29th April 2023
Read (Matthew 18v1-4)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Once upon a time there was a hugely popular American pastor who had become the hero of many in the evangelical world. He preached with power, his fellowship grew, his books were devoured and his reputation only seemed to grow and grow. Tragically he ended up falling into disgrace and his one time admirers started to ask "how did this happen"? I'll not bore you with the whole story or my opinions on the matter, I'll just simply say that the pastor had started to believe his own hype. It is rumoured that he once told one of his entourage "I'm a pretty big deal."
Today we'll not point the finger at this man in self-righteous condemnation but I do hope we'll learn from him. I know my heart, you know yours and sadly we all sometimes think that we're a pretty big deal. The human heart is endlessly susceptible to all manner of sin, arrogance and pride and somewhere in the darkest corridors of the human soul we tell ourselves of our own greatness.
The disciples were not immune from such troubles and they asked Jesus one day “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (v1). There was nothing harmless in this question. Mark tells us that the disciples fell silent when challenged by Jesus because they were fighting over who was the greatest (Mark 9v33-37). They knew their sin and were embarrassed by it. We can only imagine their discussion as each disciple explained to the others his achievements and accomplishments and greatness.
But the road to true greatness is not paved by the accomplishments of sinful men. Jesus called a little child who came and stood in the midst of the disciples (v2), then Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (v3-4)
Cast your mind back to your childhood days. When I was a youngster I had no concerns about what people thought about me. I wasn't the least bit worried about my standing in the community. I couldn't have cared less about my professional progress. Children are no sinless but quite often they are humble. In the same manner Jesus urged His disciples to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven for the humble believer is truly great in the kingdom of God.
Humility is not our natural setting, we have grown accustomed to climbing the social ladder and everyday there are awful opportunities for us to make more "progress" by climbing over others to achieve our goals. But Jesus calls us to another road where our own "greatness" is of no concern and instead we seek to excel in humility. The Gospel road teaches us that it doesn't matter if we get a pat on the back nor does anyone need to praise our efforts or "ministry". Certainly encouragement should abound in any church but the Christian should not seek to have his/her ego to be massaged constantly.
Brothers and sisters, may we serve the Lord with ever fibre of our being, using all of the gifts at our disposal. But then with our mouths may we say "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory." (Psalm 115v1). The Lord meets the proud with opposition but to those humbled by the Gospel He gives His grace (James 4v6). We are not "big deals" but "big sinners" - may the Lord have mercy and humble our arrogant hearts.
Q33 What is justification? Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
28th April 2023
Read - Mark 9:43-50
Message Alan Burke
On Monday I mentioned how we would be thinking this week on hell, the man who had never heard a sermon on Hell, well now we get to the warning of hell, what awaits those who do not repent and believe in the Saviour. As we being, let me ask you, do you think that it would be better to be disfigured in some way today than spend eternity in hell, to loose a hand, a foot an eye are all favourable than to spend an eternity in hell. To the Jews thy saw these parts of the body as fits form God, they were to be precious possessions, and Jesus says to cut them off or remove them rather than to go to hell with them. Jesus is using a hyperbole, an exaggerated statement to make the point of the seriousness of sin, he does not downplay it.
It may be your hand, your foot, your eye, it could be any number of things that we are not willing to be without that are precious to us what is most precious to us because Jesus wants you to know that what ever it is, if that thing is preventing you from entering the kingdom of God, if that is causing you to sin, if that thing is holding you back from salvation, from trusting in him then it would be better for you to not have it than risk being thrown into hell.
The word for hell that is used here in the Greek is Gehenna. Gehenna is a place, it is the Hinnom Valley, literally Valley of the son of Hinnom that surrounds ancient Jerusalem. The you can go there today but that is not hell in the sense Jesus uses the word, rather Jesus is brining to the disciples minds to how that place got its name. It got its name because of what took place there, it was a place where human sacrifice took place in the days of Ahaz and Manasseh to the pagan god Molech. Later King Josiah put a stop to it and it then came to be used as a place where excrement and rubbish, including animal carcasses, were disposed of and burned, the fires never went out, smoke rose from the valley constantly, the fires could be seen at night from the city of Jerusalem and it was used symbolically of the place of eternal punishment after death, symbolic of what happens to those who’s sin causes them to be thrown in there.
