Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Ninth Sunday (or Last Sunday) after the Epiphany (Transfiguration of the Lord) – Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2 (or Psalm 99, suggested as an alternative for Ninth Sunday); 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

May our words point to Jesus Christ, the living Word of God.
Moses was alone with the Lord - receiving the Word of the Lord (Exodus 24:1-2). Moses went to the people - speaking the Word of the Lord (Exodus 24:3). There was also a written ministry of the Word (Exodus 24:4). At the heart of our worship, there is ‘the blood of the covenant’ (Exodus 24:8; 12:13; John 1:29; Hebrews 9:22; 10:4; 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7). Moses worshipped on ‘the mountain of God’ (Exodus 24:12-18). We worship ‘in spirit and truth’ (John 4:19-24). We come to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). We come on the basis of Christ’s blood shed for us (Hebrews 10:19-22). We come as those to whom the Spirit has been given (John 1:33; 3:34). With ‘the Spirit of God’ living in us and helping us as we pray, let us feast on Christ, the Truth, the living Word, to whom the written and spoken words point us (Romans 8:9,26; John 14:6; 1:1,14; 17:17).

May our words point to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In the second Psalm, we read of a conflict. On the one side, there is ‘the Lord and His Anointed’ (Psalm 2:2). On the other there are those who ‘conspire and ...plot’ (Psalm 2:1). The conspiracies and plots of men will come to nothing. The saving purpose of God will be fulfilled. This purpose will be accomplished in Christ, the One to whom God says, ‘You are My Son’ (Psalm 2:7), the One to whom God says, ‘I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession’ (Psalm 2:8). God calls us to worship Christ - ‘Kiss the Son’ (Psalm 2:12). This call to worship Christ is accompanied by a warning against judgment and a promise of salvation. As sinners, we are under God’s judgment. Trusting in Christ, we are saved (Psalm 2:12; John 3:36). We are to take delight in Christ. This is the thought conveyed by the phrase, ‘Kiss the Son’. We delight in God’s Son, and we delight in God’s Word which leads us to Him.

May our words be full of joyful worship.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4,6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’(Church Hymnary, 356).

May our words be full of heartfelt thanksgiving.
God ‘has given us His very great and precious promises’ (2 Peter 1:4). God has a great purpose for us. He is preparing for us ‘a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:11). The pathway to heavenly and eternal glory is not an easy one. Often, we will be tempted to settle for being ‘ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’. There will be many distractions, drawing our attention away from Christ. We must keep our eyes on Him if we are not to become ‘blind and short-sighted’. We can so easily forget the most important thing - we have been ‘cleansed from our old sins’. It is so important that we keep looking to Christ, remembering what He has done for us and giving thanks to Him (2 Peter 1:8-9). ‘The Lord’ will not fail us in our ‘trials’ (2 Peter 2:9). Let’s not fail Him!

May our words be full of divine glory.
There will come a time when the glory of God will be fully revealed - ‘the Son of man is going to come in His Father's glory’ (Matthew 16:27). Here on earth, there are ‘foretastes of glory divine’: Matthew 16:28 may be understood in connection with the transfiguration (Matthew 17:2) - the divine glory of heaven breaking through into our human life on earth. Revelations of glory prepared these men for discipleship. They turned their eyes upon Jesus (Matthew 17:8). They looked full in His wonderful face (Matthew 17:2). The things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace (Mission Praise, 59,712) - ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here’ (Matthew 17:4). The ‘mountain top’ experience could not be preserved - no ‘three shelters’ (Matthew 17:4)! We can continue to worship, hear Jesus’ words and look to Him (Matthew 17:6-8), rejoicing in His suffering for us (Matthew 17:12) and awaiting His return to ‘restore all things’ (Matthew 17:11).

Monday, 20 February 2017

Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 49:8-16a; Psalm 131; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34


Good News for everyone: Jesus Christ is our Redeemer.
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’. We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’ (Isaiah 49:26). ‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’- This is not something to keep to ourselves. We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!” Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’ (Mission Praise, 385). ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’ (Mark 16:15).

Good News for everyone: In Jesus Christ, there is “full redemption.”
We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’ (Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’ (Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’ (Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’- ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’- ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’ ‘Praise the Lord!... Give Him the glory!’ (Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

Let’s share the Good News in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As ‘servants of Christ’, we must concern ourselves with one thing - being ‘found faithful’. This is not a matter of pleasing people - ‘it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you...’. Pleasing God - this is the most important thing (1 Corinthians 4:1-4). Serving Christ is not easy. There are always those who are quick to pass judgment on the Lord’s servants. What does God say about this? - ‘Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes’ (1 Corinthians 4:9-13, 5). Being ‘found faithful’ is not just a matter of ‘saying the right words’. We must be the right people. This is what Paul means when he says, ‘The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power’ (1 Corinthians 4:20). ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses’(Acts 1:8; Romans 12:11).

Let’s share the Good News by living for Christ.
On the one side of Christ’s disciples, there are the hypocrites. On the other side, there are ‘the Gentiles’ (Matthew 6\;32). The hypocrites represent religion without reality. The Gentiles represent the world, living for material things only, refusing to take spiritual realities seriously. We are to be different from both the hypocrites and the Gentiles. Our top priority is pleasing God, not impressing men. We are to live for God’s eternal Kingdom rather than living for a world which is passing away. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. Our life is to be governed by heavenly, and not earthly, priorities (Matthew 6:19-21). We are to walk in the light, refusing to be overcome by the darkness (Matthew 6:22-23). We are to trust the Lord, refusing to let unbelieving anxiety rule our lives (Matthew 6:25-34).

