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Old Yet Ever New

Old Yet Ever New

The Christian gospel is the most remarkable story in the world. It is not an ancient myth, nor is it modern fake news.  Neither is it a dark psychological thriller, although death plays a major part in the story. Rather, it brings light and hope with a promise of a future supreme happiness in heaven.

True news

The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’, and it is really good because it did not merely originate in the minds of fallible human authors, but was foretold throughout the centuries of the Old Testament writings by prophets whom God had inspired, and who were moved by the Holy Spirit. Then at the time of Christ, John the Baptist clearly declared that Jesus Christ was indeed the coming Messiah, the Saviour of God’s people, predicted from of old. This message was further explained by the apostles who established the Christian church upon Christ the cornerstone, and that faith in him alone qualifies us for membership of that church and unites us with him now and for ever.

The God-given nature of the gospel makes it absolutely true because God cannot lie. Paul sought to convince Titus of this fact when he wrote to him: ‘Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began’ (Titus 1:1-2). The apostles were so convinced of the truth of the gospel that most were prepared to suffer martyrdom rather than deny their faith in Jesus Christ. Luke was a careful researcher and included many verifiable historical details. He had ‘followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account’ (Luke 1:3). He spoke to eyewitnesses and, for example, checked out that Herod was king of Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus.

Fresh news

If someone tells us something we already know, we might say ‘that’s yesterday’s news’ or ‘that’s stale news.’ The amazing thing about the gospel is that it always appears to be fresh and satisfying no matter how often we have heard it before. If you have been brought up in a Christian home you would have attended morning worship from infancy, and that would probably have included a children’s talk, and often Sunday school would follow. By the age of 10 you may have heard the gospel 1000 times. Over every successive ten years you might hear the gospel 2000 times, so by the age of 70 you may have heard 13,000 gospel messages with prayer meetings and conference addresses as well.

The remarkable thing is that one can listen spellbound each time a preacher, with his own unique insight, urges people to repent of their sins and look to Christ for forgiveness and the salvation which he made possible by dying on our behalf at Calvary on the first Good Friday morning.

What makes the gospel story so different from even the cleverest fictional novel? Even the most inspiring human author can never write words capable of giving us eternal life. They might inspire a temporary moral reformation, but never produce in our hearts a ‘spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4:14). There is a freshness about the Spirit’s ministry, especially as we read his Word or as it is preached to us, which diffuses into our inmost being and affects our lives.

Backsliding and restoration

If we go off-track and grieve the Spirit, that gospel freshness will disappear. The Bible will become an academic textbook and sermons just a stream of words. Fellowship will have no joy and prayer will become a tedious duty, ‘the heavens over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you shall be iron’ (Deut. 28:23). We will mourn its loss until we have returned in repentance to the right path again.

Jeremiah found great hope and comfort in remembering the Lord’s fresh portions of spiritual food which had fed his soul in times past: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness’ (Lam. 3:22-23).

We will soon tire of repeatedly hearing broadcasts of yesterday’s news, but as faithful gospel ministers bring new insights into ‘the old, old story’ week by week, we will always be refreshed as we drink deeply from the well of truth.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” O God my Saviour,

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

Thomas O. Chisholm (1866-1960).

____________________________________

Nigel T. Faithfull, 2017

Mind how you go!

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As I sat alone in the restaurant at the caravan park drinking my coffee after a swim in the pool, a woman and her grandson came in and sat at a nearby table. She said to the little boy, “You will have to be quiet, there is someone here gathering their thoughts.” That set me wondering how old one has to be to make the transition from ‘thinking’ to ‘gathering one’s thoughts.’ Do one’s thoughts lie around in a jumbled mess after a certain age, like a child’s toys, rather than being arranged systematically in a tidy pile? I hope not.

The Bible has much to say about our thoughts and how we use our minds. It is an important issue for the Christian, and God cares very much what we think about, especially in moments of relaxation. We may remember the Apostle Peter’s exhortation as translated in the AV Bible that we should ‘gird up the loins of your mind.’ That is, tuck your shirt in, tighten your belt, and get ready for work. The ESV puts it like this: ‘Therefore, preparing your minds for action … do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance … but, you also be holy in all your conduct’ (1 Peter 1:13-15). We need to think carefully about our attitude towards a world driven by sinful passions, like selfishness and greed.

The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church: ‘Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature’ (1 Cor. 14:20). He was encouraging them to think carefully about the wise exercise of spiritual gifts in the congregation. This is something we are doing at Caersalem at the moment.

