31st January 2023
Read (Matthew 6v5-18)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Last week we heard that our good works are to be done frequently and quietly - no one needs to know that we care for the widow and the orphan. Likewise when we make a practice of prayer and fasting we are not to shout loudly "EVERYONE! I am both praying AND fasting! I'll be back soon because I am PRAYING AND FASTING!"
How then should we pray and fast? Jesus warns us against praying to be seen by others for such an individual has received their reward (v5). In other words if we pray merely to be seen and to receive the praise of the crowd then our reward will be temporary. Our audience might tell us how holy we are but the Lord sees through our sinful self-righteousness and He is not impressed.
What is prayer? Do you remember when John Brogan said "Prayer is simply talking to God, simply."? He was right. When you pray says Jesus, go into your room and pray in secret knowing that the Lord will bless such an attitude (v6). Then, when we are in the place of prayer, we are not to use endless empty phrases to try and impress God (v7). I was once told that these verses teach that the public prayer meeting is not essential - we should pray frequently and pray alone. This is simply not true. There is no meeting in the church week as neglected as the prayer meeting and it is the great shame of the modern church. We should meet regularly as a church to call upon the Lord but when we aren't praying with our brothers and sisters in the church we should pray frequently, privately and simply.
Have you ever found that words don't come easily when you pray? Thanks be to God for the Lord's prayer. It says “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (v9-13) Jesus doesn't tell us that this is the only way to pray but if you often don't know what to pray then the Lord's prayer should be committed to memory and followed.
The Lord's prayer is a God given masterpiece which directs our prayer life. It teaches us to draw near to God in holy reverence as His precious children (Our Father in heaven). It teaches us to glorify God and that He would work all things to His own glory (Hallowed be your name). It teaches us to seek the growth of God's kingdom and the destruction of Satan's kingdom (Your kingdom come). It teaches us to be willing to submit ourselves to the will of God in all things (Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven). It teaches us to ask the Lord for our daily sustenance and His blessing (Give us this day our daily bread). It teaches us to make a daily practice of repentance which overflows in our forgiveness of others (Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors) - this is of vital importance as we cannot expect to be freely forgiven by the Lord whilst still refusing to forgive someone else (v14-15). Finally, the Lord's prayer teaches us to seek God's protection from all temptation and His help when temptation comes (Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil).
Although it has fallen out of practice, prayer has often been accompanied by fasting. What is fasting? Simply when we keep ourselves from food spending the time in prayer instead. If you are fit and well and able to fast then it certainly should be a feature of your Christian walk. Just like your good works and your prayers, fasting should be done in secret. Some fast and look gloomy with twisted faces as they do it (v16) but the Christian is to fast quietly. Indeed every effort should be made to keep our fasting between us and the Lord (v17). As an example, imagine that you decide to fast from Tuesday dinner time to Wednesday lunchtime using breakfast time on Wednesday morning for prayer not porridge - wonderful but make sure you don't spend Wednesday morning at work declaring that you are starving!
My brothers and sisters the Psalmist was right when he declared "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!" (Psalm 115v1) We are to do good works, we are to pray both privately and publicly and we are to fast knowing that man does not live by bread alone.
In all of these areas we are to decrease as Christ increases and we are to shun the gaze and the praise of man. Friends, pray without ceasing and sometimes fast too, doing it all for the audience of One.
Q64 What is required in the fifth commandment? The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.
30th January 2023
Read - Hebrews 11:11-12 (You’ll need to use a KJV or ESV as the 84NIV for some reason it focuses on Abraham)
Message Alan Burke
Have you done enough today so that the scales are dipped in the right way? You might think that is a strange way to start a devotion but more often than not it is what I am confronted with is that many people are trying to work harder, be better, do more, achieve more and all the while hoping that we will have done enough to pease God. Is your walk with the Lord like you are on a never ending treadmill, of trying to be good, nice, in some way earn God’s love because you think that if He knows you like you know yourself and He’s anything like you’ve little or no chance.
