Year 2 Day 47
Read - Acts 17v10-15
Message - Scott Woodburn
How do you listen to a sermon? Do you make sure that you've enough sweets? Do you keep an eye on your watch throughout? Do you take notes? Are you teachable? Again, how do you listen to a sermon?
Let's be honest we don't always appreciate a sermon. Perhaps it's too long so we tune out. Perhaps we are smarter than the preacher and we can only be taught by the really good online preachers. Perhaps we just think sermons are a little bit old fashioned. Isn't there a better way to do things?
Let me raise the flag for preaching. Why do we preach? Because preaching is the means appointed by God to convert sinners and build His church. Paul writes "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe." (1 Corinthians 1v21) Preaching seems foolish in the eyes of the world but it is the means that God promises to bless. The Word preached and the Spirit's work sees even the hardest hearted sinner saved.
So preaching converts sinners and additionally preaching builds the Christian. Again Paul is clear, he writes "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3v16-17) If you want to grow as a Christian, that growth comes as you sit under the word preached. It may not be glamorous and it certainly takes discipline and work, but Christian growth only comes under the sound of the Word preached.
We don't always enjoy preaching but even in a few brief paragraphs we see that the Lord takes its seriously and therefore so should we. So back to the opening question - how do you listen to a sermon? Paul and Silas arrive in Berea which was a town in northern Greece. As was their custom they went immediately to the synagogue (v10) and began to preach.
The Berean Jews are described as more noble than the troublemakers in Thessalonica. In Berea these individuals received the word with all eagerness and they searched the Scriptures daily to see if Paul's teaching was true (v11). Here is how we are to listen. We understand that the Word preached is a blessing from God to our souls. We may not like the preacher. We might be tired on Sunday morning. We might think we have better things to do, but brothers and sisters, if you have faithful preaching regularly offered...receive it eagerly.
The days are coming when no one will endure sound teaching...don't be one of those people. Prepare yourself to receive the Word. Pray before church that the Lord will help you listen. Pray before the sermon that all distractions would flee. Listen well to what is preached with your Bible open and when you get home continue in the word to see if what has been said is true.
It all sounds like too much hard work but how many hours of Netflix do you rack up each week? How often are you on Facebook? How many photos of your dinner do you put on Instagram? Brothers and sisters we can expect no growth in ourselves or our church until we take seriously the means by which God has promised to bless us. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10v17)
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.
Year 2 Day 46
Read - Mark 1:29-34
Message - Alan Burke
Last year we were told "STAY AT HOME, PROTECT THE NHS, SAVE LIVES”, that was the tagline which was explained to us like this…“the single most important action you can take is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives”. Since then the NHS has rarely been out of the news, we have seen the tremendous work of those in the NHS doing all that they could to help people not only from a pandemic but from many different illness. Imagine how different the past year would have been without a National Health Service, actually imagine how different many our lives would be without a National Health Service.
It was very different in the days of Jesus. We are told here how as soon as they left the synagogue Jesus goes with his disciples to the home of Peter and Andrew and Simons mother in law is ailing with fever. With no NHS, no doctors to call on, this is bad news. We are not told of her ailments, given a diagnosis of what is wrong with her, instead the focus is once more is on Jesus, this time on his ability to heal, in how he has compassion. All it takes for Simons mother in law to be healed is the person touch of Jesus, and she is restored to health. So dramatic is the healing that she leaves her bed and began to wait on them. From lying in her bed to waiting on them this is a complete transformation, once more Jesus had shown his authority this time it was over the illness that this woman had.
The News about Jesus had spread quickly over the whole region (28) and now that is seen as many that evening come out to Jesus to be healed. His ability to cast out the evil spirit awakened in them hope in their own helplessness. One by one Jesus healed them in his compassion, for he cared and drove out the evil spirits. It would have been late in the evening and yet Jesus doesn’t turn them away for the compassion and power of Jesus is open to all who respond to him. It is open to all today who respond to his call or have responded.
This once more shows his authority and also shows his compassion, Jesus has the power to bring cleansing and healing and this is good news indeed, for the cleansing that we all need to is be cleansed from our sin. In all of us sin is a greater disease than any illness that we can ever be afflicted with and Jesus has the power to cleanse us from it, for “the death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Rom 6:10). Jesus died because he took our sin upon himself, but his resurrection demonstrates that he has defeated both sin and death. We must repent and believe the gospel (1:15) to be cleansed from sin and it is a glorious gospel of good news for sinners like you and I.
