Tuesday, 27 December 2016

God's Word For New Year's Day

The Naming of Jesus – Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4:4-7 (or Philippians 2:5-11); Luke 2:15-21

His Name was called JESUS (Luke 2:21).

Christmas is over – but let’s not forget Jesus. He is still here. He is still with us.
He is for New Year’s Day as well as Christmas Day. He is for every day.
The New Year has begun. Let there be more than a new year. Let there be new life – the new life that Jesus brings.
We have celebrated His birth.
It is similar to the birth of any other child. It is a time for joyful thanksgiving.
It is different from the celebration of any other child. This is the special Child. This is God’s Son. He is Jesus. He is the Saviour. He brings new life to the world.
On the first Christmas Day, the announcement was made: There is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
We move on from the first Christmas. We move on to today. We do not leave Jesus behind. He is with us still.
On this day, any day, every day, we hear God’s call: Let new life begin.
New Year’s Day comes around just once a year. Every day is new life day.
Every day, God is speaking to us. He speaks to us about new life.
This is much more than the traditional greeting – We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

In the Name of Jesus, we hear the Good News of new life. 

He has been born in the city of David.
This is Good News for us. This is Good News for today.
The New Year has begun. Let new life begin.
Let Christ be ‘born this day’(Luke 2:11). Let Him be born in your heart!
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love.
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love, perfect love, the greatest love of all. There is no love like the love of Jesus.
At Christmas time, we look back to His birth. We celebrate His continuing love.
On New Year’s Day, we look on to the future. We commit ourselves to loving Him who first loved us.
In the Name of Jesus, God speaks to us with a call to consecration and a promise of blessing.

* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us consecrate ourselves to Him.

‘Separate... to the Lord... Separate... from wine and strong drink’ (Numbers 6:2-3): These two thoughts are closely connected in the New Testament - ‘Do not get drunk with wine... Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). We are to be ‘holy to the Lord’ (Numbers 6:8). ‘Consecrated to the Lord’, our whole life must be controlled by one thing: ‘Do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).

* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us seek His blessing in our lives.

Motivated by a desire for God’s glory, we will enjoy God's blessing (Numbers 6:22-27). God’s blessing is not a ‘cheap’ thing, something that doesn’t matter very much.
Remember Esau (Genesis 25:29-34). He couldn’t be bothered. He couldn’t care less. God’s blessing meant nothing to him. He didn’t want God’s blessing.
What did God do? - He gave it to Jacob.
‘The Lord bless you...’ - Do you want this? Or must God find somebody else?

In the Name of Jesus, we have the victory.
‘The Lord is ‘majestic’ (Psalm 8:1, 9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. This is the message of Christmas. The Saviour has been born. God has not remained in heaven. He has come to earth. He has come near to us. He is God with us.
In the birth of Jesus, we see God’s greatness, the greatness of His love. His love makes all the difference.
* When we feel forgotten. He remembers us.
* When we feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4).
* When we are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’ (Psalm 8:2).
At the beginning of a New Year, we are reminded of God our Creator (Psalm 8:5-8).
The God of creation is the God of our salvation. From Bethlehem, the place of Christ’s birth, we look forward. We see Jesus, crucified for us. In His death, there is victory. Christ has won the victory for us. Christ has triumphed over ‘him who has the power of death.’ Christ has triumphed over ‘the devil.’ (Hebrews 2:8-9, 14).
We rejoice in Christ’s victory. We worship Him. We sing, “Majesty, worship His Majesty. Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’.

Jesus leads us on from victory to victory.

At the Cross, Christ won the victory over Satan. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ makes His victory real in our life here and now.

* ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6).

The Spirit is not a reward we earn by being good people. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). In Galatians 3:13-14, Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ. We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling’(Church Hymnary, 83).
All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me’(Mission Praise, 613).
God has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18).

* ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’(Philippians 1:6).

Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up?
God gives us His Word of encouragement. He will bring His good work to completion.
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn`t bring us this far to leave us. He didn`t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn`t build His home in us to move away. He didn`t lift us up to let us down’.
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5).
‘Jesus Christ is Lord’(Philippians 2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
We do not find our own victory. We receive His victory. The victory does not come from deep down within ourselves. It comes from high above us. It comes from Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is not our victory. It is His victory. All the power comes from Him. All the glory goes to Him.
In ‘humility’ let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’(Philippians 2:3; 1:11).

Let’s begin the year with worship: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your Name …” (Psalm 8:1).

Bible readings for New Year's Day - Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21:1-6a; Matthew 25: 31-46

How excellent is our Saviour – He takes away the emptiness of life without Him.
‘God has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In every human heart, there is a God-shaped blank. It can only be filled by Jesus Christ.
Many people try to find true happiness without opening their heart to Jesus Christ. That’s like ‘trying to catch the wind’ (Ecclesiastes 4:16). True happiness keeps slipping through your fingers. There’s always something missing - ‘an aching void the world can never fill’ (Church Hymnary, 663).
Jesus Christ stands at the door of every human heart. He knocks. He waits for your answer. He says, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in...’ (Revelation 3:20). Will you invite Him into your heart? He is waiting for you to pray, ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus’.