Well if that is you then the words “By Faith Sarah” should give you comfort, for there are many a think that both she and Abraham got up to that seem to say the least incredulous, unbelievable, impossible, incredible, unthinkable. What ever way you want to put it, with what ever words you can come up with, for from our perspective if this was your ordinary Joe or Jane from Killyleagh Street we’d be tempted to think that neither of them should be listed in Hebrews 11.
Yet those words of verse 11, “By Faith Sarah”, actually each time it is said throughout Hebrews 11 and of those whom it is said of should give us comfort for all these men and women of faith in Hebrews were more than conquerers through Christ Jesus. For the message of Hebrews 11 isn’t be like those listed there, nor is todays message isn’t be like Sarah, rather the message for all of us is to us is to trust in the promises of God. To trust in Jesus Christ. For they as we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone just like Sarah.
She looked to the one who was promised who would come, we look to the one who has come and will come again. We have the benefit of knowing much more of what God has done and was doing, for Christ has come. For those before he came, the saints of the Old Testament they trusted in the promises of God, of the one that would come. Sarah was saved by the work of Christ and we are saved by the work of Christ. That is wonderful news for if we were looking to tip the scales we haven’t got hope, if we think that what we need to do is try harder, work harder, be better, do more, achieve more, just that little bit extra will some how please God then we will never have assurance. But for those who have faith in Christ then they have a righteousness that is by faith from first to last (Rom 1:17). The wages of our sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23).
Lets not forget what verse 13 goes on to say, 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For it wasn’t just a son that Sarah was looking forward to, it was the hope of the glorious fulfilment of the promises of God that were first given to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Sarah too was looking to the Christ, for the promises given to Abraham and Sarah were not fulfilled in their entirety in their lives, yet they knew that the promises of God were unshakable and would come to pass and that the Christ would come.
While in this life we will fail constantly, we will make a mess of things, we will have to live with the consequences, we know that God has prepared a heavenly city for us that is ours in Christ Jesus. We will when this life comes to its end dwell there with our Father without sin, doubt, fear, pain, sorrow, disappointment or what ever else it may be for that is our hope. We have faith which the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, faith in Christ Jesus our Lord (Heb 11:1).
Q63 Which is the fifth commandment?
The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Exod. 20:12)
28th January 2023
Read (Matthew 6v1-4)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
As a once newly married man I would often hover beside the dishwasher when Jenny came home from work. It wasn't that I liked standing beside the dishwasher, I merely wanted Jenny to know that not only had I filled the dishwasher but I had emptied it too. A pat on the back can be lovely from time to time but again Jesus warns us about the deceitfulness of the human heart.
Christ tells us to “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven." (v1) This couldn't be clearer. Everyday we are to do the good works that God has prepared for us to do but when we do those good works we don't shout about it for everyone to hear and see.
To underline His point Jesus paints a picture of giving to the needy. When we engage in such an act we are not to blow any trumpets before us (v2). Hypocrites do exactly this so that they might receive the praise of others (v2b) but the Christian is to do good quietly. If we give to the needy, no one else needs to know about it. If we are to visit the sick, we don't need to post it on Facebook. If we do good to the downhearted, we should never take out an advert in the Newsletter boasting about our works.
We are to act so quietly that Jesus even says our own left hand shouldn't know what our right hand is doing (v3). In other words if your right hand gives a generous financial gift, not even your left hand needs to know and certainly not your friends and neighbours down the street.
Jesus makes it crystal clear that the loud, boastful giver has already received their reward (v2). What reward does such a person receive? They might get the praise of their neighbours and for a time everyone might delight in such a person but their "reward" is fleeting and they can expect nothing from God for such sinfully arrogant works.