Paul counsels the Colossians that to have a right perspective on living in the world, with all its distractions, they should seek the things that are above, telling them and us to ‘set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.’ In normal circumstances a compass needle will swing around and point to the north. In the same way, the thoughts of a Christian should automatically tend to turn away from obsessively dwelling on the things of this world, but rather find joy in contemplating our Saviour Jesus Christ and our future home with him in glory. We have many duties and concerns which we must undertake and carefully plan ahead for, but it should always be with an eye to our future destination. This will put everything in a proper perspective and help us to be purposeful and diligent as we try to do all things for Christ’s glory. It will not then be said of us that we were so heavenly minded that we were no earthly use.

Paul later found himself in a Roman prison, yet in these trying circumstances, with so many of his own concerns to worry about, he was more concerned that the church at Philippi should know how to obtain the peace that he was experiencing. ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace be with you’ (Phil. 4:8-9).

Are your minds troubled by all the violence and immorality we see on television or read in the papers? Here is the antidote and the road sign on our spiritual path which leads to inner peace – think often of Christ and thank him for all he has done for us. This will lead to a peace that the unbeliever knows nothing about in their experience: ‘The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God … but we have the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor. 2:14-16). That is the true Mastermind. That was the mind the hymnist Katie Wilkinson (1859-1928) was praying for when she wrote:

 

May the mind of Christ my Saviour

Live in me from day to day,

By his love and power controlling

All I do and say.

(Christian Hymns, 607)

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Written by Nigel Faithfull, author and member of St Mellons Baptist Church (2016)

Greater than Solomon

Since September last year, Andy has been preaching through 1 Kings on Sunday evenings, looking at the reign of King Solomon.  Last week (3rd April) we reached 1 Kings 10:1-13, the visit of the Queen of Sheba, and Andy spent a large part of the sermon talking about Jesus’s reference to this incident: “The queen of the South will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42).  

This stayed on my mind throughout the week, and I spent time meditating on some of the ways in which Jesus is infinitely greater than Solomon.  Here are just four of them.

A Great King

Solomon was a great king, one of the greatest that Israel ever had.  Under his reign, he extended the boundaries of the kingdom so that they were larger than at any other time in Israel’s history, the kingdom was united, the people were happy and their needs were provided for. His reign was the high point in the history of the nation of Israel, and for the 40 glorious years that he reigned they had peace with all the nations that surrounded them.

But if you compare him with Christ, Solomon pales into obscurity.  Jesus Christ is an infinitely greater king than Solomon!

1459768672802_imgJesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and even the greatest rulers on earth are subject to His authority.  It is Jesus, as the great King of kings, who delegates to our leaders the power and authority that they have to rule over us.

1459797355342_imgJesus is King over everyone who has ever lived, and over every part of the universe that He created.  He sits enthroned in the heavens, and one day every knee will bow before Him,  and acknowledge his kingly authority!

Solomon reigned for 40 glorious years, but then he died. His reign was over, and soon the kingdom was divided in two, and never regained it’s former glory and power.  Yet Jesus Christ is not just King for a few short decades, but from eternity past and His reign will never end!  It is impossible for anyone to ever depose Him, and all rebellions against Him will ultimately be quashed.  

The Israelites were happy with Solomon as their king, he brought them a time of peace and security that they hadn’t known before. In the Bible we are given some small glimpses of what it will be like to be in heaven with King Jesus, to whet our appetites and stimulate a longing within us for a kingdom far greater than anyone has experienced here.  A place where “in His presence there is fullness of joy… and pleasures for evermore”, where all tears will be wiped from our eyes, and there will be no more pain or sin or grief or death.  Yet this only scratches the surface of how wonderful it will be to finally be with Him, to have glorious new bodies that are incapable of sinning, and to reign with Him in His never-ending kingdom! It is infinitely more glorious than anything that we have ever seen or can even begin to imagine.    

Incomparable Wealth

Solomon was mind-bogglingly wealthy, with riches that far exceeded those of any other king of his generation, and even today he still tops the list of the wealthiest people in all of history.*  As well as building a great Temple for God, Solomon built a magnificent palace for himself, made with costly materials and with a unique throne made from ivory and gold. During his reign, gold was so plentiful that silver was considered to be as worthless as stone!  

1459770756718_imgYet the Bible tells us that it was God who gave Solomon all the wealth that he had.  As King over all creation, all that Solomon owned was God’s anyway, to dispose of as He saw fit.

“Every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.”  

Solomon’s wealth was worthless when compared with the vast resources that our God has at His disposal!

