merciful and fruitful without partiality, without hypocrisy. It brings you into unbroken sympathy with the Lord Jesus Christ in His toil and travail to bring the lost and rebellious world back to God. God did all that for me, bless His holy name. I had longed to be pure, hungered and thirsted after God - the living God. And He gave me the desire of my heart. He satisfied me, He satisfied me, He satisfied me”
And so the book goes on praising God for the blessing of holiness.
The first meeting of every Sunday was called the ‘Holiness meeting’, when Salvationists met together as Gods family to celebrate His love, to rejoice in His promises and seek to be more like Him with the desire that God would come and indwell them to go out into the streets of Idle and show Jesus to the folk out there.
The Holiness meeting was where we sought the indwelling presence of God to equip us and enable us to be living testimonies of His saving Grace so that when we met together in the afternoon meeting we could Praise Him and be further filled to go out to the early evening open-air on the green and proclaim Him to the folk there. The idea was that we would then process, with them following, back up to the hall for the evening meeting that was called the Salvation Meeting where the gospel would be preached, the invitation given and the ones whop had followed us from the green could receive Salvation at the mercy seat. The last meeting of the day was the wind up - where we would share testimonies of what God was doing in our lives and so enthuse the ones who had responded to the call.
It all started with the Holiness meeting - where Gods people were prepared t for all that God was going to do that day in their lives and the lives of those who would hear and respond to the message.
Sadly, times and people have changed since then - what is still the same is that’ people need the Lord’ more so in the world today than I believe in the days when we were young. Today we call our meeting the family meeting where we come together as God’s family to celebrate His love, rejoice in His promises and seek to be more like Him. Different name - but in reality, the same idea.
Worship is not something that Christians do only on Sundays. Worship should be expressed in the way we conduct our lives during the week. Worshipping the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness means that our daily lives should reflect the glory of God in honouring Him - I wonder if that’s how it really is?
To some holiness is nothing more than a historic observance of tradition and rules.
The Pharisees had a strict programme of ‘dont’s and thought that their observance of those rules was enough to get them to heaven but instead of making then holy, they became self-righteous and proud of their observance of the law as expressed in outward signs and observances. To others is associated with a Holier Than Thou attitude. Sadly that kind of misguided concept of holiness can be a great hindrance to being actually being holy.
It’s a sad fact that many churches are dying all around us as the world looks in and sees an oppressed people trying desperately to live by a ser of archaic, often man made rules ‘ you can’t do this - you mustn’t do that’. What the church often presents to the world is an oppressive God who rules from heaven waving a big stick condemning everything people do. Maybe because of this misconception, many who see themselves as believers seem content to live lives of semi-holiness -in a church that tolerates the imperfections of life.
The Bible is very clear - God is Holy and wants us to be holy - yet many Christians use the excuse that holiness is out of their reach and use the excuse ‘Nobody’s perfect - God understands and forgives - Yes He does but that doesn’t mean we should take advantage of His goodness and mercy and carry on living as second class Christians.
Holiness begins not with man, but with God. It’s not what we do or what we don’t do that makes us right with God, it’s knowing and accepting what He has done for us that makes it possible for us to ‘be Holy’.
Holiness is not an option, it’s a necessary requirement. We are called to ‘Be Holy’
Unless God comes to live in you and I by the power of the Holy Spirit, I don’t believe it’s possible to live a holy life in a sinful world. God gives the Holy Spirit to empower and equip us for ‘Holy Living’. The God who calls us to be holy, comes alongside us to make us holy.
It’s not always easy - life can be hard - the Christian walk can so many times seem like an uphill struggle - but hang in there - God will see us through.
Paul wrote But this precious treasure - this light and power that now shines within us - is held in a perishable container, that is, our weak bodies. Everyone can se that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own; We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within who keeps us safe. 2 Corinthians 4;7
Yes! Paul did face very trying and difficult times, but by the power of the Holy Spirit within, was enabled to keep going. That’s the same today. Life may not be easy - we live in an imperfect world - But God is still the same and has promised to be with us.
Holiness is about discipline, commitment, dedication and that inevitably involves making mistakes but that’s how we so often grow and become stronger are more able to cope.
The first step to holiness is obedience. Everything we need to know about Holiness acceptable to God is here in His word. That’s why the first promise a new soldier makes is to ‘pray and read my Bible‘. We are called to read and put into practice what we’ve read by living His word.