On the other hand if our giving is done in secret then the Lord who sees all things will reward us (v4). This isn't the key to health, wealth and prosperity - we are certainly not suggesting that we do good things secretly in order to get good things. This is an attitude just as bad as the one that blows the trumpet. Instead we do good things secretly and frequently knowing that the Lord sees our actions and knows our motives. We live this way in order to bring Him glory and to respond to the beauty of the Gospel. The individual whose life is marked by such humble service will certainly know God's blessing in this life and in the next.
Brothers and sisters, go forth and do good. Do as much good as the day allows. Do good liberally and frequently and humbly and quietly. Do good in work. Do good in life. Do good in the church "and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3v17).
Q62 What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment? The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the Sabbath day.
27rd January 2023
Read - Hebrews 11:13-16 Genesis 12:1-20 and 22:1-19
Message Alan Burke
When Abraham and Sarah were given promises by God they only saw a small part of their fulfilment, Abraham and Sarah exemplify those who did not receive the promises that they were given, for they were promised innumerable offspring and they had to wait and wait until finally they were given Isaac by the Lord but they died before being able to see the fulness of that promise that was given to them. Others too, Abel, Noah, Jacob, Issac all of these were looking forward to the hope that there is in the Christ that was promised by God himself. They were shaped by their faith living according to the promises of God and looking to the hope that they had in Christ. In this they understood that the promises of God speak of a hope that is beyond this life.
They understood that they were waiting for what lies ahead, they lived with hope, but that hope is not here, it is not in the things that this life offers for this is not our home. For in Christ as we are reminded in Philippians 3 “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phl 3:19–21).
That was the hope of Abraham, as he looked to the promises of God. His citizenship was in heaven, through the saviour, the Christ, the promised serpent crusher of Genesis 3:15. When people come to saving faith in the Christ the promised one of God then it changes their priorities, it transforms our lives, we become less concerned about this life and what we have and experience to know what lies ahead is our hope. The struggle is keeping our eyes fixed upon that hope that we have for satan will do all that he can to move our focus to something else.
Yet we are reminded of the wonder of that hope we have every day, the fall should make us long for it, fractured relationships, the toil we face, the way that our bodies age and decay should make us all long for that better country, that is, a heavenly one where there death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4). Think how good that heavenly country is when God graciously blesses us in this life much more than we deserve.
Also before we move on, often when people consider heaven it is more like that which is portrayed in the Tom and Jerry cartoons that we grew up with, clouds, the big pearly gates, angels and harps and white robes. But we actually believe that after Christ's return the heavens and the earth will be restored to their pre-fall glory. The church, God’s people will dwell with Christ and we will live in the new heavens and the new earth where righteousness dwells. Equally we won't be floating around as spirits with no body - when Christ returns He will raise us to life. We will dwell in heaven with body and soul reunited forever. We believe in the resurrection and Abraham believed it too. And one day through faith we will be with our God, we will meet our forefather Abraham whom we are among his many descendants though faith in the Christ that he looked to and has come and will come again.
Q61 What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, (Amos 8:5, Mal. 1:13) and the profaning the day by idleness, (Acts 20:7,9) or doing that which is in itself sinful, (Ezek. 23:38) or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations. (Jer. 17:24–26, Isa. 58:13)
26th January 2023
Read (Matthew 5v38-48)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
As I recall events in my childhood I remember the different approach my mother and father took to the various playground scraps I would get myself into. My mum was outraged that I was fighting and told me to wise myself up and keep myself out of trouble. My dad on the other hand told me to stick up for myself and to always hit harder than I’d been hit. Who was right? I’ll let my mother and father sort that out between themselves.
The Lord understood the age in which He lived and reminded His hearers that it had often been said “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” Where did such wisdom come from? We find this truth in Exodus 21v24, Leviticus 24v20 and Deuteronomy 19v21. Why did God command such things in the first place? Simply because the Lord knows exactly what our hearts are like.