Unparalleled Wisdom

Above everything else, Solomon is remembered for his unparalleled wisdom. The Bible tells us that his wisdom, given to him by God at his request, was so great that no-one before or since would ever have wisdom like it. Solomon showed great wisdom in the way he administered his kingdom, the alliances that he made, and the judgements that he gave when mediating disputes among the people.  He wrote over 1000 songs and 3000 proverbs, he also wrote the book of Ecclesiastes and the beautiful love poem “Song of Solomon”.   He had wisdom and understanding “beyond measure”, so that his fame spread far and wide, and people travelled vast distances to learn from him.  When the Queen of Sheba came to talk with him, he was able to answer all the hard questions that were troubling her, “there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her.”  His wisdom was truly unparalleled.

1459932034243_imgYet Jesus is infinitely greater than Solomon in this, too.  Solomon’s wisdom was not something he created himself, it was a gift from God whose wisdom is simply in another dimension to that which any human being could ever have.   God is omniscient, there is nothing that He does not know, and His wisdom is infinite and utterly beyond our comprehension.

We see the wisdom of God as we look at the incredible world that we live in, which He designed and created in all its intricate details. The beauty of it, the variety, the order and harmony behind it speak clearly of the wisdom of the Creator. The wisdom behind just one flower created by Him far exceeds even the best human designs and inventions!

Yet it is when we consider God’s “secret and hidden wisdom” of His plan of salvation that we see most clearly how vastly superior His wisdom is to our own. No wonder that Paul bursts into praise and exclaims “Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and his paths beyond tracing out!”

It should not surprise us then, as we look at the life of Jesus our Creator, that we see wisdom shining through all that He said and did.  From His childhood it was clear to those who knew Him that He was full of wisdom, as even then He amazed them with his understanding. During His years of ministry, the crowds who listened to His teaching were astonished at His great wisdom and authority.  Even on the occasions when the religious leaders attempted to trick Jesus with their Catch-22 questions, He was able to answer each time in a way which astounded them.  

1459954141374_imgJesus, our “Wonderful Counsellor”, showed perfect, heavenly wisdom not just in what He taught but in every aspect of His life: how He related to everyone He encountered, how He dealt with temptation, His priorities and His leadership of His disciples.   His whole life reflected His divine wisdom, and unlike Solomon whose heart turned away from God later in life, He never sinned!

Man of Peace

Solomon was the king who brought peace to the land of Israel. Ever since Joshua and the Israelites had entered the Promised Land around 450 years earlier, God’s people had been in almost continual conflict with the nations that surrounded them. Solomon’s father David was renowned for being a great warrior, but in contrast to him Solomon was “a man of peace and rest” .  Throughout his reign Israel had peace from all of their enemies, and Solomon formed many useful political alliances.

Like Solomon,  Jesus brings peace to His people.  Hundreds of years before His birth, Isaiah told the people that their Messiah would be called the Prince of Peace, and His peace is of a quality which far surpasses the peace that Israel experienced during Solomon’s reign.

1460317193554_imgJesus told His disciples that the peace that He gave was different to the peace that the world can give, and His peace is so unique, so great, it is a peace which we simply can’t get our heads around.  His peace is perfect peace, complete peace: peace with God, peace within ourselves, and peace with other people too.  

1459860456756_imgOur sin means that we are by nature enemies of God, and not at peace with Him. We can’t do anything ourselves to get peace with God, we have to rely on Jesus the Mediator, the Peacemaker, who provided the only way to forgive our sins and to bring us to God.  This reconciliation with God brings a peace which the world can never offer us.

Jesus also gives us peace within ourselves: the peace of knowing that our guilt is all washed away, but also a deep peace of mind that keeps us secure no matter how difficult the circumstances of our life may be. It is a peace that comes because we know we have a God who is overflowing with love for us, who will never leave us, and who will provide for all our needs.  1459861123122_imgWe can be at peace because we know that our God is in sovereign control not just of the universe as a whole, but of our lives as individuals, and that if we are His children then He will work even the worst times of our lives for our lasting good.

1459869296136_imgAlthough we live in a world which is full of conflict and hostility, Jesus also gives peace between His people.  Barriers which would normally exist between us are destroyed by Jesus as He unites those whom He loves in one body, His bride.

 

The peace that Israel experienced during Solomon’s reign was temporary. Soon after his death the kingdom was divided in two, and once again they faced hostility from their enemies in the nations around them.  

1459882079280_imgYet the peace that Jesus offers is everlasting peace. We can experience it to a limited degree here on earth, but in heaven there will be nothing at all to spoil His peace. The prophets poetically described it as a time when swords will be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, and when “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”   A place of perfect, eternal peace!

Jesus said that He was greater than Solomon: what an understatement!   Solomon was the greatest, wealthiest, wisest king that the Israelites had, but Jesus is infinitely greater in every way!  One day, like the Queen of Sheba, we will gaze in breathless awe and wonder at our King, and realise that “the half was not told me” during our lifetime here.  There are such great depths for us to spend eternity discovering!