Holiness that is acceptable to our Father is based on our hearts desire and intentions. David the Psalmist in Psalm 119 v 10 cries out to God ’With my whole heart I seek You’. and because of that God called David ’a man after His own heart’ Acts 13;22
David, like Peter and like me and I guess all of us, fail God many times but God measured his holiness by the desire of David’s heart. God looks at the inside - He sees our hearts desire - not necessarily the foolishness of our actions . That’s why David cried out to God ‘Search me O God, know my heart’ Psalm 139; 23
We become Holy not because we strive for perfection but because we freely give ourselves in obedience to God. He sees our desire is to be more like Christ, He sees how we hunger and thirst after righteousness, and as we walk with Him in obedience to His word, we are sanctified by His Spirit.
Holiness calls us to turn our back on sin, to turn away from living by our feelings, to live by the truth.
The reward for denying self is to discover Jesus. As we walk closer to Him, we become more and more like Him. As your mum used to say - ‘make sure you keep good company - because you become like the company you keep.’
The march that God calls us on, that we read about at the beginning is a wonderful picture of the joy of restoration as Gods people, having bee set free from the power and bondage of sin, are now on their way - walking together towards the Fathers heart - returning to our roots - back to the Fathers home. The ransomed, the Redeemed, God’s chosen, Holy people.
Isaiah 35; 8-10 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk on that Way, wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing.
This is a victory march the likes of which we have never seen before. The march that starts out as a daily walk with Jesus when people from all walks of life congregate together as one people and head for home.
A walk that blossoms into a determined and purposeful walk as the excitement of walking and talking with our brothers and sisters in Christ fills each step with a joyful anticipation as we near our destination.
I want to be on that march. We as a fellowship need to be ‘walking together’ with our destination firmly in view - walking Heavenwards. Make no mistake, the Bible says that ‘only the redeemed will walk there, the ransomed of the Lord - they will enter Zion with singing, everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
I pray that as we realise the privilage of our calling that we will desire to move forward to receive all that He has in store for us that will enable and empower us to love the life that He wants us to live - that we will indeed, ‘Worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness.
We closed by watching and singing along with the video at the top of this page ‘I then shall live’ sung by the Gaither band and Ernie Hasse and Signature Sound.
Sunday 29 January 2017
Read Philippians 3 NIV from Paul and Timothy to the saints in Christ at Philippi
Last Sunday we looked at the awesome transformation that can take place when we submit our lives to God.
Peter We looked at Peter - humble fisherman who left all and followed Jesus as one of His disciples. He grew in faith whilst He was with Jesus, God even spoke through him and proclaimed Jesus the Messiah. Sadly, when the testing times came He failed miserably.
The story of the stormy sea and Jesus calling Peter to come and walk with Him could almost parralel the time when Jesus called him to leave his nets and follow Him which he did - in the same way, when Jesus called Peter to ’get out of the boat’ he did exactly that and stepped out into the unknown deep.
Then, when he took his eyes off Jesus he began to sink. Again parraleling what happenned, following the arrest of Jesus when Peter was seen by a young girl who pointed him out as having been one of the followers who walked with Jesus - the testing time again - and Peter, his eyes off Jesus again, denied even knowing Jesus not just once but three times.
Mercifully, just as Jesus didn’t give up on Peter when he began to sink but held out His hand and helped him back up into the boat so too, following Peters three denials Jesus forgave Him for each one and commissioned Peter to go and build His church.
Peter was so transformed by Jesus that he went on to become the inspiration of the new Christian Church when on the day of Pentecost, filled with the Spirit, he preached to the crowds and about three thousand were added to the church that day. Peter then went on to do the same things that Jesus did when together with John they met the lame man outside the Temple, laid hands on him, healed him, and together they danced into the Temple to the amazement of the crowds.
As I said last Sunday, Peter was just an ordinary guy like you and me- ok when the going was good but failed when the going got difficult.
It’s so easy to pull yourself down because of the times you know that you’ve failed to live up to what should be expected of a Christian. What is so comforting for us to know today is that through it all - the easy and the testing times, Jesus never gave up on him and through it all Peter’s life was transformed by His relationship with Jesus to become the Spirit filled ambassador for God. Peter - the companion of Jesus, failed Him many times yet Jesus forgave him and he became an Evangelist, church planter and encourager and who still inspires and encourages us today through his life as shared in the gospels and the two letters he wrote that became the gospels of Peter.
