Friday, 29 January 2016

Friday to the Father - 29/1/16

Jesus said: "This then is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven...' "
Matthew 6v9

Praise God for continuing encouragements.  We had our first mid-week prayer meeting last week.  It was women-only, and Ruth came home (after 11pm!) with some great feedback.  There were four ladies, and as well as praying, they importantly spent time sharing and getting to know each other better.  Please pray that God will strengthen the trust between us through our times of prayer together.

Praise God for encouragements on Sunday - there are 2 local ladies who have started coming regularly to the meetings.  Pray that God will encourage and bless them.  Please pray that God will strengthen our relationships within the church.

Last Sunday evening, I preached at Shrewsbury Evangelical Church.  They were a great encouragement to me.  Please pray that God will bless their ministry to the town and to each other, and guide them as they seek a full-time pastor.  You can visit their website at - consider leaving a message of encouragement.  

Thank you for your continued prayers.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Some Words for Wednesday - Calvinism and Hobbes

(Some notes from the message shared last Sunday when we gathered as a church.  In this post, we'll be touching on one of the five points of Calvinism - "The perseverance of the saints".)

"Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."  
Hebrews 7v25

We've come to the end of our series!  We have previously recognised:

Jesus lived a sinless life so that he could die for the sins of other people, and cover those people with his sinless life.

Jesus died on the cross so that God's anger could be absorbed, and God's love be outpoured.

Jesus rose from the dead to secure an eternal promise of a temporary grave.

Now we reach the final part, the ascension of Jesus, and find:

Jesus now lives in heaven as a high priest, interceding for his people and saving them forever.

Why did Jesus rise to heaven?  You might think the answer is simply that he had to go somewhere to wait until he returned.  We worship him now, and he appreciates that, but essentially his work is done.  When you try to imagine him in heaven, probably you imagine him looking very peaceful, serene and silent.

But that is not the case.  He has not gone to heaven to have some peace and quiet, but to work; to be a priest for us.

What was a priest in the Old Testament?  He was a bridge between people and God.  Unlike the typical Old Testament priest, Jesus has a permanent priesthood because "he continues forever" (7v24).  His priesthood is also notable because he is a "high priest" (7v26).

What is special about a high priest?  In the Jewish Temple, there were lots of different areas, which you were or were not allowed to enter depending on what type of person you were.  E.g. Gentiles could not enter some areas where Jews could.  There was one room that only the high priest could enter, and only once a year - a room called "The Holy of Holies", which was the place where God particularly dwelled among His people.

In other words, the Holy of Holies was the closest you could get to the presence of God, and only the high priest could go in there.  In Christ, therefore, we are able to draw near to God (7v24) - to enter the holy places (10v19).  Remember, when you trust your life to Jesus Christ, there's a sense in which you begin to live in him.  What happens to him, happens to you.

When he dies, you die in him.  When he rises, you rise in him.  When he ascends to heavenly places, you ascend in him.  So if he is in the presence of God, then you are in the presence of God in him!

Colossians 3v1-4 is a great example of this way of thinking, mentioning Christ's death, resurrection and life in heaven.  The apostle Paul tells us that "your life is hidden with Christ in God."  In Christ, you are in God's presence!

Jesus is the bridge between us and God.  If you are in Christ, you are in God's presence.  No one has a password that lets them in, but keeps you out.

The comic strip Calvin and Hobbes can provide an illustration for this.  In one of the strips, Calvin wants to go up to the tree house where his tiger, Hobbes, is waiting.  He asks Hobbes to lower the rope ladder.  Hobbes instead asks for the password!

Calvin then has to recite a long poem, all about how wonderful tigers are!  By the end of the strip, he still hasn't reached the end of the poem!  Instead, he turns to the reader and says: "Hobbes can climb the tree without the ladder, so he got to make up the password."

You might be applying that way of thinking to people in your church, particularly church leaders.  They might dress differently, or speak differently, and you start to believe they have access to God that you can't have.  You place them on a pedestal - you believe they are higher up the tree than you - you believe that they must have the password.

But there is no password!  In Christ, we can all draw near to God!  In Christ, we can go where only the high priest can go!

Here's a question to think about:  If, in Christ, you are always in the presence of God, when should worship stop?

The answer must be "never"!  Your whole life must be offered as a living sacrifice - this is the only worship that makes sense in the light of what Jesus has done (Romans 12v1).  We'll consider next week what a worshiping community looks like.