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany – Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; Psalm 119:33-40; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48

Holiness and love

Holiness and love - the two belong together (Leviticus 19:1, 18, 34).
God calls us to live a life of holiness, a life of love.
Through His Spirit - the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love - , He enables us to live this life.
We need His promises. We need His commands. Take them both together - not one without the other! Promises without commands - We take God for granted, we presume on His blessing. Commands without promises - Our 'obedience' becomes a legalistic thing which has nothing to do with the Gospel of grace.
We are to 'be holy... before Him in love' (Ephesians 1:4). 'The holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 12:14) is to be accompanied by the 'love' without which we are 'nothing' (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The Lord has redeemed us: By His grace, we shall 'be holy... in love' (Leviticus 19:34, 36).

Through the Scriptures of truth, we are led on the pathway of holiness and love.

‘Revive me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:25).
How does God revive us according to His Word?
- He gives us His salvation: ‘Let Your unfailing love come to me, O Lord - Your salvation according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:41).
- He gives us His strength: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:28).
- He gives us a change of heart: ‘I have chosen the way of truth; I have set
my heart on Your laws... I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free... Give me understanding, and I will keep Your law and obey it with my whole heart... Turn my heart to Your testimonies...’ (Psalm 119:30, 32, 34, 36).
- He gives us ‘new life’: ‘When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!’(40; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Through the Spirit of grace, we are led on the pathway of holiness and love.
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’ leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14).
The Pharisees lived by law. Jesus lived by love.
The law of God - ‘holy and just and good’ (Romans 7:12) - had been distorted by the religious hypocrites. They were saying, ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’(Matthew 5:43). ‘Love your neighbour’ is found in Leviticus 19:18. ‘Hate your enemy’ is not found in the Old Testament. For the Jews, ‘neighbour’ meant their own kind. They wrongly concluded that Gentiles were to be hated.
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we are to love our enemies as well as our friends (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus’ disagreement is not with the law of God. It is with man’s misuse of it. Jesus’ teaching is simple - Love is not to be limited. It is demanding - love is all-embracing. We dare not bring love within our reach. We always fall short. We can only come to Christ. Confessing our lack of love and trusting in His perfect love, we learn to love.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany – Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37


Hearing and Obeying God’s Word
For Israel, a real turning to the Lord with ‘all the heart and soul’ involved obedience to ‘His commandments... written in this book of the law’ (Deuteronomy 30:10).
We are not left wondering what God wants us to do - ‘...the Word is very near you...’ (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Through His Word, God ‘sets before’ us a choice. He calls us to ‘choose life’ (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Joshua was to succeed Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1-2, 7-8). Conflict lay ahead. God’s people needed His Word of encouragement: ‘Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them’.
Beyond the conflict, there would be triumph. God gave His Word of promise: ‘It is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Turning from the people to Joshua, Moses spoke the same words (Deuteronomy 31:7-8). Hear; Learn to fear the Lord; Be careful to obey His Word (Deuteronomy 31:12-13).

Following Christ
The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1, 9, 11, 17).
Many will choose the way of disobedience - ‘influential people sit together and slander me’. We must choose the way of obedience - ‘Your servant will meditate on Your teachings’ (Psalm 119:23).
Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us - ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20) - and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus... The world behind me, the Cross before me... Though none go with me, I still will follow... No turning back, no turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.
The teaching of Jesus here may be summed up thus: The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Jesus’ teaching was much more penetrating than the pronouncements made by the scribes and Pharisees. Not content to scratch the surface, Jesus asked the deeper question, ‘What's going on in your heart?’. Jesus’ teaching has real spiritual depth. He takes seriously the Biblical teaching that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt’(Jeremiah 17:9). He knows that we need a ‘new heart’(Ezekiel 36:26). The Pharisees were bogged down in intricate details - Do this. Do that. Do the other. All the emphasis was on what we do. Christ was much more direct - Get the heart right.
Ask God for a heart of love (Matthew 5:21-26), purity (Matthew 5:27-32), and truthfulness (Matthew 5:33-37). Do not say, ‘Look what I've done’(7:22).
Let Christ live in your heart; let Him change you. Never think too highly of yourself. Always remember this - ‘only God ... gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

Monday, 6 February 2017

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12); Psalm 112:1-9, (10); 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16); Matthew 5:13-20


Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we receive peace and joy.
‘To the far and to the near’, God speaks His Word of ‘peace’ (Isaiah 57:19). Christ is God’s Word of ‘peace’ (Ephesians 2:13-14). Christ is for ‘the Jews’. Christ is for ‘the Gentiles’.
There is one way of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. We must put our ‘faith’ in Him. Through Him, we have ‘peace with God’ (Romans 3:29-30; 5:1).
God’s Word invites us to ‘call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved’ (Isaiah 58:9; Acts 2:21). In Christ, there is true ‘joy’- ‘I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation...’ (Isaiah 58:14; 61:10).
We rejoice in Jesus Christ. He is ‘the High and Exalted One’. He has come from His ‘high and holy place’. He has become ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God with us’. He is our peace and joy, our Saviour and our God’ (Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 1:21, 23; John 20:28).

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we offer to God our triumphant praise.
‘Praise the Lord... To Him belongs eternal praise... Blessed is the man who fears the Lord... His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes...’ (Psalms 111:1, 10; 112:1, 8).
Those who ‘fear the Lord’ have no need to live in fear of man. Those who know that ‘eternal praise belongs to the Lord’ can face their enemies with confidence. Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is in the Lord.
We know how good the Lord has been to us - ‘He provided redemption for His people’. We have heard and believed the Good News of Christ. We need not ‘fear’ any ‘bad news’ which the devil sends our way. We ‘trust in the Lord’, confident that the ‘light ‘will triumph over the ‘darkness’. The Good News of Christ will triumph over the devil’s bad news (Psalms 111:9; 112:4, 7).