We then looked at the man Saul a devout Traditional Jew who was so passionate about his faith that he was willing to seek after, persecute and get rid of the new Christian Church that he saw as a threat to that faith. Jesus saw the potential in this strong giant of a man who was willing to go to any length to maintain the Jewish traditions he had been brought up in and Jesus met him head on as Saul journeyed to Damascus - and the change in Saul’s life began from that first encounter with Jesus.
As we know from the writings of Luke, Jesus sent Annanias to confirm what Jesus had said to Saul and as the scales of doubt fell from Sauls eyes he began to see the truth that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah and his heart burned to know more.
Paul went on to write 13 letters to the growing developing Church of Jesus which became books of the NT, that continue to inspire and teach us today. Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Philemon, Hebrews
We know from Paul’s letters that following his conversion he met with Peter and learned first hand from this disciple of Jesus what an impact Jesus had made on Peters life and what a difference Jesus was going to have on Paul’s life and ministry. So Saul became better known as Paul and went on to encourage the early Christians to remain faithful to their new found faith in Jesus the Messiah.
Paul - now a changed man, who had learned so much about Jesus from Peter, went on to become the inspiration and companion of Luke and Mark the two gospel writers who even though they had not been disciples of Jesus, wrote two of the most detailed accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus -
Through the meeting with one another and sharing their experiences, Luke was able to continue the story of what happened following the death and ressurection of Jesus when he learned from Peter about Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Then from Paul what really happened on the Damascus Road.
Just as Peter’s life was transformed by spending physical time with Jesus so too, Paul like Peter was transformed by his encounter with the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road.
Following his life changing encounter with Jesus he wrote; I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3;10
What Paul craves here, writing to the church at Philippi, is not just to know about Him but to really know Him. I closed last week by saying that I believe that that’s what Jesus wants for us all, which is to really know Him - like Peter, Luke and Mark
In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he talks about this transfomation; ‘And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect the Lord’s Glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing Glory, which comes from the Lord who is Spirit 2 Corinthians 3;18
How does this transformation take place? Paul tells us in his letter to the church at Rome . ‘ be transformed by the renewing of your mind - then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Romans 12;2
The renewing of our mind - that’s being prepared to question our commitment and seek to know Him by reading His word and talking to Him in prayer. By doing the things that we as Christians are expected to do - and I’m not talking about just being obedient to a set of rules that say what we are not to do, but by paying more attention to what the same set of rules tell us about what we should be doing. As Jesus told the teacher of the Law when asked which is the greatest commandment He said; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
The awesome truth is that Jesus wants us to really know Him and feel His presence in your life. As we seek to know Him, we realise that He will come and help us to be faithful in the way He wants us to conduct our Christian life.
We closed last weeks meeting by singing Graham Kendricks song - based on Pauls letter to the Philippians;
‘All I once held dear built my life upon. All this world reveres and wars to own.
All I once thought gain I have counted loss - spent and worthless now compared to this, Knowing You, Jesus, Knowing You. There is no greater thing You’re my all, You’re the best You’re my Joy, my Righteousness and I love You Lord
Now my hearts desire is to know You more To be found in You and known as Yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn All surpassing gift of Righteousness
The early church grew rapidly once people began to see Jesus in His followers.
They liked what they saw and desired to come to know Him for themselves. No great revival meeting, no long sermons, simply by being with people who knew Jesus making Him known to others.
That’s why Paul could write ‘ His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness - through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own Glory and goodness.
Really Knowing Him matters -and will make a big difference between the church that fails through self effort and the victorious church that realises the impact of His Divine Power. Knowing Him makes a big difference in our lives and will impact the people around us to want to know Him too.
The Church today has been, and still is, impacted by men and women who, having encountered Jesus, have been transformed and influenced others to become believers.
The pawnbroker William Booth who started the Salvation Army that brought the gospel to the poor and the needy
Jackie Pullinger who swopped her upper class home in England for the ghettos of drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes in Hong King and became the inspirer of hundreds to change their lives and seek God.