 


www.wealthresult.com/2013/07/top-10-richest-men-of-all-time-in.html  



Written by: Lis Rowe, member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Get ready for Romans

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On January 17th 2016, Andy will be starting a new Sunday morning sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Romans. I don’t know about you, but I am very excited to be going through Romans because it’s arguably the most theologically profound book in the New Testament and definitely one of my favourites. How can we as a congregation prepare for this new sermon series?

 

What do we need to know about Romans?

Have you ever read through Romans from start to finish? If you have, you may have reached the end and found it extremely difficult to remember much of what you read, or perhaps you didn’t understand much of it at all. For me, the experience of reading Romans for the first time was a little bit like watching The Matrix for the first time. It left me thinking, “What on earth just happened?” – but the more times I watched The Matrix, the more sense it made. Reading Romans is like that. The more times I read it, the more sense it makes and my understanding of various doctrines deepens. Hopefully, we won’t get discouraged if the going gets tough, but will investigate further and battle on to grasp the difficult bits.

I have a certain friend who, when watching a film together keeps interrupting by asking me things like, “So what’s going on now?”, “Who is he again?”, or “If that happened, why did he do that and where did she come from?” Very annoying! However, reading Romans may force you to be just like my friend because you might need to pause and investigate a particular section of the book further before moving on.

Having said all that, here is a little head-start:

The Book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul around A.D 57 and was intended for all the believers in Rome (1:7). The book has 16 chapters and 433 verses, so it’s not a lengthy book to read – it is estimated that the average person will take around 47 minutes to read the whole book through. Romans is widely regarded as the most complete summary of the gospel message and Christian doctrine found in any single biblical book and has been regarded as one of the most important books in the New Testament by the likes of St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and William Tyndale, to name just a few.¹

The whole point of Romans is to demonstrate in an immense way the meaning of the gospel of Christ. So, the next time you read through Romans, notice the amount of times it mentions the nouns ‘God’, ‘Law’ and ‘Christ’. Once you’ve done that, pay particular attention to how those three nouns relate to one another. I have found that Romans really opens up the Old Testament and shows how Christ fulfils the Law of God – something no-one else has ever been able to do. Much of Romans is dedicated to showing how Old Testament themes relate to Christ and the gospel.

Please don’t get overwhelmed by the big words or any of the theology that at first seem complex because it’s not a text book for university professors, rather it’s a letter written by a great pastor to a church. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who preached 366 sermons on Romans reassured his congregation by saying, “I do not propose to consider this great Epistle in a merely intellectual or academic manner. It was written as a letter by a great pastor. It is not a theological treatise, written to experts and to professors. It is a letter written to a church, and like all other New Testament literature it had a very practical aim and end in view.”² Romans is a book that can be understood by everyone.

 

How can we prepare for the Romans sermon series?

My first suggestion is that we read through the whole book. Not just once, but a few times so that we begin to get a feel for the the book as a whole.

Secondly, we need to pray. Pray for Andy – that God would be with him, help him and would speak to us through him by the power of the Holy Spirit; and for ourselves – that God would help us to understand the book and to be transformed by what is written in it.

Thirdly, depending on how eager you are, you could read a commentary or a book on Romans that explains it to you so that as you hear Andy’s sermons, they will encourage you and bless you all the more by the great truths that Romans contains. Here’s a short list of some books you could buy:

  • Timothy Keller, Romans 1-7 For You and Romans 8-16 For You
  • Jarred C. Wilson, Romans: a 12 week study
  • F. F. Bruce, Romans (TNTC)
  • John Stott, The Message of Romans (BST)
  • R. C. Sproul, Romans (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary)
  • Richard Longenecker, The Epistle to the Romans (NIGTC)
  • Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT)
  • Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans (PNTC)

 

My Interview with Andy

I had a few questions on my mind and wanted to ask Andy some of them. Below are the questions I asked and the answers he gave, so I thought I’d share them with you.

 

Me: Have you ever preached through Romans before?

Andy: No. I’ve been quite daunted in the past! It is such a wonderful display of the gospel message.

 

Me: Why have you decided to preach through Romans now?

Andy: I want to preach through it before I retire – and as it took 7 years to go through John’s gospel, I thought I’d better start. I also believe it will be a helpful and appropriate Sunday morning series for believers and those not yet converted.

 

Me: Elaborating on what you just said, how are you hoping the church will benefit from Romans?

Andy: The letter has a simple message on the surface – “How can a person get to heaven and be right with God?” – and yet it is also so very profound and sounds the depths of the mercy, grace and love of God towards us! My prayer in going through Romans is that as a church we would clearly understand what God has done, is doing and will do for His people to bring glory to His Name!