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we serve God and we pray for His blessing.
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14).
We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - ‘What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants...’. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - ‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
We are not members of a ‘mutual appreciation society’- ‘You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours’! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).
Let ‘Jesus take the highest honour’. Let His Name be ‘the Name high over all’. ‘’Tis all my business... to cry Behold the Lamb!’(Mission Praise, 378,385) - Let’s say it and mean it!

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we walk in the way of holiness and happiness.
Holiness is to be seen. Happiness is to be shared. We are not to be secret disciples.
It will not be easy to live the life of Christ’s disciples.
In a world of much corruption, we are to be ‘the salt of the earth’ (Matthew 5:13). In a world of much darkness we are to be ‘the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14).
If we are to bring the refreshing light of Christ into our world, we ourselves must receive spiritual refreshment as we let the light of God’s Word shine on our lives.
Reading God’s Word can never be a purely personal thing. Being ‘the salt of the earth’and ‘the light of the world’- this is what Jesus says we are- , we read Scripture with a view to learning how we are to live in the world. Don’t lose your saltiness. Be salty enough to create a thirst for God in other people. Don’t let your light grow dim. Let it shine brightly. Remember - all the glory belongs to God (Matthew 5:16; Psalm 115:1).
In Matthew 5:20, Jesus refers to ‘the scribes and Pharisees’. He warns us against the shallow superficiality of these men who were more concerned with outward appearances than inner reality.
This conflict with the Jewish religious leaders lies close to the surface in the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus says, ‘This is their way. This is My way’, He is not calling in question the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures: ‘Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them’ (Matthew 5:17). He is in conflict with ‘the hypocrites’ (Matthew 6:2 5,16). He is warning us against the ‘false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves’ (Matthew 7:15).
What a difference there was between Jesus’ teaching and those who ‘preach, but do not practise’ (Matthew 23:3) - He spoke with ‘authority’, they did not (Matthew 7:29).
May we be like Jesus!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

From Genesis to Revelation in a Year: 1st-7th February - Leviticus 1-19

These notes are also being posted, day-by,day, at From Genesis to Revelation in a Year.

1st February - Leviticus 1-4

1:1-2:16 -  Jesus Christ, ‘the Lamb without blemish’, has ‘made atonement’ for sin through the shedding of His ‘precious blood’ (1:3-5; 1 Peter 1:18-19). This offering of Christ – He ‘loved us and gave Himself up for us’ – is ‘a pleasing odour to the Lord’, ‘a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (1:9,13,17; Ephesians 5:2). Read of the ‘cereal offering’ in which there was to be ‘no leaven’ (2:11). Think of Christ – ‘Our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed’: ‘Let us celebrate the festival (the Lord’s Supper)… with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). May our worship – ‘frankincense’: an expression of worship (Matthew 2:11) – be filled with ‘the oil of gladness’, ‘with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ (Psalm 45:7; Luke 3:16). Such worship is ‘most holy… to the Lord’ (2:3,10).
3:1-4:35 -  Christ is the real thing. Israel’s sacrifices are only ‘copies of the heavenly things’, ‘a shadow of the good things to come’ (Hebrews 9:23-24; 10:1,5-10). As you read of the ‘peace offering’, rejoice in this: ‘we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1). We look to Christ, and we say, ‘He is our peace’ (Ephesians 2:14). Christ is ‘our sin offering’ – ‘offered… to bear the sins of many (4:3; Hebrews 9:28). The ‘blood’ has been shed – We have been ‘washed… in the blood of the Lamb’ (4:5-7; Revelation 7:14). Christ went ‘outside the camp’ for us: He ‘suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood’ (4:12; Hebrews 13:11-12). For Christ, there was suffering. For us, there is forgiveness – ‘he shall be forgiven’ (26,31,35).

2nd February - Leviticus 5-6

5:1-6:30 -  Christ’s sacrifice covers every sin. No matter what your sin may be, you can bring it to Him for forgiveness. ‘If any man sins’ – Take your sin to Christ: He has ‘made atonement for sin’ (5:1,6,10,13-14,16; 6:2,7). ‘Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’ (Mark 3:28-30) does not refer to some specific, identifiable sin, which lies beyond God’s power to forgive. It refers to your persistent refusal to bring your sins to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and leads to the Saviour (John 16:8-9,14). Let Him show you your sin. Let Him lead you to your Saviour. ‘It is a thing most holy’ (6:17) – Never forget God’s holiness. Christ’s death speaks of both holiness and love. In holiness, God pronounces His judgment on sin. In love, He provides forgiveness for sinners.

3rd February - Leviticus 7-8

7:1-38 -  As we read about the sacrifices, rejoicing in Christ – the perfect Sacrifice for sin – , let us bring our sacrifice of ‘thanksgiving’ (12-13,15). ‘Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God’ (Hebrews 13:15). Let it be ‘a living sacrifice’, the sacrifice of our lives – this is ‘our spiritual worship’ (Romans 12:1). God’s salvation is ‘to the praise of His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6). ‘We bring the sacrifice of praise… We offer up to You the sacrifices of thanksgiving… the sacrifices of joy’. ‘Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God, In every part with praise… Not for the lip of praise alone nor e’en the praising heart, I ask, but for a life made up of praise in every part’ (Mission Praise, 722; Church Hymnary, 457). Still ‘in the wilderness’ (38), let us learn to worship as we travel to ‘the promised land’!
8:1-36 -  ‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded to be done’ (5): For us, it must be ‘as the Lord commanded’ (4,9,13,17,21,29,36). God calls us to serve Him (Hebrews 5:4-5). Obedience to God, love for God – These are to be our priorities (1 Samuel 15:22; 1 Corinthians 13:3). Christ is to be our ‘first love’ (Revelation 2:4).  Washed, robed, anointed (6-7,12): Our robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, we have this anointing – ‘to preach the Gospel…’ (Revelation 7:14; Luke 4:18-19).   Ears, hands and feet: Consecrated by the blood of Christ to hear the Word of the Lord, do the work of the Lord and walk in the way of the Lord  (24), we must pray for a change of heart – ‘O for a heart to praise my God, a heart from sin set free; a heart that always feels Thy blood so freely shed for me’ (Church Hymnary, 85).