Lee Strobel who we looked at last week, a one time journalist and athiest who, following the conversion of his wife, began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ in a quest to write a book that denied the existence of Jesus but to whom who, God revealed Himself to through the testimonies of the people he spoke to. The result was a book that did the opposite to what he had set out to do and instead, proved the existence of God.
A lovely song that we sing, written by blind pianist and evangelist Marilyn Baker says this;
Jesus, You are changing me
by You’re Spirit, You’re making me like You
Jesus, You’re transforming me
that Your loveliness may be seen in all I do
You are the potter, and I am the clay
Help me to be willing, to let You have You’re way
Jesus, You are changing me
As I let You reign supreme within my heart
Transformed - changed, by the renewing of our mind is to be like Jesus
In the second chapter of Pauls letter to the Philippians v 5 as laid out in the NIV it says ‘your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ‘ and goes on to say that the attitude is one of servant hood.
The same verse in the Authorised King James version it read like this "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" The RSV; Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus
Transformed by having the mindset of Christ in you that will influence your daily decisions - whatever you do.
Today young Christians often wear an arm band that contains four letter WWJD What Would Jesus Do - when we consider that - it should help us make the right decisions in the way we respond and act towards others. Jesus lived in obedience to the will of God. In the same way we today are commanded by Jesus to live in obedience. ‘Love Me and Obey Me and I and the Father will come and make our home within you’ That brings transformation from within.
The song we are going to sing in the closing moments of the meeting acknowledge that ‘Only as I truly know Thee can I make Thee truly known. Only show the power to others which in my own life is shown.
Sunday 22 January 2017
Last week we read the account of Peter being called by Jesus to step out of the boat and walk on water - ha did and then fear set in and he panicked and started to sink until Jesus reached out His hand and helped him up. We then looked at the way in which Peters, when Jesus was arrested even denied knowing Jesus.
The great thing is that even then, Jesus forgave him and commissioned him to build His church. Peter was just an ordinary guy - ok when the going was good but failed when the going got difficult. What is so comforting for us to know today is that through it all Peter’s life was transformed by His relationship with Jesus to become the Spirit filled ambassador for God, Peter - Companion of Jesus, became an Evangelist, church planter and encourager and who still inspires and encourages us today through reading about the sermon he did on the day of Pentecost and how, filled with the Holy Spirit he went on to build Gods church - We can read how powerful he became through the letters he wrote.
His life was transformed by His encounter with Jesus
Today I want us to look at another man who although He didn’t experience the same privalage as Peter in actually living with Jesus, nevertheless was transformed by his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road - That man was Saul who, on his way to get rid of the early Christians - was stopped in his tracks by Jesus. Saul who became known as Paul and whose life also was transformed by His encounter with Jesus and went on to encourage the early Christians to remain faithful to their new found faith in Jesus the Messiah.
Paul - now a changed man went on to become the inspiration and compannion of Luke and Mark who went on to write the two gospels named after them. Amazingly these two gospel writers had not been disciples of Jesus, only Matthew and John were. Yet Luke, and Mark wrote two of the most detailed accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus and as you read in the prologue of Luke‘s gospel written to his friend Theophilus he explains why
’Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word. I have therefore carefully investigated everything from the beginning and write an orderly account for you so that you may know the certainty of the things that you have been taught/. In other words, Luke has checked through with great detail the things they know about Jesus from those who had been with Him to confirm them to his friend.
He then goes further when he transcribes the events following the ministry of Jesus in the Acts of the Apostles sharing the spectacular birth and empowering of the church at Pentecost when God poured His Spirit into the believers. As I said, Luke was a companion of Paul and so he could write with authority about the conversion and ministry of Paul of which he was a part.
Lets read Lukes account. Acts 9; 1-22 .
Now lets look at what Paul writes about his own conversion experience as told to the church in Galatia - Galatians 1; 11-24 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before
I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.
In verse eleven, Paul expresses the uniqueness of the gospel he now preaches which is different from the doctrines of Judaism of which he was a strong advocate before his conversion. A gospel not made up or taught by man but a gospel received by revelation from Jesus Christ.
