Read - Hebrews 10v1-10
Message - Scott Woodburn
Many years ago I read an article about a girl who raised a great amount of money for charity. She had been involved in many commendable activities and unquestionably her efforts helped many people. I take no issue with any of that but what caused this article to stick in my mind all these years later was the girl’s comment. "That's me into heaven." she stated. I hope that there was someone close to her who was able to share the Gospel. No one sees heaven without faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11v6)
It has always been this way. Before Christ came, the people of God were pointed forward to Jesus by God's law. It was a shadow of the good things to come (Hebrews 10v1) but the sacrifices offered year after year were not able to make the worshippers perfect (10v1b). Indeed the yearly sacrifice would remind them of sin each and every year (10v3). The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin (10v4).
What was required was a perfect sacrifice. The believer before Christ's birth knew this. They looked forward in faith to the arrival of a Saviour. Yet then, as now, there were also many who believed that by going through the motions, doing good things, showing up to worship would be enough to somehow please God. Have you convinced yourself that by your church attendance, your charitable acts, your "paying in", that that's you into heaven? Please waken up!
Our works will never be enough, we could never keep God's law perfectly. What we need is a substitute. We need a Saviour who can meet the requirements of God perfectly and thankfully we know who that is. Jesus is the lamb of God who comes to take away the sin of the world. He kept the law of God 100%. The Covenant of Works made with and failed by Adam, has been kept perfectly by Christ. Here in Hebrews 10, Psalm 40 is applied directly to Christ. Jesus is the One who comes to do the will of God (Psalm 40v7). As we will see this week he is active and passive in His obedience. His sacrifice is perfect, it is sufficient, it is once and for all, it is enough.
Doing charitable things doesn't get you into heaven and please don't fall for the lie that keeping the commandments will save you. You will not be able to keep the commandments perfectly and they are supposed to teach you your need of Christ. Only Christ's works are perfect, only Jesus is righteous. What then must we do to be doing the work of God? This is the work of God, believe in the One whom he has sent. (John 6v29)
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q16 Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression? The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.
Read — Psalm 88:1-8
Message Alan Burke
Our emotions play a big part in who we are, they are all part and parcel of one’s everyday life. We all face times of sadness, torment and brokenness as well as joy, elation, happiness. Yet there is a stigma around emotions that are deemed negative. Instead of being honest with those around us, how often do we hide away what we are feeling, how often when we are asked how we are do we simply say I’m… ‘grand', ‘good’, ‘alright’ and then quickly ask the other person how they are, never really opening up. On the odd occasion that we have verbalised how we feel, we’ve probably been told, ‘just get on with it’, ‘man up’ ‘stop being a kill joy’, ‘are you a man or a mouse’. I have a friend who is a GP, it’s something, he sees the effects of, that bottling up of ones emotions, I quote what he has said;
“…they come though my door confident and successful, smiling and chipper – and as soon as the door closes, the face falls, the tears start, the truth comes out. In this country, we have a problem with being honest about how we are feeling, and about who we are. We don’t open up about our struggles to our friends, our elders, our ministers, or our family. You know what? You need to be honest. You need to let people in on who you are fundamentally, you need to be vulnerable – because the ultimate exposing of our weakness and flaws will come out despite our best efforts to keep up appearances.”
Today we have read some of Psalm 88, Heman brings his song to God. He emphatically calls out to God, the God of his salvation (1), but this is the only glimmer of hope in this entire psalm that is full of hopelessness and despair, it is totally bleak, for the psalmist feels forsaken. He does not deny that God remembers him, that God knows his trouble but rather he speaks, expressing how he feels in the midst of all that he faces. When one is in the throws of deep depression, the mind forgets all, it is consumed by darkness, the weight and the burden of which make everything else seem far off and that there will be no return, that there will never be anything but what is faced in the present. The weight of what he carries, of what he feels weights heavily, so much so he can barely take it any more.
Heman’s song, this song to God, psalm 88 it not what we would expect to hear sung today in many of our congregations and we are poorer for it, because these words, this song, help us by giving us language that allows us to express even the deepest agonies of the human soul in the context of worship. We will think about this more later in the week, but I want you to know that in what ever you face you can come like Heman before the Lord and can express your deepest agonies with honesty before him. And remember what we thought about from Matthew 27 earlier this week, how Jesus is able to sympathise with our weakness because he came as one of us and lived as one of us, being totally forsaken on the cross (Mt 27:46).