How excellent is our Saviour – He is preparing us for a glorious future.
Our Saviour is ‘Faithful and True’. He is ‘the Word of God’. He is our ‘Lord’and ‘King’(Revelation 19:11,13,16).
We are invited to ‘come’to Him. The invitation - ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God’- is a call to come to Christ (Revelation 19:17). We come to Christ so that we might ‘reign with Him’(Revelation 20:6).
Coming to Christ is only the beginning. God is preparing us for something even better - reigning with Him. This is a great future - ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’(Revelation 21:4).
There is, however, a Word of warning for those who refuse to come to Christ for salvation - ‘If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’; ‘Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur’(Revelation 20:15; 21:8). ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:31).

How excellent is our Saviour – He gives us joy as we serve Him day-by-day.
We are to be faithful to God (Matthew 25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (Matthew 25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’(2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy.
We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’. We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’.
The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’actions (Matthew 25:37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves.
Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’(Psalm 100:2).
Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God.
On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’(21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’and ‘pleasure for evermore’(Psalm 16:11).

A New Year Sermon: 2 Chronicles 30:6-12; Mark 1:1-13

2 Chronicles 30:6-12; Mark 1:1-13
"Then the runners went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the king" (2 Chronicles 30:6).
A message had been given to them. They passed the message on. They "spoke according to the command of the king" (2 Chronicles 30:6).
What we see here, in 2 Chronicles 30, is similar to what we read about in Mark 1 - John the Baptist is the messenger sent from God. He brings God's Word to the people.
In the time of King Hezekiah, in the time of John the Baptist, in today's world, God speaks His Word: "Return to the Lord God" (2 Chronicles 30:6). With the call to return to the Lord, there is the promise: "He will return to you" (2 Chronicles 30:6).
"Return to Me and I will return to you" - This is the message that God is speaking to us all of the time.
We look back to the past, and we ask, "Where have we been? How have we lived in 2016?"
We look on to the future, and we ask, "Where are we going? How will we live in 2017?"
Mark's Gospel speaks of a new beginning. It's not a new beginning which begins with ourselves. It's a new beginning which comes to us from God - "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1).
Our new beginning does not begin with ourselves. It begins with God. Our returning to the Lord doesn't begin when we say to ourselves, "I think I'll return to the Lord." We don't begin there. We must go further back than that. We must go back to the Word of the Lord. Before we ever think of returning to the Lord, He is speaking to us. He's calling us to return to Him.
"The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus ... " Gospel means Good News. Jesus means Saviour.
At this time of year, we wish each other a "Happy New Year." Very often, this is just hoping for the best, hoping that good things will happen to us. As we say, "Happy New Year", we must ask ourselves this very important question: "Do we know the way to true happiness?"
As soon as we ask this question, God gives His answer: "the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
Jesus is our Saviour. This is Good News. Jesus is God's way to true happiness.
Following the ministry of John the Baptist, there is the baptism of Jesus.
 * As we think together about making a new beginning with God, the first thing we must say is this - It's a new beginning in faith.
We are called to believe what God says to us about Jesus: "You are My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11).
 * The second thing we must say is this - It's a new beginning in holiness: "The Spirit descended upon Him like a dove" (Mark 1:10).
As I say to you, "Happy New Year", I pray that you will have been saved by Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit.
 * There is, however, a third blessing that I pray you will enjoy - victory over Satan.
In Mark 1:12-12, Mark gives us a brief account of Jesus' temptations - "The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness", "Jesus was tempted by Satan."
 Here, we see the conflict between the Spirit, in Jesus, and Satan, coming from outside of Jesus.
Like Jesus, we need to say to Satan, "You don't belong here. My heart belongs to the Holy Spirit."

God is with us.

Isaiah speaks, prophetically, of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is also known as “Immanuel” (“God is with us”) (Isaiah 7:14).  “God is with us” – These words are spoken to God’s people in every situation of our life (Isaiah 8:10). Isaiah’s prophetic message concerns the transformation which brings “glory”, where there is “gloom”: “But there will be no more gloom … But in the future He will bring glory” (Isaiah 9:1). This “glory” comes through our “Wonderful” Saviour, who is the “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). In Him, we have “peace”, “wise counsel” and “everlasting” life. Praise God! To Him be the glory! He has brought us to know Himself, as our Father, through Christ, His Beloved Son. What will it mean, for us , to know God? It will mean being changed by Him. He is teaching us to walk with Him. He is teaching us to follow Jesus. He is teaching us “to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15). Standing upon the promise – “God is with us” – does not mean that we will take God’s presence for granted. God is not only comforting us. He’s also challenging us. We’re not to be conformed to the world’s way of living (Isaiah 8:11). We’re to be transformed. We’re to live the Lord’s way (Isaiah 8:13).

Emmanuel - God with us / Jesus - Saviour

Jesus was also called Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23). Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’ This is the great message that comes to us from the first chapter of the New Testament. God has not remained in heaven. He has come to earth. Along with the Name, Emmanuel, there is the better - known Name - Jesus. The Name of Jesus means “He saves” (Matthew 1:21,25). In the two Names - Emmanuel and Jesus, we have the Good News of our salvation. God has come to earth - that’s the meaning of the Name, Emmanuel. He has come to save us - that’s the meaning of the Name, Jesus.

