The greatest Christmas present.

 

 

 

It’s Christmas time again, it comes around every year, shops are packed with people, Christmas music playing everywhere and TV channels taken up mostly with Christmas films. Then someone comes along and makes a video or writes a blog saying:

Put Christ back into Christmas.

Save Christmas!

In this post I am, in a way, asking for those things… but I am not here to attack the commercialisation of Christmas. Instead, I will try to make clear some truths about Christmas. That, yes indeed we want Christ back in Christmas, but not just little baby Jesus meek and mild. We need to think of Jesus as Lord and saviour, King of kings.

I will base a lot of this post around the verse:

 
 
1 Timothy 1:15 (ESV)

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost

 

Yes Jesus did come as a baby but we cannot and should not stray away or dwell on that which will take us from the real reason of Jesus’ coming and that he was to be a sacrifice, as a sacrifice for our sins, so that in his coming he would save all those who trust in him. We must remember this “oh so familiar story” of a child being born in Bethlehem but see it as the coming of a king, The King of Kings, the coming of The Lord of the Earth, the one who would come and save all those who believe in him. We must stick to this, we must not stray or focus for too long on little baby Jesus, but see what this whole event points to…

It points to the child who is a king.

It points to a child who will become a sacrifice.

If you are reading this and you are a non believer you may be sat there wondering, “What is this guy going on about?” But I am saying that to a non -believer Christmas is a time of a hope, that because we are all sinners and we all mess up, that God did not just sit back and watch us destroy ourselves but instead gave us hope.

Hope in Christ…

 

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

This child mentioned in this passage is the hope of our salvation, this child is Jesus, prophesised 400 years before Jesus was born. At Christmas time, at the time of Jesus’ birth he had the expectation of being the messiah/ the saviour resting on his shoulders. 33 years later at the cross Jesus has the sins of the whole world upon his shoulders. So that all those who trust in him will be saved. God gave this the greatest Christmas present, this amazing gift of mercy and forgiveness out of love for us.

 

John 3:16 (ESV)

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

So to sum up if you are a believer reading this, stay steadfast and firm to this truth, that Jesus’ coming was the beginning on the steps towards salvation. But don’t sit back this Christmas, tell people about God’s greatest gift, this Christmas share this gift with others, tell others of the love that Christ has for them. If you are a non-believer reading this, please trust in the hope found in Jesus, trust that in him your sins are forgiven. In Jesus you are saved.

Trust the hope of Christ this Christmas.

Have a blessed Christmas.

Gareth

 

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I Could Do A Better Job Than That!

We can not avoid in the news today yet another disaster. Another killing. Another case of child abduction or abuse. This can and does put people off the idea of God. It is easy when you see these things to wonder “if there is a God, why is he idly  watching by? letting these things happen?”

The answer to this is Sin.

The effect of sin is bigger than the damage it has on humans, but also its impact on creation. We live in a fallen world. A world which could be perfect but because of sin is marred.

So where did this all start then, well in Genesis 3.

 

Genesis 3: 17-19

17And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

In this passage then the key verses are 17-18. Because of the sin of taking from the tree of knowledge which God told Adam and Eve to not take from, God cuts them off from all the potential knowledge and power of the tree but also because of their sin informs them that certain things will not work in creation as well as they had done before “The Fall”. When God created the world he declared it good having made it perfect. But now, “Post Fall” the world is not so good, the word used in verse 17 “Cursed” meant the ground was now not considered good but instead fallen, broken.

The way to imagine all this is that now the world is sick from sin. It needs to be given a cure to the disease of sin.

Sin is the cause of all the pain and suffering, all the natural disasters, Pre-fall there is no sign of hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis and suffering and death. It is only after sin entered the world that the world becomes broken, becomes fallen and imperfect. Soon following the first sin is the first murder, so powerful is influence of sin.

So the reason for all the shocking things that we see on the news are because of the fallen world we live in, because of the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve.

But does this mean God has done nothing about it?

No… Quite the opposite.

 

 

Romans 8: 18-23

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

 

God had a plan. A rescue plan for creation and for us. One in which he would give his only son up for us and creation.  God saw the effect and damage that sin had on the world. To tackle the infection of Sin, God sent his only son to be a sacrifice for our sins. He came to make us and the world right with him. Jesus came to take away the power of sin by dying on our behalf.

Jesus came to make us and creation righteous. Righteous meaning right with God.

In the passage above we see that as we look and long for the return of Christ, the one who has taken the punishment for our sins, so does creation, it “waits with eager longing”. Creation looks for a release from the bondage of sin just as much as we do.