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. (1 Sam. 2:12,17,22,29, 1 Sam. 3:13, Deut. 28:58–59)
Year 2 Day 45
Read - Acts 17v1-9
Message - Scott Woodburn
I've thoroughly enjoyed preaching through Acts and writing these daily devotions. I certainly hope by this stage I've made some things quite clear. The church didn't begin at Pentecost, we shouldn't seek or look for another Pentecost, the church in the days after the Ascension was not a perfect place and the work and the office and the gifting of the Apostles has now ceased. As I reflect on these things I think another difference between then and now becomes clear in today's passage.
Firstly though, there is plenty that is familiar. Paul arrives in Thessalonica and preaches for three Sabbath days from the Scriptures (v1-2). His focus as usual was Christ and Paul did his best to show that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead (v3a). Paul was confident in the Gospel and made it clear that Jesus was the Christ (v3b). As usual some came to believe (v4) and as usual some out of jealousy formed a mob and sought to cause trouble for the church (v5).
A Christian by the name of Jason and some others were dragged before the city authorities (v6). The charges? The usual story that these Christians had destroyed the peace and had placed Christ as king above Caesar (v8). The city officials were disturbed by this news but after Jason had paid money as security he was allowed to go free (v9). So far, so familiar. In the days after the Ascension the church saw great growth but also great persecution. Yet as I read the opening verse of this chapter I'm struck by how offensive the Gospel was in Thessalonica.
It seems that no one is on the fence. Many believe, many do not. Many rejoice at the Gospel, many despise it. Many proclaim "Jesus is Lord", many shout “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also" (v6). When I consider Northern Ireland I fear the church has lost its wonder at the Gospel and society at large sees the message as irrelevant. I pray that both statistics will change.
Paul once wrote "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1v18) There is nothing tame or mundane about the Gospel. It looks the sinner in the eye and declares "You must be born again!". It once caused cities and synagogues to be stirred and disturbed and troubled. Today? Perhaps the church thinks the Gospel has lost its sparkle and the world merely shrugs with a disinterested yawn.
We cannot go back in time to the years immediately after the Ascension but the Lord has not changed. Let us join in prayer and ask that our generation will live to see the day that we remember the Gospel isn't a dusty relic but instead the Word of life to all who will believe. I've never been to Thessalonica, it's probably very different to the place I call home. Yet may Ballynahinch and Down and beyond be turned upside-down by the Gospel once more.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"(Romans 1v16-17)
Q55 What is forbidden in the third commandment? The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.
Year 2 Day 44
Read - Mark 1:21-28
Message - Alan Burke
I want you to notice something as we work through Mark’s gospel. It is likely something that you have already picked up on and that is the speed at which it moves from one thing to the next. Look to verse 12 we are told after Jesus baptism “at once” he was driven into the wilderness, then verse 18 “at once”, verse 20 “without delay”, verse 23 “just then”, verse 28 “quickly”, verse 29 “as soon as”, verse 42 “immediately”. All different ways of portraying the same thing, in fact in the greek it is the same word that is used in each case and it is also used in verse 10, 21 and verse 30.
All of this because the Kingdom of God is near and this message is one of urgency for the King had come. He came to call the unexpected and here we are told how he is one with authority. When Jesus called the first disciples his authority is shown but here it is told to us explicitly in verse 22 and 27. We are not told what Jesus taught in these verses that’s not what mattered, rather it is the authority he had. For he preached as one who knew the very mind of God and was commissioned as the Son of God to declare it.
Mark shows that Jesus does not simply announce the coming reign of God and the end of the reign of Satan; he brings it about, the beginning of this reign of God in the world as it had begun to impact in the lives of individuals. This the first clash with Satan’s minions following the temptation was ultimately a no-contest event, it’s like pitting a toddler against Tyson Fury it’s over before its even begun. Here Jesus disarms Satan’s power that has been pirating human souls and sets the victims free one by one. As he casts out the evil spirit demonstrating the kingdom of God is at hand and this world of darkness which is Satan’s realm was being routed.
Jesus, is the one with authority, here he shows it in his teaching and his authority over the evil spirit. We may not see it this way initially but we will see it as we continue through the Mark’s gospel that Jesus at the outset of his public ministry challenging not only the power of Satan but the religious establishment. This isn’t the Jesus Children’s story book idea of Jesus that many have in their head, instead Jesus was challenging and confrontational to bring the truth of the good news of the gospel, the necessity to repent and believe that good news. It would lead him on a collision course with not only with Satan and his minions, with civil authorities but also with the religious leaders.