4th February - Leviticus 9-10
9:1-10:20 -  Aaron had to make atonement for himself and for the people (9:7). Christ did not need to make atonement for Himself – He was ‘without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15). In Christ, we are ‘accepted’. In Him there is blessing, glory and joy (9:22-24; Ephesians 1:6,3; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Peter 1:8). God has given us ‘holy fire’. Let us not try to do His work with ‘unholy fire’ (10:1-2; Acts 2:3-4). To those who seek to live ‘as the Lord has commanded’ (9:7; 10:15), God promises to reveal His holiness, nearness and glory (10:3). Do you want to draw near to God, to become ‘mature’ in Christ? – Learn ‘to distinguish between the holy and the common… the unclean and the clean… good and evil’ (10:10; Hebrews 5:14). God reveals the glory of His holiness. Let us confess our sins, be forgiven and be obedient. (Isaiah 6:3-8).

5th February - 11:1-14:32

11:1-47 -  God sees only two types of people: ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’. All of us are ‘in Adam’ (sinners). Not all are ‘in Christ’ (saved) (Romans 5:12-21). How about you? – Are you cleansed, forgiven, born again, saved, committed (1 John 1:7,9; John 3:7; Acts 16:31; 2 Timothy 1:12)? Or, are you still in your sins, guilty of neglecting God’s great salvation, not far from – yet still outside of – God’s Kingdom, almost persuaded but still uncommitted (John 8:24; 9:41; Hebrews 2:3; Acts 26:28)? Before the call to holiness (45), there is the call to salvation. Give your heart to Christ. This is where holiness begins (Mark 7:14-23). Holiness is not our own achievement – ‘God is at work in you’ (Philippians 2:13). Remember: Our holiness is grounded in His redemption (45). Feed on His Word – and let holiness grow (Psalm 119:9-11).
12:1-13:46 -  How can I be made clean (12:8)? – This is the vital question to which the Gospel gives its emphatic answer. We ask, ‘What can wash away my stain?’. The answer is given, ‘Nothing but the blood of Jesus’. We ask, ‘Has atonement been made for my sin’ (12:8)?’. The answer is clear: ‘Christ has for sin atonement made’. You can be ‘washed in the blood of the Lamb’. What water cannot do, Christ does for us. The water used in baptism – ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’! – cannot wash away our sin. It can only point beyond itself to Christ’s Cross, where we hear the Good News: ‘There is wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb’ (Redemption Hymnal, 333,615,309,288). Confess your sin – ‘Unclean, unclean’ (13:45). Christ will change you – beginning with your ‘heart’ (12:3; Romans 2:28-29).
13:47-14:32 -  We read about skin disease.  Remember: there is also the sin disease – and we’re all suffering from that!.  Sin is a deadly ‘cancer’ for which there is only one treatment: ‘Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus’ (Redemption Hymnal, 333).  The new birth – like physical birth – is a unique, once-for-all, experience: it is the beginning of the Christian life (John 3:3-6).  Many times over, we will need to be ‘washed a second time’ (58).  Justification (Romans 5:1) happens in a moment: ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. Sanctification (Romans 6:13,19). lasts a lifetime: ‘Take time to be holy…(Mission Praise, 708,625). God loves us: He will help us to ‘be holy’ (1 Peter 1:16).

6th February - Leviticus 14:33- 15:33
14:33-15:33 -  You can get ‘dry rot’ in people – as well as houses (14:34; Hebrews 12:15)!  Sin is like ‘a wasting disease’ (Psalm 106:13-15).  It will only get worse – unless something is done about it!  Sin spreads. and spreads, and…  Can anything be done about this sad situation?  Look into yourself, and you will find that the situation is hopeless (Romans 7:14-20).  Look to Christ, and there is hope: ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Romans 5:20).  Sin is not to be taken lightly.  Don’t underestimate the power of sin.  Little by little, it will lure you away from Christ.  Keep close to Jesus, rejoicing in this: ‘He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4).  God calls for holiness: ‘your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit’;  ‘present your bodies…to God’ (1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 12:1).