 

Me: Could you summarise the book of Romans in just a few words for us?

Andy: The gospel, pure and simple!

 

Me: How can we as the church serve you as you preach through Romans?

Andy: Pray! For the preparation, preaching, reception and fruit.

 

Bibliography

¹ John Stott, The Message of Romans, BST (Nottingham, England: IVP, 1994),19-20.

² D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Exposition of Chapter 1 (Murrayfield Road, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1985), 1.

 

Written by: Gwydion Emlyn, Assistant to the Pastor and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Pastor’s New Year Letter

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I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;

I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

– Psalm 9:1-2

 

So David begins what we have as the ninth Psalm. He looks back on events and sings praises to the Most High!

As we start this new year, we look back and raise our thanksgiving to the Most High. Have we come through difficulties? Are we still being kept IN difficulties?! How wonderful, how marvellous if we can say “hitherto has The Lord been my help.”

 

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what The Lord has done.

– Johnson Oatman Jr.

 

Have we grown in grace? As we look around have others in our church family grown in grace? Then we give thanks to God, the Most High – for it is God that works in us, to will and to do according to His good pleasure!

How marvellous when we can look back and give thanks to The Lord for bringing salvation to a soul! Are there folks you know who have come to faith? This is the most remarkable event that occurs on planet Earth! Give thanks to Him, for “Salvation is of The Lord”!

The final church prayer meeting before Christmas was one at which I anticipated maybe 10 to a dozen to attend. We had already had “Carols at the Bay” and it was Christmas week. In the event around 40 gathered for prayer! – For this wonderful mercy, I gave thanks to The Lord. Just Wednesday night too, it was wonderful to hear of many at the home study groups.

Looking ahead into 2016, without Him, we can do nothing. Let us believe this and acknowledge this. Let us therefore together display our utter dependence on Him. Individually, let us begin each day with Him in prayer and in the word. As a church, let us each as members make every effort to be at a prayer meeting during the week. Sunday morning at 10am, Wednesday morning at 11.30 am or Wednesday evening at 7.30 pm. are the opportunities. For those late home from work on a Wednesday, can you make it for 8.30 perhaps?

 

“This Jesus the first and the last,

Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home,

We’ll praise Him for all that is past,

And trust Him for all that’s to come!”

– Joseph Hart, “No prophet, nor dreamer of dreams”

 

Written by: Andy Christofides, Pastor of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Everything we need for life

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Last year we were told that we needed a television that was 3D – this year they are hardly mentioned. Now we need 4K or curved screen TVs. What do we really need? The Apostle Peter gives his answer: 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’ (2 Peter 1:3 NIV). That is, all we will ever need, both for this present life and our spiritual life now and after in eternity.

 

How do we get our needs met?

The fact that you are reading this and have a desire to find out more about satisfying your real inner needs is due to God working in you by his Spirit and gently calling you by his goodness to himself. Peter says that it is through knowledge about God that we begin to fulfil our needs. This knowledge comes through reading the Bible, hearing it explained in church, talking to Christians, and reading books explaining God’s word. But it is more than acquiring knowledge about the Bible. We need to both believe it and act upon it.

 

Our basic need

As unpalatable as it seems, we have to admit that we have strayed from God’s perfect law from the very beginning of our lives. We are living in a morally polluting world and also contributing to it in some way or other. We are guilty before God and first need forgiveness and then a fresh start with a clean slate and God’s power to help keep us clean. We need to repent and believe the gospel. The gospel, or good news, is that Jesus died in our place, suffering for our sins so that, if we believe and trust in him alone, we might have the free gift of eternal life. This he will give us out of his goodness and for his own glory.

 

God’s great promises

Peter goes on to say that God backs up his gracious dealings towards us with very great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4) which allow us to participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world. Peter quotes one of these promises in Acts 2:21: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Jesus said of his ‘sheep’, those that believe in him, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28).

 

Make every effort

If we have committed our lives to Christ, there remains much to do in response. James tells us that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26b), and Peter gives us a good New Year resolution, Make every effort to add to your faith … (2 Peter 1:5a). He then lists 7 things to add to our faith: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness brotherly-kindness and love. He says, 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 (vs 10&11). What a prospect! There is nothing so cheering when visiting a friend or family member as to be received with a warm welcome, and this is what Jesus promises to all who have loved and tried to obey him, albeit often failing.