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery. (Rom. 5:12)
Read - Psalm 40v6-8
Message - Scott Woodburn
Gresham Machen was an American Presbyterian of the last century. If you have never heard of him then perhaps this summer is the time to pick up one of his works. In the final days of his life he sent a telegram to his friend stating "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it." Perhaps such a statement strikes you as odd. Little time in your life left, every breath could be your last and you speak of an obscure sounding bit of doctrine? But Gresham Machen was right.
Psalm 40 speaks of Christ. As we have heard this week, Jesus is the only One who keeps God's law perfectly. We speak of Jesus actively and passively obeying. But what do we mean? Today we'll think about His active obedience. As the phrase suggests Jesus in every moment of His life actively obeyed God. From the cradle to the end of His life Jesus was active in obedience.
In Luke’s Gospel we read that Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2v52) This verse causes us to remember that Jesus lived around 33 years on this earth. He didn’t begin life at age 30. He was born in a lowly estate and from childhood to manhood He perfectly obeyed God. Do you remember that Jesus was circumcised? Do you recall His baptism? Do you consider that He celebrated the Passover? Why? Because Jesus was obedient to all that God required. All of this was as he said to John the Baptist "to fulfil all righteousness." (Matthew 3v15) But sometimes we do things with unwillingness in our hearts. Perhaps Jesus obeyed grudgingly. Not at all. It was our Lord's great pleasure and duty to "fulfil all righteousness" down to the smallest part of the Law. Jesus said "I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (John 6v38).
It is incredibly good news when we understand Christ's active obedience. Have you ever promised that the biscuit in your hand will be the last one? Have you ever been determined to never fall into that particular sin ever again? How's that working out for you? Praise God that His disobedient children are counted as obedient because they have trusted Christ. A body was prepared for our Lord (Psalm 40v5), a body that was completely and actively obedient to all that God required. It is Jesus who says “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.” (Psalm 40v7)
We look to Christ's obedience in our sin and weakness and know that because of Him, there is no one to lay any charge against God's elect. Have you done enough to win God’s favour? Never! But do not despair because Christ has done it all. Machen was right "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it."
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q18 Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell? The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
Read — Psalm 88:6-18
Message Alan Burke
How are you? A simple question that we often ask each other when we meet. In all likelihood there have been times that you have either tried to deflect the question by asking the other person how they are or by talking about the wether, something like that or you have lied through your teeth. That may not be the case, but how often have we admitted to others that we are having a bad day, that things are hard, that we are struggling with sin, when we are asked ‘How are you?’. We may feel that we have to deflect, lie or put on a front before our family and friends but we do not need to do that before God.
Here as the psalmist continues his lament, he turns to accusation, he sees that the Lord has cause it, crying out, you have put me (6), your wrath lies heavy about me (7), you have caused (8), you have made me a horror (8). Utterly helpless, without encouragement, close friends, the situation that the Psalmist finds himself in is reminiscent to that of Job. Even in the midst of all, in the depths of his despair, the faith of the psalmist has remained, evident as he make clear his earnest desire that the Lord would answer (9), his faith is not apathetic, instead he wrestles with the Lord in prayer, the depth of his faith is expressed by his earnest calling on the Lord that arise out of his experience of abandonment (9b-12). Again he blames the Lord, it is his doing (13-14), for in all that he experiences it is of ‘dying in life’ (15-18). Its end seems a hopeless one but thought it all one thing remains and that his faith. Even in the depths of dispart for the psalmist has learnt to look to the God who saves even in the midst of his darkness. This psalm is of realism of Biblical faith even though darkness has become his closest friend.
If the bleak features of the psalm have been known to you or are known to you or if you find them in the future, this is how to respond. When life is seemingly hopeless and full of despair, to cry out to God, draw near to Jesus, reach out for help and remember that Jesus as we thought about earlier in this week, took the ultimate darkness of God’s wrath (Mt 27:45-50). If someone ever tells you that Christians don’t suffer or shouldn’t suffer, they are a liar, there is no truth in them, do not believe what they say. We only need to look to the life of our saviour Jesus and to the apostle Paul to see that the life of a Christian is one that is often denoted with suffering. Remember though that since Jesus took the abandonment we deserve, we know that God will not abandon us as he has promised that he will never leave us or forsake those who are his (Heb. 13:5). He is there with us, even when we can’t feel him at all.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, (Gen. 3:8,10,24) are under his wrath and curse, (Eph. 2:2–3, Gal. 3:10) and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever. (Lam. 3:39, Rom. 6:23, Matt. 25:41,46)
Read - Psalm 40v6-8
Message - Scott Woodburn
We have heard this week about the active obedience of Christ. Jesus "did" what the law required, but if active obedience speaks of this "doing", what do we mean when we speak of His passive obedience? He passively obeyed by willingly receiving the punishment for law breakers. Someone might try to belittle Christ's passive obedience. He wasn't the first to be humiliated, tortured, slandered and killed, why do Christians makes such a fuss? We make much of Christ's sacrifice because not only did He experience everything we've just mentioned but also Jesus became a curse for us. You've no doubt heard the word "propitiation" and a wonderful word it is too. Jesus is our propitiation or in simple terms He is the sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God.