7th February - Leviticus 16-19

16:1-34 -  God is ‘holy‘. We cannot ‘draw near’ and ‘come’ to Him without a ‘sin offering’ (1-3).  We cannot bring ‘a sin offering’ to Him.  We can only bring our sin:  Our righteousness is ‘like filthy rags’ (Isaiah  64:6).  There is a ‘way’ for sinners to ‘draw near’ to God:  Christ is the true and living Way (John 14:6; Hebrews 10:19-22).  In verses 20-22, we have a great picture of Christ bearing the sin of the world: ‘Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood… Full atonement, – Yes it is! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’ (Church Hymnary, 380).  Atonement has been made for us…We have been cleansed from all our sins (30):  What a perfect atonement!  What a perfect Saviour! – ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6:14).
17:1-18:23 -  We are to be devoted ‘to the Lord’ (17:4-6,9):  ‘You are not your own; you were bought with a price’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Underlying Christ’s atoning death, there is this principle: ‘the life… is in the blood… I have given it for you… to make atonement…’ (17:11).  Christ has shed His blood:  He has given His life that we might have life.  God looks upon His Son, crucified for us: He ‘has commanded the blessing, life for evermore’ (Psalm 133:3).  We confess our sin, acknowledging that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins’ (Hebrews 9:22).  With grateful thanksgiving, we rejoice in our Saviour, ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).  ‘Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power…’ (Mission Praise, 671).
18:24-19:37 -  Holiness and love – the two belong together (1,18,34).  God calls us to live a life of holiness, a life of love.  Through His Spirit – the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love – , He enables us to live this life.  We need His promises.  We need His commands.  Take them both together – not one without the other!  Promises without commands – We take God for granted, we presume on His blessing.  Commands without promises – Our ‘obedience’ becomes a legalistic thing which has nothing to do with the Gospel of grace.  We are to ‘be holy… before Him in love‘ (Ephesians 1:4).  ‘The holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14) is to be accompanied by the ‘love’ without which we are ‘nothing’ (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  The Lord has redeemed us: By His grace, we shall ‘be holy… in love’ (34,36).

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12

We find God’s blessing when we come to worship Jesus Christ.
In Micah 5:2, we have a prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus at ‘Bethlehem’. This prophecy invites us to ‘go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’.
At ‘Bethlehem’, we see ‘shepherds, glorifying and praising God’ (Luke 2:15,20). We also see Jesus our Shepherd. He is the One whom the shepherds worshipped. He is the One who ‘will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord...’
- He is ‘the Good Shepherd’. He ‘laid down His life’ for us.
- He is ‘the Great Shepherd’. He ‘was raised from the dead’ for us.
- He is ‘the Chief Shepherd’. He will ‘come’ again for us (5:4; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4).
Jesus, our ‘Shepherd’, gives us ‘strength’ to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8).

God’s blessing increases as we build our life upon Jesus Christ.
Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us.
This is our assurance of faith: ‘The Lord restores the fortunes of His people’. He makes us ‘glad’ - In Him, we ‘rejoice’ (Psalm 14:7).
God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you ‘shall never be moved’ (Psalm 15:5).
We long for God’s blessing, ‘O that salvation...would come...’ (Psalm 14:7). He will not disappoint us.
Do not be ‘the fool’ who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’ (Psalm 14:1).
‘Fear the Lord’- ‘and give Him glory’ (Psalm 15:4; Revelation 14:7).
We are to ‘act wisely’- ‘seeking after God’, ‘calling upon the Lord’ (Psalm 14:2,4). Do you want to ‘dwell on God’s holy hill’ (Psalm 15:1)? - ‘There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode...’ (Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).

Every blessing we enjoy comes from the Lord. All the glory belongs to Him.
Paul preached ‘Christ crucified’ with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’(1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).

We enjoy God’s blessing most when we share it with others.
In Matthew 5:1, we see both ‘the disciples’ and ‘the crowds’.
The disciples are taught with a view to becoming teachers of the crowds.
Jesus’ ministry to the disciples had a dual purpose.
- It was for their own spiritual strengthening.
- It was training for the time when they would be entrusted with the Lord's commission: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28: 19-20).
Do we read God’s Word solely for our own benefit? Or, do we have an eye for ways in which we can learn to share His Word with others?
In Matthew 5:3-12, ‘The Beatitudes’ show us God’s way of blessing. In verses 3-10, we have the general principles. In verses 11-12, we are challenged to apply these principles to ourselves: ‘Blessed are you...’
We might also describe them as the Be Attitudes, since they show us what we are to be.
Jesus teaches us that the way to happiness is the way of holiness.
The only alternative to the way of holiness is the way of hypocrisy. There can be no true happiness when we are walking in the way of hypocrisy.
Holiness is to take shape in our lives - the shape of Jesus Christ living in us. This is the truly happy life: the Christ-centered life.
We are not to live according to present appearances. We are to live in the light of the future Reality of God's heavenly Kingdom.
We are not only to read the Beatitudes. We are to live them.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

From Genesis to Revelation in a Year: 25th-31st January - Exodus 23-40

These notes are also being posted, day-by-day, at From Genesis to Revelation in a Year.

25th January - Exodus 23-25

23:1-33  -  God is love: He loves ‘the stranger’ (9). God is holy: He ‘will not acquit the wicked’ (7). He wants to reproduce His love and holiness - in us. Not holiness without love: that is self-righteous legalism. Not love without holiness: that is spineless sentimentalism. To Israel, He sent 'an angel...' (20). To us, He has sent Christ: He is the Way to the place prepared for us (John 14:2-3,6). Through the Holy Spirit, Christ continues His ministry among us (John 14:25-26). ‘Pay attention’ to the words of Christ. ‘Listen’ for the voice of the Holy Spirit (21). Do not ‘quench’ or ‘grieve’ the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). It may take time - ‘little by little’ (30) - but God will work through his obedient people - ‘I will... you shall...’ (30-31).
24:1-18  -  Moses was alone with the Lord - receiving the Word of the Lord (1-2). Moses went to the people - speaking the Word of the Lord (3). There was also a written ministry of the Word (4). At the heart of our worship, there is ‘the blood of the covenant’ (8; 12:13; John 1:29; Hebrews 9:22; 10:4; 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7). Moses worshipped on ‘the mountain of God’ (12-18). We worship ‘in spirit and truth’ (John 4:19-24). We come to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). We come on the basis of Christ’s blood shed for us (Hebrews 10:19-22). We come as those to whom the Spirit has been given (John 1:33; 3:34). With ‘the Spirit of God’ living in us and helping us as we pray, let us feast on Christ, the Truth, the living Word, to whom the written and spoken words point us (Romans 8:9,26; John 14:6; 1:1,14; 17:17).
25:1-40  -  This is full of Christ! We don't ‘read into’ the Old Testament things which aren’t really there. We read this part of Scripture in the light of the full revelation of God. We see Christ as the Central Theme. Above everything else and everyone else, there is Jesus Christ our Saviour. God dwells among His people (8). Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). God is merciful to us (17-22; Psalm 103:8-12; Micah 7:18-19). Through Christ, we have received ‘mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4-7; Titus 3:4-7). From ‘mercy’ we move on to 'testimony' (18). The two are vitally related (1 Timothy 1:12-17). The ‘bread of the Presence’ (30) turns our thoughts to the Cross. The ‘lampstand of pure gold’ calls us to shine brightly for Christ, who ‘came... to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