Few of us when wronged seek to meet that wrong proportionally. What do I mean? Imagine someone takes your eye…often we seek two eyes in revenge. Someone takes our tooth? We prefer to smash in that person’s entire mouth. That’s the way of the world isn’t it? Let your enemy know that you are not to be messed with. Make your rival regret that he ever crossed your path.
I am fascinated by American history and I am reminded of the Civil War. The Union army far outnumbered the Confederate army and when the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was asked how they would overcome such vast numbers his reply was “Kill them sir! Kill every man!” This is often our default response - meet aggression with even greater aggression.
The Lord’s command sought to regulate justice in Israel and restrain His people from unlimited vengeance. Years later on the mountain Christ took this command further using four examples. Firstly, if we are slapped on the right cheek we are to turn our left cheek to the attacker (v39). Secondly, if someone sues us for our tunic we are to give them our cloak as well (v40). Thirdly, if someone forces us to go a mile (a common practice imposed by the Romans) we are to go two miles (v41). Finally, we are to give to those who beg from us and not refuse the one who seeks to borrow (v42).
These are stunning verses and our immediate temptation is to try to water them down, after all we don’t want to be pushovers and this is a tough world. But before we ignore this passage what does Christ require of those who bear His name? To be a Christian is to be someone prepared to endure insults and shame (v39), someone willing to experience the loss of all things (v40), someone ready to exceed the demands of our enemy (v41) and someone who is as generous with others as Christ has been generous with us (v42).
If this is not enough Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (v44). Leviticus 19v18 is clear that we are to love our neighbour and it would appear that those in Christ’s day saw the natural extension of this command as a call to hate our enemies. But Jesus gives no room for such an interpretation. There is no reward for merely loving those who love us or greet those who greet us (v46-47). Jesus told His Jewish audience that even the hated tax collectors and Gentiles did such things. Instead the one who wishes to be called a son of the Father in heaven (v45) is to understand that just as the Lord causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the righteous and wicked alike (v45), we are to love our friends AND our enemies.
Such a challenge takes our breath away with its size and scale but before we can gather ourselves the Lord finishes by commanding us to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect (v48). What does Jesus mean? The sermon on the mount is not a self-improvement handbook whereby we do lots of good things and achieve earthly perfection. Instead as we consider Christ’s call to discipleship we realise that our perfect and holy God should be our focus.
As Christians we strive after the things of God desiring sanctification and holiness. We will not be perfect on this side of glory but as we walk the narrow road we long for the day that we are made perfect by our perfect Lord. Brothers and sisters, these verses couldn't be more challenging! Who has not experienced poor treatment? Who among us always seeks to love our enemies? How often have we turned the other cheek or walked the extra mile? I confess today my selfishness and my arrogance and my desire to be right and my longing for revenge and my delight at the downfall of my enemies. What a wretched man I am! Lord have mercy and cause my feet to follow the rarely followed path laid down by Jesus.
Q60 How is the Sabbath to be sanctified? The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.
25rd January 2023
Read - Hebrews 11:8-10 Genesis 12:1-20 and 22:1-19
Message Alan Burke
Let’s summarise where we were on Monday, just to jog your memory. Abraham by faith obeyed, he heard and followed the word of God, faith is seen in obedience. Now things weren’t plain sailing for Abraham when he tired to do a bit of DIY and instead of looking to God took things into his own hands and his own decision saw Pharaoh and his house greatly afflicted because of Abraham. Instead of being a blessing Abraham became a curse. The reason why I wanted to take you through this is so that we understand that Hebrews isn’t be like Abraham, rather it is to “trust in the promises of God”. And Abraham’s indiscretions actually look quite tame to many of those who are listed here in Hebrews 11 but we will get to that at a later stage.
It was by Faith Abraham none the less, through the many highs and lows, obeyed. Abraham went as God had called him, by faith he went as God had called him. To the ‘Promised Land’. Though when he got there what we are told is that he built an Altar to the Lord (Gen 12:8), and when he came back from Egypt he went to the place where his tent had been in the beginning (Gen 13:3). He didn’t start building a city to live in, nor did he go of like Lot and live in a city which worked out so well for Lot. No, Abraham lived in the Promised land as one who was a sojourner, who was a nomad a pilgrim, an alien, a stranger, one without a place to call home.