Jesus was pointing to something far worse that awaited for as v48 reminds us, hell is a place where, “ ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” What awaits the unrepentant is that the worm will not die the fire is not quenched because those who are cast into hell will not be consumed, it will be for an eternity. This is what awaits the unrepentant. But yet for the believer, v49 and 50 the salt preserves and the fire purifies. As believers we will be preserved and purified, we will in what lies ahead in the midst of the cost of discipleship, in the midst of frustration and failure God will use what we face to preserve us so that we are kept to the very end.
Then Jesus turns to warn them if salt should lose its saltiness, if it has lost its saltiness then it is worthless. For the disciples and the church we have a responsibility to live as those whom God has called, to live according to his ways in a world that is subject to the judgement of God, that salt life quality can mean life for the world, life for those around us, it is the mark of discipleship, Colossians 6:4 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
When we loose who we are, when we forget the gospel, when we compromise for the sake of an easy life in the world then we loose our saltiness. It is the distinctive mark of discipleship, that preserves.
Q32 What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, (Rom. 8:30) adoption, (Eph. 1:5) and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them. (1 Cor. 1:26,30)
27th April 2023
Read (Matthew 17v22-27)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
There are moments in the Gospels that cause us to pause and make us wonder if we've ever heard these stories before. The Lord continued to be clear that “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” (v22-23) causing His disciples to be greatly distressed. But then on arrival to Capernaum there was a brief incident involving a tax, a fish and a shekel. We are familiar with the necessity of Christ's death and resurrection but perhaps not so much with the final verses of Matthew 17.
What was going on? As Jesus arrived in Capernaum, Peter was approached by "the collectors of the two-drachma tax" who wanted to know if Jesus paid the tax or not (v24). What was this tax? Every Jewish male between the ages of twenty and fifty was required to pay a yearly tax to support the Jerusalem temple and it's work. The tax found its origins in Exodus 30v11-16 where the Lord commanded Moses to introduce such a tax to support the work of the tabernacle.
So the tax was instituted by God and Peter was certain that Jesus paid the tax (v25b), so far so simple. Nevertheless, the Lord later spoke to Peter and asked "From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?" (v25b). Peter answered the way we would - the kings of the earth take taxes "from others" (v26). That's true isn't it? We all look at human society and we realise that usually it isn't the great and the good who play by the rules but the lowly plebs like you and me.
In Communist Russia where everyone was supposedly equal, the people would sit stuck in traffic while a whole lane was kept free and empty for the use of the ruling elite. Tolls and taxes are taken from others, but Jesus wasn't an other. The tax was commanded by the Father and Christ was the Son, therefore Jesus could rightly argue that He had no need to pay the two drachma tax. Christ explained this position by stating "the sons are free." and indeed they are.
However Christ came to submit Himself willingly to the Law's demands and at no point did He demand His rights or His privileges as a Son. He told Peter that He wished to give no offence to the two drachma collectors and so Peter was to go fishing (v27). He would catch a fish and in the mouth of that fish he would find a shekel. A shekel was worth four drachmas and this would be enough to pay the tax for both Peter and Jesus (v27b).
In this story which is rarely preached and largely unknown, we see Christ's majestic humility. What is humility? It is defined as "The state or character of being humble; freedom from pride and arrogance; lowliness of mind; a low estimate of one's self; self-abasement." Jesus was the creator of the universe and the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. He had every right to deny paying the temple tax and if anyone had ever a reason to boast, it was Christ. Instead the Lord willingly lowered Himself to a humble condition "and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2v8)
Brothers and sisters, we live in an arrogant age where the needs and rights of the individual trump all else. How then do we respond to such a state of affairs? The Apostle Paul answers "So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2v1-4). May it be so for Christ's sake.