We draw near to God in Christ - but we do so "by his blood" (Heb 10v19).  As our high priest, Jesus must offer a sacrifice for our sins.  He offers himself (7v27) - he is the priest and he is the sacrifice!  For as long as he is in God's presence, he is presenting the sacrifice that takes away our sins.

As our high priest, he also intercedes for us by speaking on our behalf.  He prays for his people, and defends us against accusations of guilt.  "Who can condemn us?  Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." (Romans 8v34)

By his prayers, he continues to protect my relationship with God.  What happens when Jesus prays?  In John 14v12-14, Jesus tells his followers that if they pray anything in his name - anything that has his seal of approval, anything that he himself would pray - then it will happen.  That is the level of authority that he has.

So what happens when Jesus prays?  Whatever Jesus prays happens!  And right now, he prays for the salvation of his people.

So the writer of Hebrews can state "he is able to save to the uttermost all those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." (7v25)  My relationship with God is protected by the intercession of Jesus as my high priest.  I will persevere as a Christian for as long as Jesus perseveres as a high priest - and he perseveres forever!  He is a faithful high priest (Heb 2v17) - he will never give up and he will never die!

So, Jesus now lives in heaven as a high priest, interceding for his people and saving them forever.  How should this affect my life?

1. Recognise that God's concern for your life is not sporadic.  God does not tune in and out of your life.  When things get tough, it is not because God has been distracted and allowed something to slip through the net.  He is still working in and through your life.  One of the reasons you can be sure of God's attention to your life is because Jesus always brings you to His attention - he is faithfully and continually praying for you.

2.  You can pray with confidence in Christ.  You can approach boldly because of Jesus.  When you have times of open prayer as part of corporate worship, do not remain silent because you lack confidence in yourself, or because you think others have learned the password.  Find your confidence in Christ - as you speak up, trust in his intercession for you, and approach God with boldness.

3.  Trust the safety of your soul to Jesus Christ.  When you trust Jesus to save you and lead you through this life, he covers you with his sinless life; protects you with his sacrificial death; promises you a resurrection by his resurrection; and prays for you as a high priest in heaven.  

Why does he do all this?  Because of love.  "God so loved the world that he sent his Son" - to do all this!  Glory be to our God and our saviour the Lord Jesus Christ!

Monday, 25 January 2016

Just another Melodic Monday - 10,000 Reasons

It's not easy to find songs that cross over between old and young, but "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman is one of the songs we sing as a church that appears to connect the generations.  

Friday, 22 January 2016

Friday to the Father - 22/1/16

Jesus said: "This then is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven...' "
Matthew 6v9

Praise God for continuing encouragements.  Firstly, our weekly prayer meetings have begun!  We now meet on Thursday evenings for prayer.  Due to family commitments all round, ladies meet one week, gents meet the next.  Please pray that these times together will lead us into the will of God, and strengthen our bonds as a spiritual family.  May God be glorified through our dependence on Him.

We're welcoming visitors every Sunday at the moment, for which we're very grateful.  Please pray that we'll be able to minister to those coming in, and that the practical organising of the service won't distract us from the needs of people.

Please pray for the preaching ministry.  We're in the middle of a short series about the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and we're then going to do a short series in the Old Testament, to help people understand that the whole of the Bible is about Jesus.  Pray that God will give us wisdom regarding what to do after that.  Brandon and I are considering doing a series that we've taught together before while at Welshpool Baptist Church (such as James or Ephesians) before going into one of the gospels.  Sharing the preaching will alleviate some of the pressure I'm under to teach every Sunday, thus allowing me to think about other areas of ministry that need developing.

Lastly, please pray for the children's talks I do every Sunday.  Our series this year is "The ABC of Christian Words", working consecutively through the letters of the alphabet to explain some of the words we may only use in church.

Thank you for your continued prayers.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Some Words for Wednesday - An Eternal Promise of a Temporary Grave

(Some notes from the message shared when we gathered as a church last Sunday.)

"If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 15v19-20)

We're continuing our series looking at the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and what their significance is for us today.  In this post, we'll be looking over 1 Corinthians chapter 15, and drawing out some of the points that the apostle Paul makes regarding the resurrection of Jesus.