The reason why he lived this way is a wonderful one, as we are told, that Abraham was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God (Heb 11:10). Abraham had been given a wonderful promise by God, but his focus was not set on his earthly destination, what he would attain or accumulate over his life time for Abraham new that this world was not his home. The promised land was not his final destination, he understood more of the wonder of the promises of God than many of us do or want to. Abraham knew the hope of the one who followed God and how it was far greater than any fulfilment in this life. It was far greater than anything in this world has to offer. The hope of God’s people, those who by faith are His is of a Heavenly city. That is what we look forward to, the city whose foundations will never be shaken for it has been designed and built by God.
You know the grand total of the promised land that Abraham received in this life? Well it was his tomb where he was buried. He had flocks and servants, he had wealth but he lived as one without a place to call home because he lived by faith and knew its not where he lived, what he owned was what mattered. How many of us live like this? We may not want to hear it but there is an application here for us one that we often miss, our lives here are but temporary, we are strangers, aliens in this world, it is not our home. As surely as we come into this world we are going out of it. What matters is more than what we will attain or accumulate over this life time. By faith instead we are to look to what lies ahead more than we look and long for the things here, let’s stop building our own little kingdoms and look to build the Lord’s all the while looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Q59 Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?
From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath. (Gen. 2:2–3, 1 Cor. 16:1–2, Acts 20:7)
24th January 2023
Read (Matthew 5v27-37)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
The Gospel isn’t just for Sunday morning between the hours of 11am and 12noon, it is to cover our entire lives just as the tide envelops the once dry beach. As the Lord continued to teach on the mountain He stressed the practical implications of Christ-ward Gospel living.
Followers of Christ are to keep themselves from adultery - our marriage bonds are to be taken seriously and we are not to betray our husbands or wives by inviting others into our bedroom. So far, so straightforward. Most of us probably wouldn’t dream of being unfaithful to our spouse but as always the Lord shines His gaze at the blackness of our hearts. We may never have a physical relationship with another woman but how often do we allow our eyes to enjoy the curves of the lady next door? How often have we been excited by the thought of seeing that man at work who pays us far more attention than our husband ever does?
The Lord is clear “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (v28). If we have ever allowed lust to fill our hearts then we have already committed adultery. What is to be done? Jesus says that if our eyes are filled with lust we should pluck them out (v29). If our hands cause us to sin then we should cut them off (v30). It is better to lose an eye or hand than to spend eternity in hell (v30).
It is alleged that a Christian by the name of Origen took such teaching so seriously that he followed Matthew 19v12 and made himself a eunuch by cutting off his own penis. Is this what Christ requires? No. Brothers and sisters we are not to mutilate our bodies in response to sin but we are to take sin exceptionally seriously. This is Christ’s point. Sin is horrendous, it is rotten, it is depraved and the wages of it is death and eternal hellfire. John Owen was right when he said “be killing sin or sin be killing you.” May we be increasingly aware of our sin and may we make a regular practice of repentance. The Lord is faithful both to forgive us and to sanctify us.
In similar manner we are not to take marriage lightly. Divorce has become incredibly common and incredibly easy in this generation but these verses show the Lord's high regard for marriage. Scripture teaches that divorce is permissible on the grounds of adultery (v32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7) but by the grace of God our marriages will be for a lifetime. Brothers and sisters, I know that many of you are currently experiencing marriage tension and my counsel to you is not to be ashamed and seek immediate help. I think the fear of being judged by others pushes us to keep things to ourselves but marriage is so serious that I would urge you again to seek help. Does your husband have a habit of lifting his hand to you? Has your infidelity caused your wife to fall into depression? Has your love for one another grown cold? Is your husband’s drinking pushing you to the door? Seek help. Turn to the Lord primarily and additionally seek the help of others.