 

Peace with God

As Peter finishes his epistle, he underlines that in the prospect of the new heavens and earth, we should make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him (2 Peter 3:14). This, then, is the way to get this deep inner peace with God, our consciences and with our friends: we need to come to Christ for forgiveness for all the sins of our past, ask him that we might be reborn by the Holy Spirit, and that we will have the daily strength to make every effort and live for him. Peter said in his previous epistle that: If anyone serves, he should do it 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 (1 Peter 4:11b). We will fail in our own strength, but God will enable us. Peter had once denied his Lord, but he was forgiven, and afterwards made every effort to obey his Master’s command, Feed my sheep (John 21:17b). Let us make every effort to live for God in the coming year.

 

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, member at St. Mellons Baptist Church

What does the Bible say about Facebook?

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Are you thinking that the Bible, written thousands of years before the invention of the internet, has nothing to say on the subject of social media?  It may surprise you to learn that it does! The Bible contains plenty of teaching about how we should behave, our speech, our friendships and our motivation for all that we do.  These principles should be applied to how we act online as much as to any other area of life.

 

1. Remember that as Christians we are ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ, and people will be watching the way we behave.
Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).  These commands apply to how we behave on social media – everything that we choose to post or share should be done in a spirit of love towards others, and in a way which honours God.

There is a temptation in the world of social media to hide behind a computer screen and say things that we would not say in person, but if we are seeking to represent Christ to the world around us, we must be consistent in what we say and how we express it to others.

 

2. We need to be wise in what we choose to post

Social media websites are a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, to share information and enjoy good discussions.  However there are a number of dangers that can trip us up if we are not careful about what we post.

The Bible, especially the book of Proverbs, has much to say about our speech and what God thinks of our conversations with others.  We are warned repeatedly not to be people who gossip or break confidentiality (e.g. Proverbs 11:13), and this is especially relevant in what we choose to say online, where our audience is far larger than it is in the rest of life, and where what we say will potentially remain visible for many years to come and can be shared and seen by people for whom our comments were not originally intended.

When using the internet we are bombarded with all sorts of information from a wide range of sources, and we need to be aware that not everything we read is true!  Before we share something we have read online, we should be checking to make sure that what we are saying is both true and fair.

However, the Bible teaches us that God isn’t just concerned about what we do and say, but also about our motives. When we post on social media, we should be examining our reasons for doing it – are we boasting, are we seeking the approval of others, are we seeking revenge, are we showing the love to others that should characterise us as followers of Christ?  Remember that Jesus said that we will have to give an account to God for every idle word that we speak (Matt 12:36).  That is quite a challenge!

 

3. When confronted with a difference of opinion

The Bible warns us not to be people who deliberately stir up conflict (Proverbs 16:28) but to be peace-loving. That is not to say that we should never get involved in online discussions about controversial issues, but we shouldn’t purposefully provoke negative reactions from people, and when we are in a situation where opinions differ, we need to be wise in how we respond.

We should take the time to listen to other people’s viewpoints.  Proverbs 18:2 tells us that it is the fool who finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing their own opinions.

We should also be people who think before we post (Proverbs 29:20). We should be slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19), and when we do find ourselves reacting angrily we need to remember that we are commanded to not let that anger lead us into sin (Ephesians 4:26).

If we spend any length of time on social media sites, we will have times when we are offended by something that someone else has said.  When that happens we should be careful not to respond by insulting the other person.  1 Peter 3:9 tells us “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  We need to remember that a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

Jesus also taught his disciples that if someone offends them, they should deal with it by speaking to them privately (Matt 18:15). Facebook and Twitter (and other social media sites) are not the places to air our grievances or to confront those who have hurt us!

 

4. Be wise in your use of time

The Bible teaches us that our lives are short, and that time goes quickly.  We are accountable to God for how we spend our time here, and encouraged to be wise in making the best use of that time (Ephesians 5: 15-16).

It is easy to waste lots of time on the internet, especially on social media, and we should not allow this to replace real relationships or fellowship with one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).

 

5. Be aware of temptation

The dangers of social media are many and varied.  We can find ourselves wasting time, becoming envious of the lives we see other people living, becoming bitter about our own lives, and getting angry at things we read or see.  We can end up boasting, obsessing over how other people respond to us, and isolating ourselves from real life as we focus on our online interactions. Then there is the danger of watching videos that we shouldn’t really watch, reading articles which are not helpful, and allowing the world to influence our thinking more than the Bible does.

The Bible tells us that we are in a spiritual battle, and that the devil will do whatever he can to tempt us to sin and to damage our witness to others.  We need to be aware of our own weaknesses, and if we find that our use of social media is leading us into sin, we need to take strong action!  (Matthew 18:9)

If you have read through this far, you may be feeling quite depressed about all the potential pitfalls and dangers of social media!  However, social media is not all bad, and the Bible says much about how we can use our time and our speech for good too.