1. Jesus rose from the dead

In verses 3-11, Paul focuses our attention on the fact of the resurrection.  The first thing to recognise therefore is that Jesus really died!  His death was witnessed by many people, and many of those people were still alive at the time Paul was writing.  It still remained in the consciousness of communities.  So, for example, we find Peter speaking to Jews about the one "whom you crucified" (Acts 4v10), and Stephen proclaims the Christ "whom you have now betrayed and crucified" (Acts 7v52).

The death of Jesus was witnessed, checked (John 19v31-34) and confirmed (Mark 15v42-45).  Then his body was taken down from the cross, and placed in a tomb that was then sealed and guarded.  He really died.

But on the third day after his death, Jesus really rose!  No one anticipated his resurrection - when he first appeared, even his own followers struggled to grasp what had happened!  This was a radically new concept for them - there was nothing else like it.  

The description of Christ's resurrection in the gospels is not simply a retelling of a myth found in lots of ancient cultures.  In his book "The Resurrection of The Son of God", theologian N.T.Wright examines ancient pagan cultures and writings, and reaches this conclusion about their views on death: "The road to the underworld ran only one way."

The resurrection of Jesus was also unlike any the disciples had witnessed.  Jesus had raised people from the dead, but those people would eventually die again.  But Jesus didn't return to his life before death - he rose to life beyond death.  His resurrection body was different - it was "imperishable" (15v42), perfectly suited for heaven (15v49).

With such a new concept, it's no surprise that Paul here emphasises that there were many witnesses (15v5-8).  Anyone could see his empty tomb; the witnesses could explain what had happened to his body.

But why did Jesus rise from the dead?  What does it mean for us?

2. Jesus rose from the dead to secure an eternal promise

Paul begins to ask the question "What if there is no resurrection?" (5v12-19).  He writes that if there is no such thing as a resurrection, then Christ hasn't risen (v13), our preaching is pointless (v14), our faith is pointless (v14), and we are still dead in our sins (5v17).  In other words, Paul understands that Jesus had to rise to secure something for our salvation.

a. Jesus demonstrated authority over death (15v54-57).  In Revelation 1v18, we find the Lord stating: "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one.  I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."  What does it mean, to have the keys?

As an illustration, my younger kids regularly remind me what it means to have keys.  When we're about to go out, and I ask "Who wants the keys to the car?", their hands immediately go in the air!  Why?  Because keys mean power!  They imply you've grown up in some way!  So, for example, when you reach a certain age, you get the keys to the house.

And how do you feel when you lose your keys?  Helpless!  You scrabble around the house trying to find the car keys, because otherwise you won't be able to reach your destination!

Keys mean power.  At his resurrection, Jesus proves he has power over death - he has the keys!  When he raised others from the dead, he unlocked tombs from the outside.  Now, he demonstrated he could unlock tombs from the inside.  Jesus has power over death - the power to have eternal life, and the power to give eternal life to others.

b.  God gave His approval of Christ's sacrifice.  Paul writes that "if Christ has not been are still in your sins" (15v17).  When God raised Jesus from the dead, He was sharing that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was sufficient to pay for our sins.

When writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul states that Jesus "was delivered up for our sins and raised for our justification" (Rom 4v25).  Our justification - God's declaration of our innocence - is revealed at the resurrection of Jesus.

When you trust your life to Jesus, you begin to live in him.  In a sense, what happens to him happens to you.  If he is still buried under your sins, then you are still buried under your sins (5v17).  But if he is risen, then you have risen with him (15v22).

3.  Jesus rose from the dead to secure an eternal promise of a temporary grave

Paul explores this in verses 20 to 23.  He has already expressed this promise: "He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence" (2 Cor 4v14).  Paul describes the resurrection of Jesus as the "firstfruits" (15v20, 23).  What are firstfruits?

Firstfruits are the first part of a field of crops that are ready to eat.  They're a taster of more that is to come.  Firstfruits are a bit like the demo of a new game that you haven't yet got.

I remember when we first downloaded the demo of Minecraft.  What was the response of my kids?  They immediately wanted to get the full version!  They'd had a taster - now they wanted to own it!

That's how we should feel about Christ's resurrection - we should want to own it for ourselves!  And if I trust Jesus to be my Saviour and my Lord, then I do own it.  I can be sure of my resurrection because of his resurrection.