Q31 What is effectual calling? Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
26th April 2023
Read - Mark 9:42
Message Alan Burke
There was a time that a Miller would have played an important part in any community, you grew your wheat and you took it to the Miller to mill it into flower often in exchange for a portion of your four. The millstone that the grain is put between can be set to produce various degrees of flour, from fine to course. But the millstone itself until relatively recently was a beast of a thing. I’ve seen old ones in farm yard and I’ll tell you this, I have no hope of moving one of them. What we are told here is that if anyone causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around their neck. The Greek word trialled as little ones means not children but of importance Jesus is talking about the average believer.
The Alan Burke paraphrase would be; “Whoever causes the ordinary believer in the pew who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”
The warning to the disciples if anyone causes the ordinary believers in the pew to sin is grim, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large milestone tied around his neck. Remember who is Jesus talking to, who are the audience, well it is the Twelve as v35 makes clear.
Now the imagery here firstly of sea. All of us like a wee trip to the north coast, get a ninety-nine which cost like £63 today and go for a wee paddle. The sea to us on a hot summers day in July is beautiful. For the Jews the sea was always a symbol of destruction, of tumult. It is a metaphor for wrath, of destruction, of chaos.
The millstone like the ones that I have seen in farmyards is a beast of a thing, so large that it couldn’t be pushed by a man, there is but one exception recorded in Scripture and that is of Samson who after his eyes were gouged out was set to grind grain in the prison (Jud 16:21). Normally this work was taken a pair or more of donkeys attached with a long leaver to turn the millstone. Jesus says it would be better for you to have a large milestone, so large you’re not going to be able to lift it or turn it, tied round your neck and for you to be thrown into the sea a place of wrath, of destruction, of chaos.
Remember the context Jesus was warning his disciples, he had just warned the disciples about stoping someone casting out demons in his name and then about the reward for those who do something as simple as give a drink in his name (v41). What we are being taught with the contrasting statements is that whatever is done to a follower of Jesus, whether that be for good with something that seems as insignificant as giving a drink or for bad causing the ordinary believer in the pew to sin may as well be done to Jesus himself.
The children of God are loved by him, and especially terrifying is the consequences for those who lead them astray, lead them into sin, because of just how precious believers are in the sight of God and it is reason enough for us all to be careful in our words as well as our conduct incase we cause or lead others to sin.
Q30 How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, (Eph. 1:13–14, John 6:37–39, Eph. 2:8) and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling. (Eph. 3:17, 1 Cor. 1:9)
25th April 2023
Read (Matthew 17v14-21)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
As the Lord was being transfigured on the mountain, nine of His disciples were approached by a man whose son was suffering at the hands of a demon. In this twisted day and age some worship Satan, others unwittingly are on his side and still more think that it would be better to have fun in hell than to worship in heaven. They are fools. Satan hates humanity and he hates even those who have joined his cause.
In this instance one of Satan's legion of fallen angels was causing a little boy to have seizures (v15) and if that weren't bad enough, the vindictive demon often caused the child to fall into the fire and also in water. The enemy is a liar and a murderer, for him he doesn't care if you die in flames or by drowning - he rages against us for he knows his time is short.
Nevertheless, the nine were unable to heal the child (v16) causing Jesus to respond “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” (v17). The child was brought to Christ and after hearing the Lord's rebuke, the demon left the little boy who was healed instantly (v18).
Christ's critique of His followers and the wider "generation" of Israel didn't miss. He described them as "faithless and twisted" (v17) and lamented "How long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?". It wasn't that the disciples were totally without faith nor were they guilty of moral twisted failure. Rather their faith was "little" (v20) and their thinking was twisted.
What did that look like in practice? Perhaps as they tried to drive out the demon it was more about their own ability rather than God's power. Maybe their understanding was "twisted" and they wondered silently if the demon was too strong for the Lord. Or as Leon Morris suggests "perhaps the disciples had been treating their power to cast out devils as a new possession of their own - a kind of magic - they would go through their routine and the devil would come out!"
Whatever their attempt looked like, the disciples had once again taken one step forward and two back. Their faith was "little" meaning poor in quality and their minds had become twisted in unbelief - the power of the enemy seemed to trump the power of God.
Such unbelief caused a weariness in Jesus. His followers had seen and heard much and yet still there seemed to be so little growth. All these years later and we are no better. We have all the benefits of the Word and sacraments and the ministry of the Spirit and the intercession of Christ and yet how often do we run to ur default setting of misunderstanding and unbelief?