Let me say a word to the those of you who know the pain of divorce. I remember as a child telling my mum that no one in our family was divorced. She told me how stupid I was to believe that and then she recounted the great number in our family who had gone through a divorce. There are an incredible number of us who know the sting and shame of divorce. My dear brothers and sisters may you know that divorce is not the unforgivable sin. May you know that divorce will not keep you out of heaven. May you know that the Lord understands divorce and its tragedy more than you will ever know. He does? Yes. He once described Israel as His unfaithful wife who He sent away with a certificate of divorce (Jeremiah 3v8). If you feel the weight of divorce upon your shoulders then turn to the One who fully understands your pain.
Dear God, strengthen and keep our marriages we pray! Forgive us and assure us of that forgiveness! For Christ’s sake. Amen.
Finally, the Gospel impacts our words. Christ urges us to speak simply saying either “yes” or “no” (v37). Some have used these verses (v34, 36) to teach that Christ commands us to refuse to make all oaths or vows. What are oaths and vows? An oath is when we make promises to someone and call on God as a witness. A vow sees us making promises directly to God.
Are all oaths and vows banned by Jesus? No. His point in these verses is that the Christian should be marked by truthfulness. It is unnecessary for us to swear by God to prove our truthfulness - we should be truthful. Our yes should be yes and our no should be no. If you are called as a witness then be truthful. If you make a promise to God then keep it. If you promise your wife that you will be faithful then keep your eyes from that pretty girl who works at the garage.
The Gospel is not just for Sunday. It’s implications impact every inch of our lives - our marriages, our relationships, our words…not one inch is out of bounds for the Gospel. These verses therefore speak to each one of us. In response may we hear and heed them with maturity and may the Holy Spirit apply them to our lives. May He make us as holy as forgiven sinners can be.
Q58 What is required in the fourth commandment? The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself.
23rd January 2023
Read - Hebrews 11:8-10 and Genesis 12:1-20
Message Alan Burke
How’s the diary looking this weather? I remember the days when I had a physical diary, I even have a mate who still uses one and he went all out and got what I thought was a novelty oversized diary to make a point. Although I learnt that it was purchased online and it was simply a mistake. I’m not wanting to start by taking about mistakes but we all like in a sense to know what is ahead, a diary is a useful took in helping you plan yet we all know that our plans often don’t work out the way we intended. How could you cope though if you were told to throw the diary away, to leave everything you were doing, most of those whom you knew and loved, leave most of what you had behind and not even be told to go and not eve told where you were going? I’d say that most of us would reject it outright, after all who’s going to feed the dog, what about the electric bill and the lawn.
The faith of Abraham is remarkable, he was one who was called by God and by faith he obeyed. He was one that lived without any certainties about what tomorrow would bring yet he didn’t live his life preoccupied with the now and the future of this life he was far more concerned with something far better. He could see through faith of something far better for all those who believe in Christ.
Today I want us to think of how ‘faith is seen in obedience’. For that is the first thing that we are told about Abraham here in Hebrews 11, he obeyed, he went out not knowing where he was going. For Abraham obeyed when he was called by God, he heard and responding to the word of God. In this we are reminded of what the nature of faith is, it is not just trusting in God, trusting that He will keep His word, it is seen in how someone responds to the word of God, what they do with the word of God. Faith is seen in obedience. Hearing and obeying the word of God.
Now that isn’t that surprising, or it shouldn’t be that surprising, that faith means obedience, living in response to the word of God. That is how we are to live, to be those who hear and respond, those who hear and obey. Not only in those things that are easy for us but in the things that are hard. For those who have faith, those who trust in God act on the word of God. Abraham was commanded to go and he had no idea where he was going other than it was where God told him to go so he went.