The temporary grave of Jesus is a promise of a temporary grave for all those who trust in him.  His resurrection is the firstfruits, the promise of more to come, "for if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." (Rom 6v5)

So, Jesus rose from the dead to secure an eternal promise of a temporary grave.  But how should that affect the way we live today?

a.  Trust in the irreversible resurrection of Jesus (15v56-57).  We have victory over death through Christ!  His resurrection is irreversible - he cannot be locked back in a tomb - he has the keys!  I must trust him with my eternal future.  My resurrection will not be secured by my future performance, but by his resurrection.  Jesus tells us himself: "I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." (John 11v25)

b.  Believe your life has significance (15v58).  This is Paul's conclusion - "your labour is not in vain", your work is not pointless.  If we have an eternal future, then potentially everything we do has an eternal consequence.  The smallest act of service for the Lord can have a significance far beyond the horizon we can see.  Personal holiness doesn't lose its value because of our eternal safety in Jesus - instead, it becomes more significant than ever!

c.  Consider your priorities.  If our temporary lives on earth have eternal significance, we should consider how we spend that time.  Consider your own priorities - do they express your belief that your lasting home is in heaven?  That your lasting treasure is in heaven?  That your lasting reward is in heaven?  That your eternity will be spent in heaven?  Meditate and pray over these things over the next few days.

Next week, we'll reach the end of our series as we consider the ascension of Jesus, and what it means for us to have a Saviour who still lives.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Just another Melodic Monday - 10, 9 , 8, God is Great!

Colin Buchanan writes some great songs for young children, although you might need to consider whether some of the adults would find them too upbeat!  Here's a link to a song we sang last Sunday at church.  It's very simple, and focuses on the greatness of God.  If you want to support Colin's ministry, purchase albums and song music from his website:

In the store, for example, you'll be able to purchase digital copies of the song music sheets at a bargain price.  The song below is on the album "Colin's Favourites", which contains over 20 songs, and the music book costs a whole $10 - that's only a few pennies over £5!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Some Words for Wednesday - The anger-absorbing, love-outpouring death of Christ

(Some notes from the message shared when we gathered as a church last Sunday)

"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be a propitiation for our sin." (1 John 4v10)

If you're wondering what a "propitiation" is, don't panic - we'll get to it later!  We're in the middle of a short series looking at the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Last week, we considered his life and it's significance for us today - this week we focus on his death.  What does John tell us about the death of Jesus?

1. Jesus came to die on a cross

The death of Christ was part of God's plan.  John tells us God "sent his Son" (4v10).  Jesus was "obedient to the point of death" (Philp 2v8), and after his resurrection, he explained what had happened using "all the scriptures" (Luke 24v27).  God had planned Christ's death from the very beginning, and we find outlines of His plan spread across the Old Testament.

Also, Christ submitted to the plan willingly.  John tells us Jesus "laid down his life" (3v16).  Jesus said he had authority to lay down his life - no one could take it from him (John 10v17-18).  When Jesus died on the cross, it was God's plan and Jesus' choice.

But why did Jesus choose to die on the cross?  Why did God send his Son to die?

2.  Jesus came to die on a cross so that God's anger could be absorbed

Some find it difficult to imagine God being loving and angry.  If He's loving, He won't get angry; and if He's angry, He can't be loving.  But the Bible tells us He is both!  How do we understand that?

Well, consider this: I think everyone has a cause they feel passionate about.  Maybe it's something local, like fox hunting.  Perhaps it's global, like pollution.  Or it could be related to people, like the refugee crisis.  We probably all react to issues like these, but I suspect everyone has a particular issue they feel passionate about.

When you watch the news, for example, you'll feel varying degrees of emotion because of different situations, but there'll probably be one particular story that will grab you, because you feel passionate about that issue.  You'll react with anger to an injustice being reported on, more strongly than with any other part of the news.  

You'll feel the hurt of those being hurt because you care passionately about that group of people, or that part of the planet;  your heart will cry out in anger against the injustice, and you'll want those causing the hurt to face justice.

Now imagine a person who cares passionately about the whole of humanity and the whole of the planet - someone who loves every single person and every single atom.  How would that person react while watching the news?  I imagine he would be angry with all of it, with all of the injustice and pain and hurt that's being caused.

But what if this person didn't only see things on the news?  What if, instead, he saw everything?  Not just the big things that make the headlines, but every little injustice across the globe.