Jesus said "If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." (v20). Jesus isn't calling us to move the Mournes into the sea and His statement "nothing is impossible" does not turn us into superhuman "little gods". Instead the Lord reminds us that our faith must not shrink in the face of mountainous challenges, it is faith in God for Him nothing is impossible.
Many years ago a man called William Carey was told that if it was God's plan to convert the heathen nations then He would do it without the help of Carey or anyone else. William Carey was not satisfied with this wisdom and one day famously preached that in the Christian life we are to "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God. "
We may not be called to India as Carey once was but there is much wisdom in his sermon. The work is not about us. The Gospel is not about us. The power is not from us. Faith is a receiving and resting in Christ as He is offered in the Gospel. May Jesus strengthen our faith today even as we cry to Him "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9v24).
Q29 How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ? We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
24th April 2023
Read - Mark 9:42-50
Message Alan Burke
There is a man that I visit regularly and he has told me on more than one occasion that he has never heard a sermon on hell. He was a regular attender at worship on the Lord’s day all his life until covid and then illness got in the way. To give you some perspective he has heard somewhere between 3,000-6000 sermons and I’m not trying to give you an exaggerate number for if you go to worship as the Lord requires you’ll be there at least once on the Lord’s day over a year that should be 52 times but lets assume you were sick, on holiday or something comes up so we will say 48. Now take your age and multiply it by 48, if you are over 70 that’s 3,360 times you’ve been at worship and you should have heard God speak as his word was preached. Then if you go to evening worship double your 3,360 and you’ll get 6,720, and don’t forget all the funerals, weddings and the other times you’ve heard God’s word preached like taught midweeks and then answer me in all that time how many times have you heard a sermon on hell? This man says he’s never heard a sermon on hell and because of illness he won’t make it there on Sunday but he’s asked for a CD.
I can hazard a guess to why he has never heard a sermon on hell in his 3,000-6000 sermons and it is because of how unpopular the teaching of hell is. It has led many try to avoid it because let’s be honest it isn’t easy listening and it’s not easy preaching. Some preachers never mention hell at all while others deny the truth of it saying that at death unbelievers will simply cease to exist, it is a heresy known as annihilationism, while others teach a universalism again another heresy that everyone will eventually be saved, God will not punish anyone, we’re all getting to heaven no matter what we believe so no need to worry.
But then what do we do with the teaching of Jesus? What do we do with Mark 9:42-50 and the very word of God? You can ignore it, take it out, avoid it but then you run into the danger of not actually believing the word of God and instead you believe a creation of your own imagination, and what may be truth to you may not be to another. The problem with that is when we decided what is in or out, what matters and what doesn’t the whole thing is worthless and sadly there are whole denominations where they have rejected the very word of God and it is as good worthless.
We’re not going to get into the detail of these verses today or the warning of what awaits those who do not repent and believe, rather what I want you to notice the seriousness of sin that is laid out before us here. For in v42 it deals with causing others to sin and then goes on to deal in v43-50 it deals with our own sin, the seriousness of it. In verse 42 it gives a vivid picture of how it would be better for a person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and thrown into the sea and as it goes on to cut parts of our body off to emphasise that seriousness. Remember though what we are told in Mark Chapter 3:28, where Jesus said 28 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. (Mk 3:28), know those words are true, as fallen sinful people who have broken relationships know those words of Jesus, if you have repented and believed then you have been forgiven.
For the believer your sin has been forgiven, you cannot commit the unforgivable sin, yes your sin is serious, you should never belittle it but it has been dealt with. Yet all of us need reminded just how serious sin is and the consequences of it. The question that most of us need to ask this day is are we taking our sin seriously or have we bought into the lie that it doesn’t really matter?
Q28 Wherein consisteth Christ’ s exaltation?