Now the reason why I keep mentioning how the message of Hebrews 11 which is often known as the heroes of the faith is not “be like” rather it is to “trust in the promises of God” is because, well if you know anything of the account of Abraham you’ll know that immediately after he was called by God, that yes Abraham went, but when the rubber hit the road and Abraham’s faith was tested for the very first time instead of turning to God he tried some DIY, to do it himself. He went to Egypt because of the famine in Canaan (Gen 12:12-20). There was seeking the Lord in the decision and then when he gets there he passes of Sarah his wife as his sister and says nothing about it.
In that whole affair the issue is that Abraham did it his way, in his own strength, without God. In the end while God promised Abram that he would be a blessing to the nations, Abraham own decision saw Pharaoh and his house greatly afflicted because of Abraham. Rather than a blessing Abraham becomes a curse to the nation of Egypt. In the situation he found himself he took the easy way out, rather than turning to God, Abraham trusts in his own wisdom and knowledge, thinking up a plan where he will be alright. And the good news is Abraham learnt from all of this and he didn’t do it again, actually he did the same thing all over again with Abimelech (Genesis 20). In spite of it thought, there is the wonderful assurance that God still keeps His promises, that is not an excuse to live as we see fit but the knowledge that God’s plans are fulfilled in spite of human failures and disobedience, God is faithful when we are faithless. This is a recurring theme throughout scripture, but what we are called to is obedience, to faithfulness and our faithfulness matters not only to us but to all people.
Q57 Which is the fourth commandment?
The fourth commandment is, Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it. (Exod. 20:8–11)
21st January 2023
Read (Matthew 5v13-26)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
It was the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder who said "nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine." We probably enjoy both every single day - salt on our dinner and sunshine on our face. Famously Jesus said that the Christian was to be both salt and light in this world - we are to be as useful as these two common things.
What does salt do? In the Lord's day salt was used as a preservative. Salt would be rubbed into meat and it would slow the process of decay. In the same way the Christian who bears the marks of the beatitudes on their life will act like a preservative in modern day society. This world is fading and cannot last but the Christian should be a blessing to the community they are in. Tasteless salt is not good for anything and so a Christian is to take care that they remain "salty" and therefore useful to the cause of Christ in this evil age.
In the same manner light chases away darkness and represents purity over and against wickedness. The Christian is like a light shining in this dark world (v14). Imagine a dark stormy night and there in the distance is a brightly lit city on a hill (14b) guiding you to safety - this is the visible Christian life. Lights brought into the home aren't hidden under a basket but instead they are used to give light to the whole house (v15). So the Christian is to shine brightly in this world, not to bring attention to themselves but so that pagans see our good works and give the glory to God (v16).
What does salty light shining living look like? The Lord speaks about an individual bringing an offering to the altar and then remembering that his brother has something against him (v23). What should this individual do? Christ is clear - go and be reconciled to your brother and then come back and offer your gift (v24). It is better to come to terms with our accuser on the way to court than be handed over to the judge who will punish us harshly (v25-26). The Christian bears fruit in keeping with their repentance and in doing so is salt and light in this fallen world.
The difficulty in being salt and light is that if we are being honest we really aren't very good. We might have never physically murdered someone (v21) but the Lord points to our hearts where we harbour anger towards our brother and to our lips where we denounce our brother as a fool (v22). Both situations deserve judgement and hell. We are to shine brightly in this world but frankly sometimes our behaviour doesn't match the beauty of the Gospel.
Thankfully the sermon on the mount is not about changing our behaviour with a simple call to "be better". The scribes and Pharisees of the Lord's day were finely behaved individuals. They took the law of God incredibly seriously and were outwardly righteous but they missed the vital point of the Gospel - the root of the tree must change first and then the fruit. Our hearts are in dire need of transformation.
Only Christ can bring such transformation. Jesus didn't come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (v17), instead He came to fulfil them. The Lord's obedience was perfect, He kept the Law's demands both actively and passively. He was active in keeping the Law and He was passive as He accepted the punishment for Law breakers. Christ was and is the fulfilment of the Law and Prophets and this is incredibly good news.