Imagine he saw every unjust action that you and I carry out; he heard every harsh word that we have spoken; he felt every selfish motive that has driven us.  Imagine he saw all the pain and suffering that we all cause to each other, and the harm we all cause to this world.

If he was loving, he would have to be angry.  If he was truly loving, he would have to be angry over the hurt we cause each other and the harm we cause to this world.  In fact, the more loving he was, the more angry he would be.  If he wasn't angry, he wouldn't really be loving.

God can't be a loving God without being an angry God - not while there is still selfishness and injustice in the world.  

But he could be an angry God without being a loving God.  That's a possibility, too.

So how do we know what God we're dealing with?  How do we know that He's a loving God who is angry, and not an angry God who isn't loving?

Because He sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.

What is a propitiation?  In a nutshell, it's a substitute that redirects anger towards itself.  I'll use an event in my childhood as an illustration.

I remember playing at school one day when I was about 8 years old.  At the edge of the playground, there was a strip of gravel with some bushes and shrubs, then a low fence, and then the pavement and road beyond.  I was feeling bored, so I picked up a piece of gravel and threw it over the fence.  it bounced along the bonnet of a car parked on the road.

Thinking this was fun, I threw another stone, and watched that one bounce across the bonnet again.  Then I threw another couple of stones!  At that moment, two things happened simultaneously.  My friend, Stuart, walked over to see what I was doing, and a woman got out of the car I'd been throwing stones at!

I ran away immediately, leaving my friend Stuart standing where I had stood!  I looked back to see the woman shouting over the fence at Stuart, threatening to speak to the headmaster!  At that moment, Stuart became a propitiation for my wrongdoing.

He was facing the anger I should have faced.  He was facing the wrath that was meant for me.  He was being a propitiation for the wrong I had done.

What Stuart did unwittingly for me, Jesus did knowingly for me.  What my school friend faced on a playground, my saviour faced on a cosmic scale as he absorbed the anger of an almighty God.

Why would God send His Son to face that?  Why would Jesus choose to face that?

3.  Jesus came to die on a cross so that God's anger could be absorbed, and God's love could be outpoured.

John tells us Jesus died as a propitiation because "God so loved us" (4v11).  He puts it more clearly just before that: "In this the love of God was made known among us" (4v9).

It's only when we recognise how great God's anger must be that we can begin to understand how great His love for us must be.  Not a sentimental, ill-informed love, but a deliberate, courageous love that meant, in spite of His anger, He determined to find a way to save people, even at the cost of His Son.

God planned a way to punish injustice and still show mercy; a way to put sin to death without putting us to death; a way that would reveal His love to the world.

How do we know that God is loving, and not just angry?  The evidence of God's love is presented at the cross.  Paul writes that "God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom 5v8).

So, when I trust Jesus as my Saviour and my Lord, I understand by faith that God loves me because He gave His Son for me.  God's love is secured not by my future performance, but by the irreversible death of Christ for me.  The love that is poured out at the cross never runs dry.

So, Jesus came to die on a cross so that God's anger could be absorbed, and God's love could be outpoured.  But what impact should that have on my life now?

a. I'll stand against sin, but alongside sinners.  I won't be able to treat sin lightly, because I know how much suffering it caused to Jesus.  So I'll stand against sin, but at the same time I'll remember it was my sin that Jesus suffered for, and so I can't think of myself as being better than other people.  Instead, I will begin to esteem others as better than myself.

Therefore, while I stand against sin, I will be able to stand alongside sinners, and determine to show them the same love that Jesus showed to me while I was still a lost sinner.

b. I'll love other Christians, even if they don't come to my church.  John's emphasis in his letter is the community that forms around the cross.  He talks about "us", not "me".  His response to the death of Christ is "that he lay down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (3v16).  Inspired by the love of God, "we also ought to love one another" (4v11).

We should strive to love and serve each other within a church - but it shouldn't stop there.  I am not called to love only members of my own church, but all those for whom Christ was a propitiation.  We'll consider what that means in practice on another occasion.  

c. When I remember the Lord's death, I'll feel sorrow and joy.  At the end of our Sunday service, we have a meal together.  It is the Lord who has called us together, and so it is the Lord's table at which we sit and have our meal.  Therefore, at the start of the meal we share bread, and at the end of the meal we share grape juice - symbols that remind us of the Lord's death and the blessings we share in as a spiritual family.