Christ’ s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, (1 Cor. 15:4) in ascending up into heaven, (Mark 16:19) in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, (Eph. 1:20) and in coming to judge the world at the last day. (Acts 1:11, Acts 17:31)
22nd April 2023
Read (Matthew 16v28-17v13)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
The last verse of Matthew 16 records Jesus saying "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (16v28) This has long been a controversial verse and so I'll do my best to explain it today. The first half of the verse is actually quite simple. Jesus was speaking to His disciples and He told them that some of them wouldn't die until they saw a certain event. The event in question was "the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." and therein lies the controversy.
Many have taken the meaning to be that some of the disciples wouldn't die until Christ's second coming. There are those who are often labelled as "preterists" who claim that this verse clearly teaches that Christ has already come back and you and I have missed it.The thinking goes that some of the Lord's disciples were still alive to see the actual physical return of Jesus when He came back at some stage in the first century.
Needless to say I'm not a preterist and I think we are still waiting for Christ's triumphant return. So what did Jesus mean by "the Son of Man coming in his kingdom"? It is my belief that some of the disciples did not die before they saw Jesus' complete humiliation at Calvary and His triumph over death by His resurrection. The Lord had been clear that the way of the Messiah was suffering and death. Therefore Jesus opened the gates of the kingdom by His death at the cross. He stood again upon the earth and He ascended to glory where He remains today and He must reign until He puts all of His enemies under His feet (1 Corinthians 15v25). Some of the disciples would not enter the grave until they witnessed the coming of the Kingdom and the King of kings taking His throne.
By this stage in Matthew Christ's road was clearly set. The Son of Man would slowly but surely make His way to the place of His humiliation and death and beginning with an important event on a mountain, the disciples would begin to see "the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.". Six days after the Lord's rebuke of Peter and subsequent teaching, Jesus took Peter, James and John up to a high mountain by themselves (17v1).
What followed was the event called the "transfiguration" of Christ. Before the eyes of the disciples, Jesus was transformed with His face shining like the sun and His clothes becoming as white as light (v2). What happened? Remember that Jesus was and is true God, true man and without sin and so at the transfiguration Christ's "earthly human-ness became suffused by the splendour of Deity in advance of his horrific disfigurement on the Cross." (Hywel R. Jones). Let me try to say that simply. At the transfiguration Christ's human body was covered by the glory of His divinity causing His appearance to be temporarily but gloriously transformed.
If that weren't enough, both Moses and Elijah appeared and were talking with Jesus (v3). Moses had received the tablets of stone at Mount Sinai and his face would shine after meeting with God (Exodus 34v29). Elijah had fled to Mount Horeb and it was there that the Lord passed by producing wind, earthquake and fire before speaking to Elijah in a low whisper (1 Kings 19v9-12). Yet on the mountain of transfiguration both Moses (the law) and Elijah (the prophets) focused on Christ who shone with a glory that wasn't borrowed but was His own.
In response Peter offered to make some temporary lodgings for the Lord and His visitors (v4) but while he was still speaking a bright cloud appeared and from it a voice said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (v5) If the path of suffering and death seemed ridiculous to Peter, he and the others now saw the reality of the Messiah and heard the Father's affirmation, so in response they fell on their faces terrified (v6).
Jesus urged them to “Rise, and have no fear.” (v7) and as they came down the mountain He commanded them to remain quiet about the transfiguration "until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” (v9). With their increased understanding of Christ's Messiahship, the disciples wondered "why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?" (v10). The scribes were correct and accurately taught what Malachi had predicted that “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4v5-6)
Jesus' response was clear. Elijah had already come and he had been treated abysmally (v12) and so the Son of Man would certainly suffer in the same way. With that said the penny dropped and Peter, James and John realised that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah (v13) and Christ was the promised Messiah.
Brothers and sisters, sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses. We often associate the Christian faith with the "stuff" we do. Christians go to church. Christians go on mission teams. Christians are out at meetings every night of the week. But let's stop for a moment. The object of our faith is and always has been Jesus. He was proclaimed by John the Baptist. He was born to a virgin. He was flesh and blood without sin. He was true God. He was perfectly obedient to the law's demands. He was despised and rejected by men. He was transfigured on the mountain. He was crucified for sin. He was dead in a tomb. He was raised again to life. He is alive for evermore.