What do we learn from what happens here? Well when the word of God is preach and taught faithfully there will be confrontation, here it was seen in the evil sprit opposing Jesus and we will see that more and more in chapter 2. Those who proclaim the truth of the gospel will experience opposition as long as they hold Christ high, you too will face opposition for holding on to the truth of Christ in your life. Ultimately this is because none of us like it when our sin is revealed for what it is. Yet in all of this we have hope, for Christ can change even the hardest hearts, those who are violently opposed to him like the man with the evil spirit or like Saul who become Paul. There may be someone you know and love, they may have a hard heart, it seems impenetrable, irredeemable, impossible. Yet the Gospel of Christ can free even the hardest heart from the bondage of sin, from the evil that controls it. Be on your knees for those whom you know and love crying out for the gospel of Christ to work by the Spirit.
Q54 What is required in the third commandment?
The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’ s names, (Matt. 6:9, Deut. 28:58) titles, (Ps. 68:4) attributes, (Rev. 15:3–4) ordinances, (Mal. 1:11,14) Word, (Ps. 138:1–2) and works. (Job 36:24)
Year 2 Day 43
Read - Acts 16v25-40
Message - Scott Woodburn
We have already witnessed the great escape of Peter from prison and here in these verses we see a similar experience for Paul and Silas. They have been put in prison for the crime of releasing a slave girl from spiritual bondage but they are not down hearted. At midnight they are praying and singing hymns to the Lord (v25). Suddenly an earthquake shakes the prison's foundations. The doors are flung open and the chains of each prisoner are loosed. This is no ordinary earthquake, the Lord is the One who has shaken the chains loose.
This was bad news for the jailer. If the authorities had discovered an empty jail, the jailer would have lost his life. He is about to kill himself (v27) when Paul tells him "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." (v28). The jailer is amazed but asks no questions about the earthquake or the loosed chains, instead he asks the question which stands above all others "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (v30)
Paul and Silas immediately point to Jesus "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (v31) It is Christ who sets the prisoner free. It is Jesus who shook the world with His death and resurrection. It is the Messiah who we must look to and be saved. We are only explicitly told that the jailer believed (v34) but the sign of the covenant was applied to the whole household. (v33) The covenant of grace is for you and your children and for all who are far off and so the jailer's whole household were baptised.
The next day it becomes clear that Paul is a Roman citizen (v37). He deserved better than to be beaten and thrown in prison like a common thug. The magistrates were immediately afraid at this turn of affairs (v38). Roman citizens were not to be beaten without a fair trial. The magistrates existed to protect the rights of Romans and so they had categorically failed Paul and Silas in allowing them to be abused. An apology is offered (v39) and after encouraging the church, Paul and Silas leave the city (v40).
Status remains incredibly potent. Recent riots on the streets of Belfast have taken place because many fear that their status as British citizens is under threat. During the Brexit debate it was suggested that British passports would return to the colour blue rather than the current burgundy. Apparently such a change would be a sure sign of freedom from the EU.
I'll leave you to your politics but simply use this text to say that ultimately your status with Christ is all that counts. The jailer went to bed as an enemy of God but met the morning as a follower of Christ. He was justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. He was saved and declared righteous by the chief magistrate who is the Lord.
When you personally meet the Lord He will not enquire about your nationality, your politics or your status. The grand dividing line in human history sees Christ rejecters on one side and the faithful saints on the other. So what questions will rise in your soul today? How did the prison doors open? Who loosed the chains? Why did Paul wait to announce his status as a Roman?
Let me suggest this question..."what must I do to be saved?"...and let me furnish you with the answer..."Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved"
Q53 Which is the third commandment? The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Year 2 Day 42
Read - Mark 1:16-20
Message - Alan Burke
It’s a Monday morning and I’ve just been on the nijobfinder website. You will either be shocked at that news or thinking it wasn’t soon enough, but I have no desire to go anywhere and it seems that from the job adverts that once you become a minister of the gospel you have absolutely no employability in any other profession. Here’s the reason why I was on the nijobfinder website to have a look at essential criteria and desirable criteria as employers often look for both. Terms like ‘A proven ability’, ‘Excellnet verbal and written communication skills’ and no that wasn’t my typo it was actually in the job advert. Those are things that employers look for. What is most surprising here is that Jesus calls the unexpected.
You’ve read the passage, you know what happens, Jesus calls these men to follow him. These fellas lives were fairly insular, they would have spent most of them within a stones throw of where they were born, maybe having went down to Jerusalem for a festival. But largely the wouldn’t have strayed far, their lives would have consisted of how the fishing was going, of trade talk, local gossip, family matters, maybe local politics, they were born, grew up, worked, lived, spent all their lives in this place.