We can use our time online to encourage and build others up (1 Thess 5:11), to help bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).  Social media helps us to be more aware than ever of the challenges that our friends are facing, which should inform our prayers for them and give us the opportunity to help them practically too.

If we are wise in how we use social media, we have the potential to share God’s love with far more people than we would otherwise reach just in our daily lives, and to bring honour to Him through that.

What a challenge!


Written by: Lis Rowe, member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Hymnspiration

Following the recent funeral of my wife’s mother, a believer, my mind was filled with thoughts of the temporal nature of life and the futility of the materialism which drives so much of people’s ambitions. The things of this life are so transient – if they do not break down, rust or rot, we will have to leave them all behind when we depart this life. Our Lord left behind his heavenly glory and continual presence with his Father to enter this hostile world in order to save all those who would come and put their trust in him, and ask his forgiveness for their sins. He had created the universe, yet owned nothing apart from his single tunic. He loved the world, yet his own people cruelly crucified him. He knew beforehand that this would happen, yet he went through with his mission in order to purchase for himself a bride with his own blood. He was driven by his love for us and out of obedience to his Father. He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven and is now preparing an eternal home in glory for his bride – the church. What should our response be? Should we not desire to offer ourselves as living sacrifices upon the altar of service to Christ, and should we not have a proper perspective on the things of this world and be joyful at the prospect ahead of us?

After retreating to our caravan for a period of refreshment following the bereavement, these thoughts began to crystallise in the form of a hymn, which is given below. Over the next few days I was inspired to write two further hymns. This has only happened previously on a couple of occasions, so it was not a common event for me.

I am going there to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2b)

 

L.M.
1. As I kneel down beneath the cross,
I count the world a happy loss;
If Christ had nothing when He died,
How can I grasp at wealth or pride?

2. My Lord has gone to make a place
For us to dwell with Him in peace;
He shall with us His riches share;
Our lasting bliss shall be His care.

3. With such a prospect, why can I
Be sad the world is passing by;
So turn my eyes, behold His face,
And praise Him for His matchless grace.
(To the tune Llef)

 

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, author and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Responding to Sin – Luke 18:9-14

(This is a summary of a sermon preached on Sunday evening 16/08/15)

Read Luke 18:9-14.

Morally, both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector began at the same place; that is, recognising that they were sinners. The Pharisee must have recognised at some point that he was a sinner before he could begin to try and earn his place in Heaven. However, knowing you’re a sinner isn’t enough. There needs to be a response – and the two have very different ways of responding to the knowledge of their sin:

  1. The Pharisee tries to undo his sin by being the best he can be. By doing this, he expects to be accepted by God because of his efforts and thinks he is better than everyone else. Salvation must be earned.
  1. The Tax Collector recognises that his sins are far too great to be dealt with by his own actions. So, he turns to the only hope he has left which is God and His mercy. Salvation must be given.

The one who goes home justified (key word in v.14) is the one who humbles himself. Remember, humbling ourselves is not something we can just decide to do. Ultimately, it is God who humbles us by bringing us to a point where there’s nothing else we can do but submit to Him. Humbling ourselves is a selfless response to God’s work of regeneration in us. Therefore, we cannot be self-righteous and think we have responded better than others. God gets all the glory because He humbled us through the conviction of sin and by graciously providing a way for redemption – through Christ alone.

It wasn’t the act of humbling himself that saved the tax collector – he could do nothing but be humbled by such a merciful God. It was irresistible grace. All of our praise therefore goes to God, and our hope is that because Christ has been exalted; He will exalt those whom He has humbled (v. 14b). Christ first humbled Himself by becoming a Man, and was humiliated by being crucified.

As He humbled himself, He humbles us. As He died on the cross, our sins died with Him. As He rose from death, we have been raised from our spiritual death. As He ascended into Heaven and is exalted, we too will be exalted with Him because of who He is and what He has done. It’s not our humility that saves us, but God’s mercy (v.13) expressed through sacrificing His Son.

 

Written by: Gwydion Emlyn, Assistant to the Pastor and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Where am I from? Why am I here?

Where have we come from? Why are we here? It’s interesting that as human beings we can and we do ask such questions.

My dog, Pip, is, as far as I know, totally unconcerned about such matters. His level of thinking revolves around his next meal, his next walk, or how to see off George the horse who lives in the field next door! But we do ask these questions and we desire answers.

 

Where are we from?

As far as we can learn from cosmologists (those who study ultimate origins of the physical universe), something quite awesome happened around 14 billion years ago. There was, it seems, a singularity, a minuscule dot with a diameter of 0.00000000000000000000000000000001m.