Imagine it this way. The rain begins to fall one July day. It's raining with all the fury the heavens can muster, yet you are safe and dry under your giant umbrella. The rain beats down but not a drop touches your face because it lashes off the umbrella instead. Put that picture aside and now consider Jesus. In His passive obedience the wrath of God is poured out on Christ. Every drop of God's anger against sin pours down upon the head of our precious Redeemer. Sure there have been many who have experienced similar trials to Christ. Many unjust beatings, many slanderous remarks, many innocents who have lost their lives to the State. But none. But none. But none, except Jesus, has faced the righteous fury of a Holy God for every single sin ever committed by the elect people of God. Here is the passive obedience of Christ.
Jesus knew the weight and horror of what He was about to face. For this reason, our Lord prayed in Gethsemane, "Lord, if it is possible, take this cup from me." And yet, even in the face of divine judgment, when He would bear all the sins of all His people, He still prayed, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done" (Matthew 26v41-43). Again, I’ve heard those who mock Christ’s supposed lack of bravery in Gethsemane. How dare they! Consider your sin for a moment. Just you. Every sin you have ever committed was paid for by Christ. Now add to that the sin of every Christian in your church. Add to that the sin of every Christian in your town. Do you see where we are going? You and I would have been crushed under such weight, but not Jesus. His knees lift Him from prayer in Gethsemane and His feet carry Him to the place of the skull. Jesus becomes sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5v21).
This obedience was voluntary. Christ was neither cajoled or forced. Jesus said "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep…No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father" (John 10v14-18). Christ’s voluntary obedience even unto death, means that His sacrifice is sufficient and acceptable in God’s sight. Only Jesus can say “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40v7-8)
Remember our friend Gresham Machen about to go to glory and thinking upon the obedience of Christ? No wonder. Christ's active obedience sees us counted as righteous. Christ's passive obedience means that the wrath of God no longer abides on us. Thanks be to God for the obedience of Christ. "By the obedience of the one man many shall be declared righteous," (Romans 5v19).
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery? God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a redeemer.
Read (Matthew 27v32-56)
Message - Scott Woodburn
I’m sure we’ve all had moments of humiliation in our lives. Moments that we wish the ground would swallow us up. They are moments that tend to stick with us, causing our anger to rise and our cheeks to redden even years later. But as always the scale of Christ’s humiliation makes those harsh words spoken about us ten years ago seem so insignificant. The catechism speaks this way about Christ’s humiliation. “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.”
This week we’ll think especially about His “cursed death of the cross” and how the Psalms were on Christ’s lips on that terrible day. But lets go slowly to Golgotha today as recorded for us in Matthew’s Gospel. The events and beatings of the past hours begin to take a toll physically on the Lord and Simon of Cyrene is compelled to carry His cross (v32). Jesus refuses the wine mixed with gall (v34) as He would not allow the suffering He was about to endure to be diluted with drink. There would be no softening of the torture that was about to be poured out on Jesus. They would take Christ and hammer nails into Him. They treated the Son of God like He was a fence post, nailing Him to a cross (v35) to ensure that He would hang over His tormentors. As He hung over them they continued to mock. They took His garments and cast lots for them (v35). They hurled insults at Christ (v40-44) and even those crucified with Him took turns to revile the Lamb of God (v44).
Creation responded to the events unfolding in Jerusalem as darkness fell over the land (v45) and yet this seemed to have little impact on the spectators. As Christ cried to the Father (v46), the bystanders were interested to see if Jesus was calling Elijah (v47) and wondering if perhaps Elijah would come to rescue Christ (v49). This was sport for them. Entertainment. A blasphemer was getting what He had deserved. They were confident that they were entirely in the right and certainly God would be pleased with their scheming and lying and plotting. To them Jesus wasn't an innocent man but a troublemaker. A thorn in their side who had caused them much embarrassment over several years. There are none so blind as those who will not see.