Christmas Message

Let’s think about the meaning of Christmas. What does it mean in the countdown to Christmas Day? What will it mean for us when we’re in the middle of January? What will it mean six months from now? Christmas is coming. Jesus is coming. Christmas comes. Christmas goes. Jesus comes. Jesus stays. When Christmas comes to an end, Jesus doesn’t leave us. When Boxing Day begins, Jesus is still with us.

Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus is more than Christmas. If Christmas was all that we had, would we really be saying, “I wish it could be Christmas every day”? Wouldn’t we be asking, “When does everything get back to normal”? Normal? What is normal? Normal seems so unexciting. Normal is this – Jesus is with us. He’s with us every day. Our ordinary days are very different from Christmas Day. Can we ever say, “This is just an ordinary day” – when Jesus is with us every day?

Soon, Christmas 2016 will be behind us. The old year will come to an end. We’ll be into the New Year. The years come. The years go. Jesus remains the same. He’s our ‘Forever Friend’ – our faithful Saviour. He’s “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). When Christmas 2016 has been forgotten, Jesus will still remember us. When New Year Resolutions have been abandoned, He will still be our Friend and our Saviour. We forget. Jesus remembers. There’s never any problem with His memory. There is, however, one thing that He does forget. He forgets our sins! - “I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 10:17).

How does Jesus forget our sins? - He could remember them. There’s no problem with His memory. He chooses to forget them. There’s no problem with His love! “I will remember their sins no more.” – That’s not a bad memory. That’s love. It’s great love. It’s the greatest love of all. It’s the love of Jesus - our great Saviour.

When Christmas comes, let Jesus come to you. He won’t come and go. He comes to stay. Here’s a prayer you can pray. It’s not just a prayer for Christmas Day. It’s a prayer you can pray right now. “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.” This is the true meaning of Christmas. It’s more than that. It’s what life is all about. “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart.”

We wish you happiness - at Christmas and in the New Year. We wish you more than that. We wish you a happy life. “Happiness is to know the Saviour, Living a life within His favour, Having a change in my behaviour, Happiness is the Lord.” When Christmas is over and the New Year has begun, may each of us join, with Paul, in saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). 

May God bless each of you – at Christmas, in the New Year and every day: “May God’s blessing surround you each day, as you trust Him and walk in His way. May His presence within guard and keep you from sin, go in peace, go in joy, go in love.”                                                                                                                          

What's Christmas all about?

What's Christmas all about? Is it about coming to church, coming to a service? No. There's more to it than that. It's about coming to Christ, coming to the Saviour. What a welcome you will get when you come to Jesus. Whatever this year's been like, you can end the year on a high note by coming to Jesus - opening your heart to Him, giving your life to Him.

O little town of Bethlehem

Bethlehem was a 'little town'. Humanly speaking, it did not have any great importance. Its importance is derived from the fact that it was the birth place of our Saviour. when we think of Bethlehem, we do not think so much of the place as the Saviour who was born there. Herod says that he wants to go to Bethlehem to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:8). Satan was speaking through Herod. Satan 'comes only to steal and kill and destroy'. Christ comes to give 'life...to the full' (John 10:10). As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Herod was not a worshipper of Christ but a servant of Satan. The wise men worship Jesus, then they return to their own country. Their whole purpose was to point away from themselves to Jesus.

Let Us Worship Jesus.

The wise men did want to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:2). Herod said that he wanted to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:8). What a difference there is between saying that we want to worship Jesus and really wanting to worship Him. This highlights the conflict between false religion and true worship. Religion may say the right things, but, if we don’t really mean what we say, our words will not make any difference to the way we live. This kind of religion is worthless. What does God say to us about this kind of religion? - “God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod” (Matthew 2:12). God is still warning His people to steer clear of empty religion. When we come to the Lord, we must not come with empty words - words that we don’t really mean. Our worship is to shape our life. How is our worship to change our way of living? Real worship arises out of salvation. This is very different from religion. Religion says more about ourselves than it says than it says about our Saviour. Salvation is not about us. It’s about Jesus, our Saviour. When He is the focus of our attention, we will learn to worship Him and live for Him.

A very special child!

No ordinary child! Jesus would be special - very special! This was the message the angel brought to Mary - 'He will be great...the Son of the Most High...the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God' (Luke 1:32,35). We celebrate the birth of a child. How much more should we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ! 'Come on and celebrate! His gift of love we will celebrate - the Son of God who loved us and gave us life' (Mission Praise, 99). God is calling us to worship His Son, our Saviour. Let Jesus be the centre of your attention. No one else must compete with Him. 'O come let us adore Him...For He alone is worthy...We'll give Him all the glory...Christ the Lord' (Mission Praise, 490). He is more than 'a lovely baby - much more than that! He is our wonderful Saviour!

Help us to resist Satan – in Your strength.

2 Kings 23:31-24:17 “The king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valour … all of them strong and fit for war” (2 King...