Everything we now know and see was in that dot. Although very small, it was very very hot in there! Outside the dot, there was nothing – not even space, and certainly no time.

Then, it all happened – the Big Bang as it has come to be known, happened. The dot rapidly expanded to form, billions of years later, all that we now see and know. There is good science to support this theory which you can read at your leisure online. But! The question remains unanswered. Where have we come from? What formed the dot?!

To get around this glaring problem, many cosmologists now propose something called “the multiverse”. Our universe, they say, could be but a tiny part in a whole series of universes! So, we came from something far grander than that singularity mentioned earlier. But this too fails to answer the question … It only pushes it further back and into a deeper fog. And that is it. In a few lines I have summed up cosmological answers to the question, “where are we from?”! As a scientist myself, I am not knocking science, but I am recognising its limits in being able to give an answer to such a fundamental question!

 

Why the hostility to God?

If I were to describe God as the First Being – of supreme intelligence, is that a problem?

There is no doubt that intelligence exists, the very fact that you are able to read this is amazing ( even more amazing if you are understanding it!!). An atheistic scientist would believe that The Big Bang, pure energy, eventually condensed to form matter (stars, planets) and riding on at least one of those planets, intelligent life formed. So, such scientists would say, pure energy produced intelligence … but the intelligence it produced cannot yet explain where the pure energy came from. All I am doing here is turning the argument around – is it not at least logically possible that in actual fact it is pure intelligence that has produced the energy and matter we now see and know?!

This is the clear statement of the Bible, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’

So, who made God? Ah, well here is a question that at least has a logical answer. By definition God is eternal. Being a pure Spirit, this is not a problem. Whereas matter and useful energy cannot be eternal (laws of thermodynamics), God can be and is. By definition He is also all powerful. This being so, He can create a universe. The language of Genesis is interesting, it states that God created the universe “out of nothing” the book of Hebrews in the New Testament confirms this (Hebrews 11:1-3).

So, in the Bible, in God, we have a logical, cogent answer to our most fundamental question. I can and do live with this – it satisfies. Science operates and rides on this. Good science can be done because God has created, by an act of pure spiritual power, a universe that can be observed, probed and explored.But that leads logically onto the other fundamental question.

 

Why are we here?

From a pure scientific viewpoint, there is no answer apart from “because we are.” This means we are simply an outcome of The Big Bang. We might not have been, but we are. We are hideously, pathetically small – and hideously vulnerable. One asteroid wipes us out … and then, would the universe even exist anymore without life to observe and appreciate it? The Bible gives a much brighter, more upbeat answer!

God made us “in His image”. That is, we have spirit. We think, plan, decide, ponder. We are creative, we communicate … There are reflections in every human being on a minuscule scale, of what God is on an unfathomable scale! And God made us in his image for one supreme purpose, a purpose which is beyond the grasp of my dog Pip – God made us to know him. Not simply to know about him (that would be dark religion) but to know him in a living, vital relationship.

Now, this too just rings so true! There are so many good things on planet earth. But, whatever we have and possess leaves us hungry for more. We would all admit that, above possessions, our greatest sense of fulfilment and happiness comes from loving relationships. When they are right, they are wonderful – when they go wrong, we are devastated. But even human relationships leave is unfulfilled – it seems there is always something missing. Well, the missing piece is the most vital piece … God. A great church leader once said, ” Our hearts are restless and have find no rest till they find their rest in Thee.”

 

The Answer to our Problem

The God who made us to know Him is clean, pure, righteous, holy, utter moral absolute perfection. We, however, are wrong on a most fundamental level. Genesis three gives the source of the problem. Sin. Sin separates us relationally from God. It has spoiled everything. It means we cannot know God, and our ultimate home, heaven is barred to us. All we have is this world … and a judgement to come.

Religion and morality are expressions of mankind’s desire to get back to God – but they fail miserably!

Into this bleak reality comes the astonishing goodness and mercy of God. He has provided the way. Not a way, The Way. Jesus Christ alone has succeeded in doing that which no human effort could ever achieve. He has dealt with human sin. He is Immanuel, God with us. In the One Person of Jesus we are presented with one who is fully God and yet fully man. As a man, he can deal with mankind’s problem. As God, there is infinite worth in what he did!

He lived a pure, perfect life – he did it for us! He died on the cross and in dying he suffered the eternal death that our sin deserves. His resurrection proves he is who he claimed to be, and that his work, WORKS!

Why are we here? To know God! How can we? Through his son, Jesus Christ. Repent and believe the good news!

 

Written by: Dr. Andrew Christofides, Pastor of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Used with permission by EMW. Original article published in EMW Magazine –  www.emw.org.uk/magazine