Stop today and consider your Lord. Just as He was transformed so you will be too. God said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Q27 Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist? Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.
21st April 2023
Read - Mark 9:38-41
Message Alan Burke
Jesus here in this section had been challenging the disciples view of what it means to belong to Jesus. They had been caught up in themselves, in the perceived exclusiveness of being part of the twelve but as Jesus had confronts them with the truth after they had told him that they had stoped a man from casting out demons in Jesus’ name was showing that he was not against Jesus and as Jesus says, v40 “for whoever is not against us is for us.” In Matthew 12:30 Jesus says the same thing in a slightly different way; “He who is not with me is against me. (Mt 12:30).
Both convey the same principle, either you are with Jesus or against him, if you’re not against him then you are for him. But this isn’t teaching such a thing a neutrality, that you can sit on on the fence undecided when it comes to Jesus, that you haven’t made your mind up, thinking that that you’re not opposed to him and his people, for there is no such thing as neutrality, if you’re not on his side, in his team then you’re against him.
Jesus was teaching his disciples this man that they tried to stop was not working against them, instead he was with them, for them, they were the same team, they were working for Christ and his kingdom. 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 reminds us of what is essential, what it is to be for Jesus, in the same team to be working for Christ and his kingdom, this is what we are told;
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (ESV)
Of first importance for the church, for believers is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, this is key, if this isn’t the message that we proclaim, if this isn’t what we share then we are not playing on the same team, there are plenty of churches and individuals who claim to be part of the church who would not say that this of first importance but it is. This is the truth that unites us in Christ Jesus, yes there may be differences in how we worship, there are differences in our understanding of what the bible teaches, there are differences in what colour of carpet that we have and that has caused plenty of fall outs over the years, yet this is the truth that unites us, we proclaim the good news of the Gospel, of Christ Crucified risen and ascended.
Then in verse 41, to emphasise the point of what he has just said, Jesus tells his disciples, still sitting at his feet, “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward”. Not only the man casting out demons but also one who offers something as simple as a cup of water to those who belong to Christ, they will not loose their reward because they are also serving the kingdom. We might often want the reward in the here and the now, we want earthly recognition but Jesus here is talking about the eternal reward.
Now in any congregation there are going to be those who are gifted in one area and not another, you might look at someone and thing why don’t I have a voice like that, why can’t I do that, it can be easy for us to become jealous, envious, yet we should rejoice that God has given that person that gift and ability, what ever we do in the service of the Lord even if it may seem as trivial as giving someone a cup of water we should know that eternally we will have our reward.
Q26 How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, (Acts 15:14–16) in ruling, (Isa. 32:22) and defending us, (Isa. 32:1–2) and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. (1 Cor. 15:25, Ps. 110)
20th April 2023
Read (Matthew 16v21-27)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Peter was right, Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God. But what sort of Messiah would Jesus prove to be? Perhaps Christ would destroy the Romans? Maybe Jesus would restore the earthly throne of David? Or would the Lord reclaim the land once promised to the Jewish people?
If the disciples were excited at the prospect of the Romans finally getting sent home with their tails between their legs, Jesus would quickly point His followers in another direction. As the true reality of Christ's nature became clear, the Lord began to teach more clearly what His Messiahship would look like. Defeat of the Romans would have to wait, for Jesus stressed "that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (v21).
Nothing that would come later at Calvary would be a surprise to the Lord - His suffering, death and resurrection were a necessity. Peter was the man who had boldly confessed Jesus as the Christ but he simply could not conceive that the Lord's future was humiliation and death. He took Jesus aside and rebuked Him saying “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (v22).
It would be easy to see Peter's words as harmless concern for a beloved friend but unwittingly he had walked the path of Satan. During the Lord's temptation the devil had offered Him all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus would worship Satan. It was an offer of a kingdom without the suffering of the cross and needless to say Christ rejected Satan's offer completely.
As Peter's words rang in His ears, Jesus replied “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (v23) Wow. Can you imagine the sting that Peter must have felt? He could only see the kingdom from a human perspective and it didn't include the suffering and death of the Messiah. But the Lord's ways are not our ways and without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness of sin. Christ the Messiah had come to suffer and die.