26th January: Exodus 26:1-29:9

26:1-37  -  From the outside, it was a ‘tent’. On the inside, the tabernacle was a place of great beauty. Many look at Christ, and see ‘no beauty that we should desire Him’ (Isaiah 53:2). The believer looks at Christ, and says, ‘You are beautiful beyond description, too marvellous for words, too wonderful for comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard’ (Mission Praise, 788). The ‘veil’ has been removed (2 Corinthians 4:3-4,6). Our sin had separated us from God, hiding His face from us (Isaiah 59:2). When Christ died, ‘the curtain of the temple was torn in two...’ (Mark 15:37-38). He has changed everything (Hebrews 9:7-8,11-12). Once, we were ‘separated... alienated... strangers... far off’. Now, we are ‘in Christ Jesus’ - ‘brought near in the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13; Hebrews 10:19-22).
27:1-19  -  We highlight two interesting phrases - (a) ‘as you were shown on the mountain’ (8); (b) ‘towards the sunrise’ (13, New International Version). We need both ‘the Scriptures’ and ‘the power of God’ (Mark 12:24). Our faith is based on divine revelation - ‘according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We are ‘not’ to ‘go beyond what is written’ (1 Corinthians 4:6). Face the risen Son - We may not always be facing the rising sun, but we should always be facing the risen Son! The revelation, the resurrection, the Scriptures, the Son - these are the great focal-points of our Christian Faith: God has revealed Himself, Christ has risen. Encouraged by the Scriptures, and empowered by the Son, we face the risen Son and we say, ‘I will proclaim the glory of the risen Lord’ (Romans 15:4; Matthew 28:18-20; Mission Praise, 14).
27:20-29:9  -  The ‘lamp’ was ‘set up to burn continually’ (27:20) - ‘May we be a shining light... Let the flame burn brighter...’ (Songs of Fellowship 389; Mission Praise, 743). A ‘royal priesthood’, we have been called by God - to let His light shine (1 Peter 2:9). He has called us to serve Him (28:1 John 15:16; Acts 20:28; 13:2; 9:15; Hebrews 5:4). The divine call is accompanied by a divine empowering - ‘the Holy Spirit sent from heaven’ (1 Peter 1:12). We are precious to God - Our ‘names’ are written on His heart (9-12,21,29-30; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; John 10:3). In Christ we are cleansed (29:4 1 John 1:7), anointed (29:7; 1 John 2:27) and robed (29:5-6,8-9; Isaiah 61:10). In Christ, we have ‘the best robe’ (28:2; Luke 15:22; Revelation 7:9-10,13-14). In Him, we are ‘consecrated’ by the Word and ‘anointed’ by the Spirit (28:3,41; John 17:17; 14:16-17, 26; 16:13-14).

27th January: Exodus 29:10-32:14

29:10-46  -  There is a great contrast between the many sacrifices of the Old Testament and the one sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:25-28; 10:1-4, 10-14). Looking to Christ, we focus attention on verses 42-46. For God’s people, ‘the tent of meeting’ was a special place concerning which God said, ‘I will meet with you, to speak there to you. There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by My glory’ (42-43). Let us pray that, in both the pulpit and the pew, there will be the glory of God. Aaron and his sons were ‘consecrated to serve’ (44). We look beyond them to Christ who ‘came... to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). He dwells among us (45; John 1:14). He has provided for us a ‘better’ redemption than the redemption of Israel from Egypt - He is ‘much more excellent’ (46; Hebrews 8:6; 9:23-24).
30:1-38  -  The Word of God (‘the testimony’) declares the mercy of God, leading to our meeting with God (6). We highlight several features of our worship: (a) ‘the blood of the sin offering of atonement’ (10) - This points to the ‘how much more’ sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for us (Hebrews 9:13-14); (b) ‘washing’ (18) - Christ ‘has washed us from our sins in His blood’ (Revelation 1:5; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5-6); (c) ‘holy anointing oil’ (25) - We are to be ‘consecrated’, ‘most holy’, servants of the Lord, ‘making holiness perfect in the fear of God’, living in the power of the Holy Spirit (29-30; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Zechariah 4:6); (d) ‘incense’ (35) - We are to be ‘the aroma of Christ’, spreading His ‘fragrance’ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Christlike living is grounded in prayer (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4; Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
31:1-32:14  -  Called’ by God and ‘filled’ with His Spirit (31:1-3), Bezalel had the support of Oholiab and ‘all able men’ (31:6). Few may be called and equipped to lead, but many are required for God’s work to be done - effectively (1 Corinthians 12:4-10). ‘All’ of us receive our strength from the ‘Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:11). We offer ourselves in service with this faith, ‘Jesus is Lord’. Faith is God’s gift: ‘no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’. There are many gifts. They are varied expressions of one gift - the faith which confesses that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). The people fell into idolatry and immorality (32:6): a ‘warning’ to us (1 Corinthians 10:6-12). We have God’s help - to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10: 13). Moses sets for us a godly example: he spent time with God, hearing His voice and prevailing in prayer (32:1,7-14).