As He sat on the mountain Jesus proclaimed that God's law will remain until the heavens and the earth pass away (v18) and that the Law is not to be relaxed but taught (v19). Indeed to enter the kingdom of heaven our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (v20). How is this good news again? By faith in Christ we are justified and His righteousness has been credited to our account. The outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees has been exceeded for we have been given new hearts and even our imperfect works are acceptable in God's sight through Christ. Outward change flows from inward transformation.
Brothers and sisters, we are to be salt and light in this world and despite our failures it is possible to be as useful as salt and sunshine in these dark days. Just as the Lord has declared us righteous, may He continue to sanctify us. May He take our sin stained deeds and use them to bring glory to Himself. May He make us and keep us salty. May He reform us and make us as bright and shiny as redeemed sinners can be. To God alone the glory. Amen.
Q56 What is the reason annexed to the third commandment? The reason annexed to the third commandment is, that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.
20th January 2023
Read - Hebrews 11:7 (take some time and read Genesis 6:1-9:28)
Message Alan Burke
Noah we are here told became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Righteousness, a biblical word that in effect means to have right standing before the Lord our God. It is not on anything that we have done or can do, actually the only thing that we contribute to the salvation we receive is the sin that made it necessary. Rather we have right standing before the Lord through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ that is imputed to us. Imputed means that it is given to us. It is because Noah believed the promises of God even though he couldn't yet see, that he became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. The righteousness Noah had is the same as the righteousness that all who have faith, those who are God’s people have after the fall, is a “righteousness which comes by faith”. It wasn’t that Noah was righteous by keeping the law of God, no he was righteous by faith, it was by faith that Noah became an heir to righteousness, Noah was saved in the same way that we are saved and everyone else is saved, it was by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Today, we still must trust God for this sight that is as yet unseen. And if we trust Jesus and all of His promises then we, like Noah, are heirs “of the righteousness that comes by faith” (11:7).
The Lord through the apostle Paul here in Hebrews wants us to know that if we have faith that this is how it should work in our lives, that we hear the word of God, we believe, and by faith we act upon that word in our lives. The word of God should change and transform us, the Spirit of God works within us and transforms us by the work of sanctification enabling us to die to self and live for God in Christ Jesus more and more. We need to believe in God and His word more than anything else, it should be our rule and guide. Do we get this? Do we believe the word of God and wherever our life is out of step with it to do we by faith seek to change? For ever since the fall the whole of history has been marked by the serpent asking ‘did God really say?’ That is what the serpent does, the devil tries to get us to doubt the word of God and choose what he says is life but is actually death. For the believer our salvation is not in doubt but when we listen to the serpent, the devils lies then it robs us of confidence, assurance, comfort in the midst of life. For the believer by faith we aren’t to build a boat but we are to live according to the word of God.
The purpose in Noah and his family being saved from the flood was that God would keep his promise that was made to Adam and Eve, of the Christ, the messiah, the serpent crusher. God continued to show His grace when all that we deserve as the human race is His wrath. In Genesis 8:21 after the flood subsided we are told; “21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done”. (Gen 8:20–21).
The flood did not change the human heart, sin remained, Noah wasn’t the one who would bring a restored Eden dealing with the problem of sin. For after the flood until his death even though he became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith, Noah was still a sinner and quickly fell becoming drunk off wine (9:20-21). His sin was not the drinking of the wine but abusing it. His sin sprang forth from his sinful heart, he then exposed himself bringing shame, that is why Shem and Japheth sought to cover their father from further shame whereas Ham left him naked and gossiped about it to his brothers. The message is not be like Noah in all of this for even the upright can fall into sin rather it is trust in the promises of God.
Q55 What is forbidden in the third commandment?
The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning and abusing of any thing whereby God maketh himself known. (Mal. 1:6–7,12, Mal. 2:2, Mal. 3:14)