As we break bread and drink grape juice, our aim is to remember both the gravity and the glory of the cross.  We feel sorrow because of the blood that is shed, and joy because of the love that is poured out.  As we share the meal, we joyfully remember that, as a community of God's people, we share in a new covenant - a new promise of God's love demonstrated through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Friday, 8 January 2016

Friday to the Father - 8/1/16

Jesus said: "This then is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven...' "
Matthew 6v9

Praise God for an encouraging couple of weeks.  The Christmas day service and meal went well, with visitors both familiar and unfamiliar, expected and unexpected!  Thank God for the volunteers who helped on the day, and pray that we're able to maintain connections with all those who came.

Young and old being served at the Christmas day meal

Praise God for the encouraging commitment of a family that have recently moved to the area.  Ruth has been coming to our Sunday meetings with her teenaged kids, Callum and Sian.  

Pray for the coming year, as we start to raise the profile of the church within Welshpool.  There are lots of possible ways to do this, but most of these ways require time and energy, which we often don't have a lot of!  Pray that we'll be wise in how we reach out as a church to the community.

Pray also that we'll have church prayer meetings established by the end of the month.  Only the Lord can build the church, and we express our faith in him through our commitment as a church to prayer.

God has provided a job for me (at least for the next few months!) so please pray that I'll be able to do good work.  I now work Tuesdays for the church plant.  Please pray that I'll be able to use my time wisely on that day so that there's less pressure on other days.  

Finally, pray for us as families.  That includes:

Brandon and Charlotte, with Naomi, Malachi, Blake and Elizabeth
Tom and Ruth, with Luke, Ethan, Jadon and Mae  
Ruth and Richard, with Callum and Sian
Lai and Stuart, with Kai, Isla and Aaron

Thank you for your continued prayers.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Some Words for Wednesday - Covered by the sinless life of Christ

(Some notes from the message shared when we gathered as a church last Sunday.)

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5v21

Through January, we'll be thinking about the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  One aim is to see more of his glory and greatness, as that is one of the ways we are changed as individuals and as a church community (2 Cor. 3v18).

Paul tells the believers in Corinth that he has a "message of reconciliation" (5v18), and that this reconciling takes place "in Christ" (5v19).

Reconciliation takes place when a broken friendship is mended.  Our friendship with God has been broken by sin.  When we put our trust in Christ - when we trust our whole lives to him - he is able to mend our friendship with God, so we can know Him and come near to Him.  Jesus is able to do this for "the world" (5v19), for all kinds of people.

How does he do this?  Jesus lived a sinless life, so that he could die carrying the sins of other people, and cover those people with his sinless life.

1.  Jesus lived a sinless life - "he knew no sin"

If you travel on a train, you'll have other people around you.  Sometimes, you'll have lots of people around you, crammed into a carriage!  And yet you might not know any of them.  You'll have people all around you; see and hear them; yet none of them will be known to you.  They'll be strangers to you.

That's how Jesus was with sin.  It happened around him.  He witnessed it taking place - for example, he heard people lying about him at his trial.  But he never made friends with sin.  Sin was a stranger to him.

Jesus was "one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4v15)  How did he manage that?  Was he like a stone, unfeeling and detached?

No!  When asked what were the most important laws, Jesus' answer was that you must love God with everything you are, and love people with everything you do.  He was sinless here, too!  He wasn't unfeeling or detached - he was always loving, and demonstrating the fruits of love in his behaviour towards people.

So in his humanity, Jesus was just like us, and tempted just like us!  But where we failed, he succeeded.  Where we gave up, he kept going.  Where our love grew cold, his kept burning.  Where we sinned, he remained sinless.

But why is this important?

2.  Jesus lived a sinless life, so he could die carrying the sins of other people - "For our sake, (God) made him to be sin"

When Jesus Christ died, he did so on behalf of all those who trust in him.  "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." (1 Peter 2v24)  On the cross, Jesus was being punished, but not for his own sins, for he had none.  Instead, he took the place of all those who trust him with their lives, and he died for their sins.

Jesus lived a sinless life so that he could die for the sins of others - so that our sins could be put to death without us being put to death.  

We'll consider this more next week.  But there was another reason Jesus lived a sinless life.

3.  Jesus lived a sinless life so that he could die carrying the sins of other people, and cover those people with his own sinless life - "so that we might become the righteousness of God in him"

What is "righteousness"?  In a nutshell, it is doing and being what God says is right.  As our creator, God has written our instruction manual.  He made us, and so He is the only one with the authority and insight to define the right and best way for us to live.