28th January - Exodus 32:15-34:35

32:15-33:23  -  In Moses, we see the holiness and love of God: a deep hatred of sin (32:19), an intense longing for sinners to be forgiven (32). Filled with ‘the fear of the Lord’, Moses was fearless before men. God’s Word to sinners is clear: He warns them (Proverbs 29:1); He calls them to repent (Acts 2:38); He invites them to return to Him (Hosea 6:1). Moses’ faithful and fearless preaching emerged from his closeness to God: ‘The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend’ (11). Moses prayed; God heard; God answered (33:17). Moses prayed for a revelation of God’s glory (33:18). God revealed Himself as the good God, the God of grace and mercy (33:19). Let us go up to God and bring down all that is needed to build the Body of Christ that God may take pleasure in it and that He may appear in His glory (Haggai 1:8).
34:1-35  -  God gives His promise (33:19). God keeps His promise (5-7). The glory of Christ is revealed to those who are learning to love Him (John 14:21). We are not yet ready for the full glory (33:20). When Christ returns, ‘we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2). There is to be ‘no other god’ but the Lord (14). We are not to be squeezed into the world’s mould (Romans 12:2). ‘No molten gods’, ‘no graven image’ - We are to be remoulded by God, ‘conformed to the image of His Son’ (17; 20:4; Romans 12:2; 8:29). Moses’ face was shining - Other people noticed (29)! Let others see Christ in you. Never take pride in your own spirituality - ‘If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not know (the Lord) as he ought to know (Him)’ (1 Corinthians 8:2). Keep your eyes on Jesus. The glory comes from Him. No glory for me - All glory to Him (2 Corinthians 3:18)!

29th January - Exodus 35-37

35:1-36:7  -  The work of God is shared by many different people with many different gifts. The work is done according to (a) the Lord’s command (35:1,4,10; 36:1,5); (b) heartfelt obedience (21; 36:3,5-7); (c) the God-given abilities (24-25; 36:2,4,8). There is something for ‘everyone’ to do - everyone ‘whose heart is stirred whose spirit is moved’ (21). Many gifts are needed (31-35). Underlying them all, there is this: ‘filled with the Spirit of God’ (31). In God’s work, there is to be ‘full’ obedience. When we are fully obedient, there will be ‘an overflowing blessing’ (Malachi 3:10). ‘The people bring much more than enough...’. There ‘was sufficient to do all the work, and more’ (36:5,7). God is ready to bless. Are we ready to obey? ‘If my people... I will...’(2 Chronicles 7:14). ‘Always abounding in the work of the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 15:58)!
36:8-38  -  Moses may have been the leader among God’s people, but he could not do all the work by himself! Two of his helpers - Bezalel and Oholiab - are named (1-2). Most - ‘all the able men’ - remain anonymous (8). Anonymous yet indispensable - Without them, the work of God would have been left undone! To those who are full of their own importance, God says, ‘No-one is indispensable. I will find someone else to do My work’. To those who, without fuss, get on with doing His work, God says, ‘You are my servants, through whom My work will make good progress’. Building Christ’s Church is a long process, involving suffering and disappointments as well as hard-fought victories. In so many ways, the tabernacle pointed to Christ: ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). May God help us to lead many people to Christ!
37:1-29  -  Pure gold (2,6,11,16-17,22-24, 26); Jesus Christ is ‘pure gold’. He is ‘God with us’. His body was broken for us. We feed on Him, the living Bread. His light is shining. He spreads the fragrance of His holiness, and the aroma of His love (Matthew 1:23; Luke 22:19; John 6:35; 8:12; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Read about the ark, the mercy seat, the table, the lampstand, the altar of incense, the holy anointing oil... Think of Christ: He is the ‘mercy seat of pure gold’ (6). ‘The Lord is merciful and gracious...’: In mercy, He withholds His judgment from us - He is ‘slow to anger’. In grace, He pours His blessing on us - He is ‘abounding in steadfast love’ (Psalm 103:8). We deserve judgment. We receive salvation. Why? Christ took our judgment that we might receive His salvation. This is the Gospel - and it is ‘pure gold’!

30th January - Exodus 38-39
38:1-31  -  We read, in verse 8, of  ‘the ministering women...’. See also 35:25-26,29 - ‘all women ... all the women... All the men and women...’. Male and female - We need each other. We are ‘one in Christ Jesus’. In Him, ‘there is neither male nor female’ (Galatians 3:28). There should never be a competitive spirit. We are to complement each other. In verse 25, we read of ‘the silver from those of the congregation’. God’s work does not depend entirely on those who have been called to be leaders. Each of us must play our part. There should be no pulling in different directions. We belong together. We are to work together. Let’s pull together, pooling our resources, pulling our weight. Among God’s people, there is ‘gold’ - but it must be ‘used for the work’ (24). Will you be worth your weight in gold - for God?
39:1-43  -  ‘As the Lord had commanded...’ (1,5,7,21,26,29,31-32,42-43): Obedience to God - this is the most important thing. ‘And Moses blessed them’ (43): Where there is obedience, there is blessing - there’s a vital connection between the two. In Jesus, we see perfect obedience: ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Jesus was fully obedient to the Father’s will: ‘He became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross’ (Philippians 2:8). Through His obedience, there is blessing for us: ‘by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous’ (Romans 5:19). We look beyond the Old Testament priesthood to Christ, the ‘High Priest of the good things that have come’ - By ‘His own blood’, He has secured for us ‘an eternal redemption’ (Hebrews 9:11-12).