He acknowledges that God called him apart from the traditions he had learned from birth and by His Grace ‘Gods Riches At Christ’s Expense‘. A Gospel that was birthed in him when he met Jesus. He wasn’t looking for Jesus - far from it - he was out to get rid of His Church and followers -
It reminded me of the awesome way in which God intervened in the life of a modern day Paul, Lee Strobel a one time journalist and athiest who, following the conversion of his wife, began investigating the Biblical claims about Christ. Prompted by the results of his investigation, he himself became a Christian.
He had set out and interviewed many theologians and well known Christian teachers and instead of proving that God didn’t exist, God revealed Himself to him through the testimonies of the people he spoke to. The result was a book that did the opposite to what he had set out to do and instead, proved the existence of God.
Back to Paul, Unlike Lee Strobel, Paul thought he knew God and what God wanted from his life - but God intervened and revealed Himself to Saul in Christ. Set apart from birth by God and called by His grace - revealed His Son Jesus - and note this - IN ME so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, the non-Jews.
Paul stresses that he had not been shown this by any mortal man but by God Himself in Christ Jesus. It was three years later that he went to Jerusalem to get together with Peter and stayed with him a couple of weeks. He also saw James the brother of Jesus
And I guess together shared, Peter and James would confirm to Paul the things that they had learned from Jesus especially Peter who had been told by God that Jesus was indeed the son of the living God.
When you think of the impact that Peter who shared the physical ministry of Jesus and the impact that Paul, who shared the spiritual presence of Jesus had on the early church - it should encourage us all to realise that God is still calling people from all walks of life to become His followers and commit their lives to be His disciples.
The verse that stands out to me and I believe can impact our own lives and church is verse 15 God set me apart from birth ( born a Jew) and called me by His Grace and Revealed His Son Jesus so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles’
God is still in the business of calling people like you and me, setting us apart from our natural birth instincts and way of life which by nature is a selfish way of life - by offering us New Birth - Born again - a fresh start -
New birth with Spiritual not worldly aims - all through the precious sacrificial love of Jesus who has paid the price for our sins and opened the way for us to get to know Him personally so that we can then go on and make Him known to our friends, neighbours, work colleagues and family.
Peter put it so simply when he wrote in 1 Peter 2; 9 You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, belonging to God that you may declare the praises of |Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you Have received mercy.
I believe that the life of Peter and the lives of the other disciples were impacted by the fact that they lived and shared the ministry of Jesus first hand and that the life and words of Peter still speak volumes to all of us today.
I also believe that the life of Paul - who hadn’t been with the disciples - was transformed by the fact that he encountered the living Christ on the Damascus Road and was impacted by the Spirit of Christ coming to live in Him enabling him to influence the lives of others like Luke and Mark who -together also speak into our lives today.
We sang the song at the beginning of our meeting - ‘I serve a Risen Saviour - He’s in the world today and I know that because He lives within my heart’
I hope you believe that, for I believe that God is still calling people today to accept the message of Jesus and accept Him as their personal Saviour - to live their lives in obedience to His word and love Him and one another so that they can, like Paul, like Peter, Luke, John and Mark - influence others to want to know Him.
I believe that God wants us all to really know Him - like Paul, who had only seen Jesus that once writes in his letter to the Philippians 3;10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
We can find out about Jesus from taking time to read His word - Bible FellowshipWe can also find out the real Christ by talking to other Christians and sharing our testimonies with them. Bible Fellowship
That’s a start - but what Paul craves here is not just to know about Him but to really know Him. That was my prayer when I saw something of the awesome truth of Jesus when David Murden laid hands on me and prayed for healing. That’s the song Anna sings to the children in ‘The King and I’ ‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you’ and she did and they liked her and she liked them.
I really got to know Jesus when I took that first step of kneeling here at the penitent form shortly after the prayers of David were answered and I was well enough to come to the hall.
I knelt here and I believe the power of the Holy Spirit came into me and over the years since then I have been privileged to see the power of God flow through me and know the presence of God with me when I have had to go through some very difficult times in my life.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not saying I’m perfect. Like Paul says, I’m in no way perfect - but I press on to hopefully take hold of that for which Jesus took a hold of me - eternity with Him.
What about you this morning - What is your relationship with Jesus like?
Do you feel that you really know Him
Do you experience His presence in your daily life
The awesome truth is that He wants you to really know Him and feel His presence in your life.
We are going to sing one of Graham Kendricks songs based around these words of Peter - Knowing You Jesus and then pray using the chorus ‘Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me’