But then Jesus comes and their world is transformed. The first two, Simon who is better know to us as Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were on the shore likely chest deep casting their nets into the lake fishing. Then their was James the son of Zebedee and John in the boat with the hired men.
Think of the cost there was to leave everything, there is part of us that thinks this is madness. If I asked, “who’s up for it, follow me this day and we will leave everything behind and just go, let’s see where we end up" you’d think I’d lost the plot. Even if part of you wanted to go you’d be thinking, what about the cat, or the milk in the fridge will go off, it could by any number of things. Maybe for these first disciples they were furloughed from their actual jobs or there was a recession but I doubt it.
They left everything because of the one who called them. We may find that hard to take in but think about it, I’m sure we’ve seen people who were transformed by the gospel, and we have heard of people coming to faith. Often they were not looking for Jesus Christ but their lives were radically transformed, when they were living their own lives, how they wanted to live, yet because of the gospel there was radical transformation.
Want I want to leave you with is how the wisdom of this world teaches us that you would pick the most qualified, best experienced person for the task, the best of the best. Yet Jesus calls the unqualified, unimportant and unworthy he calls the unexpected. This is good news for us today, because often we can feel that we are not good enough, why would God choose me, I don’t have any gifts, I have done terrible things that no one knows about, what is it for you that makes you feel inadequate to follow?
Think about Noah got drunk and was humiliated, Abraham was an old man, Jacob a liar and a cheat, Moses wasn’t a great speaker, Jonah ran from God, Rehab was a prostitute, David was an adulterous murder, Jeremiah was depressed, you could list their failures one after another. Often we can feel that we are not good enough that we are unworthy but none of us are worthy and that should comfort us that God calls us because it all about the one who is worthy Jesus Christ and he calls sinners like you and me to himself to follow.
Q52 What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’ s sovereignty over us, (Ps. 95:2–3) his propriety in us, (Ps. 45:11) and the zeal he hath to his own worship. (Exod. 34:13–14)
Year 2 Day 40
Read - Acts 16v16-24
Message - Scott Woodburn
As the fellowship made their way to the place of prayer they met a slave girl who was possessed by an evil spirit (v16). This spirit enabled the slave girl to tell people their fortune and as such she made her masters quite a bit of money. The demons we meet in Scripture are fallen angels who follow their ruler Satan. They are wicked and they are evil but they are not fools. This particular spirit recognised Paul and the God whom he served.
The girl cried out for many days “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” (v17). The spirit was telling the truth but we shouldn't think it was on Paul's side. James tells us "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!" (James 2v19). The demons do not believe in a saving way. Instead they know who God is and what He will do. They understand that He is one and they know that one day they will meet the Lord in judgement. No wonder they shudder! It is a terrible thing to understand the magnitude of our God and still shake an angry fist in His all powerful face.
Paul became annoyed at the constant utterances of this evil spirit and so he turned and said "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." (v18) Needless to say, the demon did what Paul commanded. Paul's action caused great trouble for the girl's owners. Their cash stream was suddenly stopped (v19) and so they told the local magistrates that Paul and Silas were trouble makers, advocating practices that went against Roman customs (v21). The crowd turned quickly into a mob and Paul and Silas were badly beaten and thrown in prison (v22-24)
Nothing about this should surprise us. Satan's fingerprints are all over this incident. He keeps this slave girl in spiritual chains and he blinds the eyes of her owners so all that they can see is money. Indeed the anger of the crowd is quickly kindled by lies and soon their fists fly. Satan is a bitter and vengeful foe. In Revelation we read "Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!" (Revelation 12v12)
His time is short and so he rages against the church of Christ each and every day. Brothers and sisters I write this today to encourage you and inform. Understand that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6v12) Be wise to the devil's schemes. Have nothing to do with those who supposedly can contact the dead or tell your fortune. Flee from anything that has the whiff of the enemy. Satan roars like a lion, resist him and he will flee from you.
Finally be encouraged. The unseen cosmic battle is not an even struggle nor is the outcome in doubt. Christ has bound Satan. He has destroyed his works at Calvary. Satan may rage but Christ Jesus reigns. When Christ speaks the devil and his legions flee. Christians may be beaten, mocked and thrown in prison but they will not be defeated nor will they be lost. Brothers and sisters, the foe may seem strong and in control but the victory belongs to Jesus. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6v10-11)
Q51 What is forbidden in the second commandment? The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his Word.