31st January - Exodus 40
40:1-38  -  Here, we highlight three lessons: (a) The work of God begins with the Word of God:  ‘The Lord said to Moses...’ (1). Before we can do anything for God, we must be taught by God. (b) The work of God must proceed in the way of God: ‘Thus did Moses; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did’ (16). If we are to accomplish anything for God, we must do God’s work in God’s way. (c) The work of God must lead to the worship of God: ‘The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle’ (34). If we are really seeking to work for God, we must seek to give Him the glory for all that is accomplished. Making these our priorities - the Word, way and worship of God - , we will look for ‘the cloud and fire’, the presence and power of God among us:  He will be our Guide ‘throughout all our journeys’ (38).

Monday, 23 January 2017

Third Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23


God has kept His promise. Christ has come. Let us rejoice in Him.
The prophecy has been spoken - ‘To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given... .’ The prophecy has been fulfilled - ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord’. Jesus Christ is our great Saviour. He is our ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6: Luke 2:11).
Jesus Christ has brought to us a great salvation. Through faith in Him, we enter God’s heavenly and eternal ‘Kingdom’ (Isaiah 9:7: Luke 1:30-33). This is ‘Good News of great joy’- for ‘all the people’, for ‘all generations’.
Let us rejoice in the Lord, as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did - ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour... for the Mighty One has done great things for me... .’ Let us join with the angels in saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest...’ (Luke 2:10; 1:46-50; 2:14).

Worship the Lord, wait on Him and walk with Him.
God’s love for us inspires our loyalty to Him: ‘Your love is ever before me, and I will walk continually in Your truth’ (Psalm 26:3).
Loyalty to the Lord involves worshipping Him and walking with Him (Psalm 26:11-12).
Walking with God is not easy. There are ‘enemies round about’ us (Psalms 26:4-5, 9-10; 27:2-3, 6 ,11-12). What are we to do? We are to worship God: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’ (Psalm 27:4).
What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing - ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’ (Psalm 27:14).
Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear … I will be confident’ (Psalm 27:1, 3).

How are we to worship the Lord, wait on the Lord and walk with Him?
* “The Word of the Cross … is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
I knew a man called John Mutch. He said to me, “Think much of the blood”. I called this the “much” (or “Mutch”) theology.
Let your faith be centred on “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and, strengthened with the joy of the Lord, you will grow strong in a life of worshipping God, waiting on Him and walking with Him.
* Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).
Any progress we make in following Christ and becoming fishers of men is based on this – a deep awareness of this: we have been redeemed ... with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).
- Let our worship be filled with heartfelt gratitude for the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
- Let our waiting on God be centred on Christ crucified and filled with a growing confidence in the Father’s love, so wonderfully revealed to us in the Cross of Christ: He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not give us all things with Him? (Romans 8:32); If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:14).
- Let our walking with God be filled the joy which comes from knowing that Christ is our Saviour. We walk in the Spirit when we say, from the heart, God forbid that I should glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:16; 6:14).

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Second Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23

We worship the Lord. Let us be His witnesses.
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’. We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’ (Isaiah 49:26).
‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’- This is not something to keep to ourselves.
We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!” Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’(Mission Praise, 385). ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’ (Mark 16:15).

Worship and witness – we need the Lord’s help.
We have been saved by the Lord: ‘He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my feet secure’ (Psalm 40:2).
He calls us to a life of worship and witness.
We are to worship Him with ‘a new song...a song of praise to our God’ (Psalm 40:3).
We are to be His witnesses, sharing with others the Good News of His salvation: ‘I have not hid Thy saving help within my heart, I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation...’ (Psalm 40:10). God has given out His call to worship and witness.
May our response be like the Psalmist’s: ‘I delight to do Thy will, O my God.’
Let us worship the Lord - ‘Great is the Lord’.
Let us be His witnesses - ‘I have told the glad news of deliverance’.
Let us pray for the Lord’s help: ‘let Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness ever preserve me!’ (Psalm 40:8, 16, 9, 11).

Worship and witness – let us learn from the Apostle Paul
Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4). He preached ‘Christ crucified’ with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2).
This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (26-31).
Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’ (Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’(1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).

In our worship and witness, let us follow our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Having overcome His enemy, Jesus begins His ministry. Satan will be back - Luke ends his account of Jesus’ temptations with these ominous words, ‘When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left until an opportune time’ (Matthew 4:12). Satan will try again, but - for now - he has failed to stop Jesus setting out on His ministry, a ministry which brings light into the darkness.
The light is shining brightly - ‘the Kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matthew 4:17). Jesus’ ministry is viewed as a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 4:15-16; Isaiah 9:1-2). The prophecy had been given: Death will be overcome, men and women will be delivered from ‘the shadow of death’. Now, in Christ, the prophecy has been fulfilled: by His death, Christ has destroyed ‘him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil’ and He has set ‘free’ those who live in ‘fear of death’(Hebrews 2:14-15).
Christ’s victory over the world was won for us (1 John 3:8: 5:4-5). Jesus was not a loner. He was a team leader: ‘From victory to victory His army He will lead’(Church Hymnary, 481). At the very outset of His ministry, He set about putting together His ministry team. Peter, Andrew, James and John were the first four disciples. He called them to follow Him.
His call was both gracious and demanding. It is gracious because it is the Saviour who calls us: ‘Follow Me’. It is demanding because He calls us to follow, to submit to His Lordship: ‘Follow Me’.
These men were called to a new kind of ‘fishing’(Matthew 4:19).
Jesus’ ministry reached ‘great crowds’ through His ‘teaching... preaching... and healing’(Matthew 4:23-25).
This chapter sets the scene for Jesus' ministry. We see the Word of the Lord triumphant over Satan, fulfilled in Christ, and effective in the lives of the disciples and the crowds.___________