By rejecting His way, and following our own way, we have all sinned, lost our righteousness, and lost our friendship with God.  In order to regain that friendship, we must regain that righteousness.  But where can we find a perfect righteousness that pleases God?

God Himself tells us at the baptism of Jesus.  When Jesus is baptised, God speaks from heaven: "You are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased." (Luke 3v22)  Jesus is the perfectly pleasing Son of God.  He is the one with the righteousness we need.

When Jesus dies, a big swap takes place.  He carries our sins, and we receive his righteousness.  We are covered by his sinless life.

As an illustration, I recently bought some very soft, warm dressing gowns for a couple of my sons.  When one of the boys was wearing it the next day, he said "I feel like a rich man when I wear this!"  You might relate to this - sometimes, at a hotel or a health spa, you'll find a dressing gown put out for you, which is really thick and soft, and makes you feel important!

Jesus provides us with a luxurious robe of righteousness!  We are covered by his sinless life!  This means that when God looks at you, he sees the righteousness of Christ.  In a sense, He says "you are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased."

God doesn't take this view because you've done better today than yesterday (but perhaps tomorrow His view will change!)  He doesn't take this view because you've finally reached His standard of perfect righteousness in the way you live, nor because He's lowered that standard since you became a Christian.

He takes this view because of what Jesus has done - because Jesus not only died in your place, but also lived in your place.  In a sense, Jesus died carrying your sins, but he lived carrying you.  You are covered by the sinless life of Christ.

How do you receive this covering?  By faith.  Paul writes of "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" (Rom 3v22) and the righteousness "that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Philp 3v9).

So, Jesus lived a sinless life so that he could die carrying the sins of other people, and cover those people with his sinless life.  So how should this affect our everyday lives?

Firstly, it encourages us to be bold for Jesus - God will never lead you along a path and then leave you stranded!  You are safe in the sinless life of Jesus.  We can be courageous in our praying, our sharing, our living, knowing that God will never brush us aside because we didn't quite get it right.  God is with us - who can be against us?

Don't be crushed by your sins.  When you fail, don't waste time deliberately detaching yourself from God and His people until you think you're good enough to return.  Instead, repent and believe that God accepts you as His child because of Christ's sinless life, not your's, and get straight back on with following Jesus as an individual and as part of a church community.

Be obedient for his glory, not your own.  Paul removes the option of being selfishly selfless - of doing things for God's glory so that we can hold on to our salvation.  Instead, Paul writes that we are to be controlled by the love of Christ (5v14) and living for his sake, not ourselves (5v15).  We follow him not to receive glory from him but to give glory to him.

We cannot supplement the already-perfectly-obedient life of Christ that covers us, but we can magnify it through our reliance upon it, and in doing so give Jesus glory.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  I've been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, but I'm back for a new year and a new work pattern!

Praise God for the provision of work!  Having worked as a labourer for the last 4 months, I've now been taken on by the same company to do work in the office, developing the business and sourcing new work opportunities.  There's a lot to learn, so please pray that God will provide all I need to do a good job.  

A picture from my time as a labourer.  Just as I was finishing work on the racking 
one day, I noticed the cross and the rainbow, both reminders of God's promises

My boss is Brandon, who is also part of the church planting team in Welshpool!  I remember the afternoon several months ago when we began praying as a church family for God to provide work for myself and Brandon - now I marvel at God's providence!

One outcome of this is that my working week is now more predictable.  I will be working for Brandon on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  I'll be doing work for Welshpool Community Church on Tuesdays.  There is probably some flexibility to this, but it's actually helpful for me and Ruth to have a set pattern for my working week.

I'm planning to spend Tuesday morning scheduling blog posts and updating the Facebook page, and Tuesday afternoon getting started on Sunday's message.  I'm hoping the blog won't take up a whole morning, but the aim is to schedule the following each week:

Monday - Just Another Melodic Monday - a song that's related to the message I'll be sharing on Sunday
Wednesday - Some Words for Wednesday - a briefer version of the message I preached on Sunday
Friday - Friday to the Father - Thanksgiving and requests for prayer

A picture taken at the Christmas day morning service.

We've had an encouraging couple of weeks, and I'll be sharing more about that on Friday.  Thank you for your continued prayers for us.  God is good!