The Christ who was breathing His last was the One who had come to open the way. Symbolically the temple curtain was torn in two (v51). Christ’s sacrifice had made it possible to enter the holy place by His precious blood. Indeed, so monumental was this event that the earth shook and the dead were raised to life (v51-53). I wonder how well His captors slept that night? Were they so filled with self righteousness, so pleased with the removal of a trouble maker that they slept like babies? Or did some of them far from the crowd begin to wonder “who was that man?”. We can only speculate, but we do see the response of a Gentile man, he was a Roman, a foreigner, an invader. Here was a sign of things to come. The news of the cross would soon spread around the world and many Gentiles would be saved through faith in Christ. As the Roman centurion considered the events of the day, he could only conclude “Truly this was the son of God.” (v54).
As we slowly walk through this familiar passage, may its weight strike us new. This was the Son of God and human hands showed Him no mercy. I am thankful today that the Lord is not like us. “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103v10-12) And where do we see the mercy of God most clearly? At the place called Golgotha where Christ was crushed for our iniquities. Bow before Him today for it was in your place He stood.
How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.
Read Ps 101:1-3a
Message - Alan Burke
If you can remember back to 2009 the news was filled for months with political scandal, there was resignations, sackings, de-selections and retirements along with public apologies all over Members of Parliament fiddling their expenses. Four parliamentarians were later jailed as a response. Politicians failing to live up to their promises is not a new thing, anyone not only our elected representatives can make a mess of things and remember that we all make a mess of things too. What is different for those who lead us, is that we expect them to behave in a certain way, act in accordance with their position. The King of God’s people was to live in a certain way, God himself had set forth the standard by which those who ruled over his people were to live by and lead by, that they would rule with love and justice over his people, ruling by the law of God, so that the king may continue long in his kingdom, as well as his children in Israel (Deut 17:14-20).
I want you to set aside all that you know about David, as he here publicly commits himself to excellence (Ps 101:1-3a). Declaring that he would ‘Sing of love and justice’ (1a). That same love and justice that had been shown to him by the Lord God, that same love and justice that the Lord God had shown to his people (Ex 34:7). This was a public declaration for all the people, that this is the way that he would live. He would make music (1b) as a response to the grace of God. What is more, he would live as King in a way that was blameless ((2a) also see Mic. 6:8). For the one who walks blamelessly is the one who does what is right (Ps 15:2-5). In all of this he knows he is dependant on God in everything praying for his help (2b). Knowing that only as he led righty in his own home, could he do that in the public sphere and his desire was to walk with integrity of heart within his own home, that is where godliness was to begin (2c). His personal commitment to excellence would mean that he set no worthless think before his eyes (3a). Literally the term worthless means without profit, its the quality of being useless, good for nothing, and David is saying that looking upon things without profit is worthless, it is not neutral, it is evil in the sight of God (Ps 119:37).
The ‘Ideals’ that David committed himself to, we know that he did not live up to, neither did the kings that followed him. The people nonetheless looked to this ‘Ideal’ and longed for a King that would come who would meet these Ideals. This King has now come, it is the Lord Jesus Christ the King who rules over all (Ps 110:1, Matt 22:41-46). How should the words of this psalm impact us? Firstly know that Jesus is the King who has come and in him was no sin (1 Pet 2:22), he did what David did not. Secondly these opening verses give us a model to live by, living lives of steadfast love and justice should be our commitment (1). Pondering what it is to be blameless and live accordingly, that is according to the Word of God not this world (2a), relying on God every day (2b), living rightly in our own homes (2c). Finally, putting nothing worthless before our eyes (3a), that is anything without profit, the implication is what we spend our time doing matters, so a whole boxset on Netflix tonight is worthless (without profit), instead we should set our hearts on what is eternally valuable (Ps 119:33-40).
What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.
Read (Psalm 22)
Message - Scott Woodburn
The events that took place at Calvary were no tragic accident. Christ’s crucifixion wasn’t the result of events getting out of God’s control. How can we be certain? Because the Bible tells us so. As we read Psalm 22 today we realise that it is extraordinarily Messianic. This is a Psalm originally penned by David and describes his despair, hurt and sense of forsakenness. Yet as we discover in the Gospels this Psalm finds its full realisation in Christ.