If this was the path of Messiahship then Christ's followers cannot expect the sheltered side of the hill. Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (v24). Christ calls us to self-denial and death of self. The follower of Jesus must understand that the road to eternal life is marked with difficulty, suffering and trial. Christianity is not about behaving ourselves for an hour on Sunday morning as we seek to impress God. Instead the faith once delivered to the saints is exactly as described by the hymn "When I survey", true Christianity "demands my soul, my life, my all."
I understand that this message doesn't sound too appealing. The Gospel would seem much more pleasant if it was all health, wealth and prosperity. But Jesus calls us to follow Him and to carry our cross as we do so - He calls us to come and die. Nevertheless, the one who heeds this call will find true life (v25). All the riches of the world are of no value if we lose our soul to hell (v26a). Indeed our soul is of such value there is nothing in this world that we can give in return for it. Jesus is coming back with His angels in glory, power and might (v27). All will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and He will repay each person according to his/her deeds upon this earth (v27b).
Satan seeks to keep us blind to the seriousness of this situation but the wise individual rejects the advances of the enemy. Trying to preserve your life by pleasure and ease is a fool's errand. The Christian instead turns in faith to Christ and daily takes up their cross. The road ahead is full of trouble but it ends in heavenly glory. Brothers and sisters, there is a cost to following Jesus, we do not pretend otherwise and we are honest in our evangelism by refusing to offer a false gospel of ease. As Christ has suffered, so we follow.
"Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. "(Hebrews 13v13-14)
Q25 How doth Christ execute the office of a priest? Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.
19th April 2023
Read - Mark 9:38-41
Message Alan Burke
In the midst of Jesus turning the perceived ideas of the disciples on their head when it came to who is the greatest in the kingdom, John then says to Jesus; “Teacher, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” (V38). The ‘we’ in John’s comment makes it clear that while John spoke that he had not acted alone in stoping this man, it is the disciples as a whole who as a group who took action. What John says does not deny that the individual in question was part of the extended followers of Jesus, rather the issue here for John and others is that this man was not part of the twelve, he wasn’t one of them.
The irony is in all of this is that the man whom they had told to stop was successful in casting out the demons in the name of Jesus where they had failed. Look back to 9:18 where the account of the healing of a boy with an evil spirit. There the disciples themselves had failed to drive out the demon from the boy, they had been given the power to do so but had failed in their task but this man whom they had stopped did not fail and as a result they had taken it upon themselves to stop this man who had success.
John and the rest of the disciples were not concerned whether this man knew Jesus, they were not concerned with his relationship with Jesus, it was just that this man wasn’t one of them so they stoped him from doing what he was doing. To what John has just said Jesus responds and no doubt it would have taken them by surprise, for Jesus says “Do not stop him (39). Then Jesus tells them; “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us”.
For Jesus the issue revolves around not the perceived exclusiveness that the twelve viewed themselves with, rather it is around his name and the power of his name and who belong to his name. If the man who cast out the demons was not a follower of Jesus and he’d never met him, sooner or later he would have understood the power of the name of Jesus and therefore whom Jesus is. This is the point that Jesus himself makes to the John and the rest of the disciples. How can anyone who sees lives transformed by the power of Jesus name say anything bad about him or speak evil of him. The man casting out demons would have seen first hand the power of Jesus, no matter his motivation he enabled by the power of Jesus name to stand against Satan and cast out the demon. Whatever the motivations of man who was stoped by the disciples he would have been unable to speak ill of him later, unlike the teachers of the law who had accuse him of being in league with Beelzebub (Mk 3:22-29).
For as Jesus makes it clear that the disciples should not stop him for whoever isn’t against him is for him. Our God uses people no matter what their gifts and abilities for the work of his kingdom, while the twelve were arguing and debating among themselves about who is the greatest, who stopped the man from casting out demons because he wasn’t one of the special twelve, as we will think of on Friday there is nothing to trivial or unimportant when rendered by God’s people in the service of him to go unnoticed. For whoever is not against him is for him and we will think more about that on Friday.
Q 24 How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. (John 1:18, 1 Pet. 1:10–12, John 15:15, John 20:31)