Jesus is the one who cries unto God “Why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22v1 & Matthew 27v46). He is the One who finds no answer and no rest at Calvary (Psalm 22v2). As the crowds gather around Him, Jesus is the one who knows the mocking tones of His accusers (Psalm 22v6-8) Indeed the words of Psalm 22v8 find their way into the mouths of those at the foot of the cross (Matthew 27v43). They stare and gloat over Christ (Psalm 22v17) and they divide His garments (Psalm 22v18 & Matthew 27v35).
Scripture speaks to Scripture. Old and New Testament agree. Nothing is left to chance. Indeed it is as Jesus says to Pilate “you would have no authority over me unless it was given from above.” (John 19v11) The extraordinary story of redemption has been written completely by the hand of God. If this doesn’t humble us then perhaps we have not understood. It was for our sake and our sin that this story was written. As the words of Psalm 22 left the mouth of David, the Lord already knew that one day they would leave the mouth of Christ. Jesus was the promised One. He would come to pay the price for His people’s sin.
I’ve heard the misguided on several occasions lamenting the cross. “If only Jesus hadn’t died” they say. “Imagine what He would have accomplished.” No. Jesus came to die. No mistake occurred at Calvary. Indeed “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53v10) It was a story that absolutely would be told the way God had ordained it. And yet Psalm 22 moves from prayer to praise. David promises that he will tell of God’s name to his brothers (Psalm 22v22). In Hebrews 2v12 this same verse is put into the mouth of Christ. He is unashamed to call us His brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2v11). Stop here for a moment. Christ underwent the agonies of hell. He endures the wrath of God. He cries out on the cross before breathing His last and all of it, all of it, is for our sake. He is unashamed of His people. He does not regret His suffering. He does not hold it against us.
What good news! What comfort! What joy! The crucified Jesus has paid the price for our sake and today He has left the cross and the tomb behind and calls upon us to receive and rest in Him by faith. His agony has turned to glory and by His stripes we are healed. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3v1)
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.
Read Ps 101:3b-6
Message - Alan Burke
Hate is a word that I think is used often thoughtlessly, when a child says that they hate their teacher or their homework, or I hate when it rains, I hate the way you don’t use enough butter, really what they are saying is that they don’t like their teacher and they don’t like homework, they don’t like it when it rains, they would prefer to have more butter on that slice of toast. Whereas to hate means to dislike intensely, to have a great aversion, to detest.
Here David tells us that as God’s King he will hate those who fall away, some translations put it as ‘faithless men’. The idea is that the palmist will not tolerate that which is wicked, he will not tolerate those who fall away, faithless men in his presence (3b). For he is seeking to emulate God, who will not tolerate an unrepentant sinner in His presence (Hab 1:13, Ps 5:4), for sin is like putrefying sores (Is 1:6), iniquities that have separated the sinner from God and he hides His face from it and will not hear the sinner (Is 59:2 see also 13:11, Jer 5:25). Not only that as King will shun evil in every form, for his loyalty is to the Lord God who has shown his steadfast love and Justice towards him, not on the things of this world or the ways of this world that have been corrupted by sins (4-5).
The contrast is given between the evil sinners and the faithful, his eyes will be on them (6). Those who are faithful and blameless are directly opposed to those who are wicked in the land. This King will invite all those who are faithful and blameless to approach him, to dwell with him and to serve in his presence as appointed courtiers. This is how the Davidic King strengthens the Kingdom of God, they come into the presence of the King. Who are the faithful that this psalm speaks off? They are those who believe, who rely upon God (Gen 15:6, Ex 4:8) they are those who have faith (Ex 4:31). It is those who have faith who dwell with their King.
Again we know that David failed to live to this ideal, yet the Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of this Psalm, he is the King, who hates those who fall away, faithless men (3b), the King who has shun evil (4-5), for in him there was no sin (1 Pet 2:22). Yet he came into this world to save sinners (Matt 9:13, 1 Tim 1:12-16) like you and I, for all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Rom 3:23), so that we might be saved and be seen as the faithful of this psalm. One day Jesus will return this time it will with the winnowing fork in his hand separate the wheat from the chaff (Matt 3:12), the faithful and the evil, the repentant and the sinners, you are one or the other. But one last thing, again this psalm sets out a model for us to live by, it reminds us to continue to turn from evil and walk with the Lord, turn from a perverse heart, know nothing of evil, sander, a haughty look or and arrogant heart.
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.