Does all this mean then that as soon as you become a Christian there is no suffering in your life and in the world around you. Well no. Until Christ returns again there will be death, and there will be natural disasters and famine. But when Christ comes again and we are taken to Heaven we will be in a place of no more tears and no more sorrow. 

 

 

Revelation 21:1-4

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

This glorious picture of what life will be like when Christ returns, shows us that there is hope. There is hope and an end to suffering. We know that through Christ and only through Christ can the world be healed more importantly only through Christ can we be forgiven “healed” of our sin.

God bless.

G.

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Marriage is not for me: It’s for Jesus!

I was struck recently by a blog that was trending on social media, about a man who had blogged on his revelation that marriage was not for him but instead it was for his wife and future family.

This seems like a romantic gesture which may make us thing “awww isn’t that sweet”. But the reality of marriage is far greater than romantic gestures. We get a sense in the New Testament that the Love between married couples should be deep and profound, but in looking a little more depth we find that the love involved in marriage is a deeper much more beautiful truth.

We are going to focus on the passage found in Ephesians chapter 5:

22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

This passage which so often can be mistreated, missused or even ignored is a beautiful statement of what marriage should be.  We find in this passage, in Verse 22:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Now how many of you stopped reading right there, because that sounds terrible? Why should a wife submit to her husband? Why should she give into him as the leader?  Well that is looking at it in the negative light as is seen so often because of those who claim to be Christians who misuse this verse as an excuse to abuse their wife’s. Well this verse does not condone violence if anything later on in these verses it basically condemns that sort of behaviour. Instead the explanation of the submission that the wife should have to the husband is explained in these verses:

23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

So verse 23 suggests that the husband is the head of the family, this is a creation institution, pointing back to the time of Adam and Eve, but the key verse that defends the biblical submission of the wife to the husband is mapped out in Verse 24. If the husband is the head, that means he is like Christ (verse 23) so because of the that the wife is like The Church (verse 24). This means the Church seeks to serve and submit to Christ. Any Christian out there part of the Church wants to glorify Jesus and serve him in everyway they can. So the wife should be willing to do this because this is like Paul saying, “Look, what you do for your husband should be a mirror of what you do for Christ in the Church.” You want to serve Christ in the Church and from that should be an overflowing to serve your husband as you serve Christ. All of this is to point people to Jesus. In 1 Corinthians Paul states that if a wife who is a believer has an unbelieving husband and serves him in Biblical submission, it will help point him to Jesus. Now, I am not suggesting for a moment this means the wife does not have to love her husband. That is nonsense. Paul also says in 1 Corinthians that if you do not have Love you are useless, “like a clanging cymbal”. The wife needs to have love for her husband, so through that love she will understand the need to submit to her husband.

So that’s the verses about the wife sorted now we look at the husband.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

So now having seen the wife’s submitting, the men reading this may think they have it easy. But I assure you the men do not have the easy task of these two commands for marriage. To truly understand the enormity of the husbands tasks we need to go back to the Greek.

25 Οἱ ἄνδρες, ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἑαυτὸν παρέδωκεν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς

This may look confusing but trust me this will help explain a lot of things. The word used in this command for love is  αγαπε (ag-a-pae). Two variants of this word come up in this passage. The first is the love that the husband should have for his wife, and the second is the love that Christ has for the Church. Now there are a number of words for love in the Greek language. But here Paul uses the same word. This means that husbands need to love their wife’s in exactly the same way as Christ loves the Church. What does that mean?  Well I’m sure all of you reading this know that means that like Christ who loved the Church so much he came and he died on the cross so that those who believe in him will be forgiven. Which means husbands need to love their wife’s self-sacrificially, being willing to give all they have for their wife’s. This may sound like romantic love, the kind that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, the kind which makes a good movie. But actually this love, this example of Love that we have for one another can point people to the most amazing, perfect and awesome example of Love that has ever been shown. That is Jesus. Through His sacrifice on The Cross for those who believe in Him. As the well known verse from Johns Gospel says:

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

So please let us see that marriage is about love yes! But Love of Biblical proportions. A love that has lead to the salvation of all who trust in Jesus.

My prayer is that your marriage, your future marriage will not only model this but also that you will come to know( if you do not already) the amazing love, the perfect love which Christ has for you!

God Bless

Gareth.

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Do You Love me?

This Week draws an end to my look into the Gospel of John. In this Post I’m going to look at the last passage of the Gospel with you, and hopefully it is food for thought for you too.

Many clever people I have been reading this week have been telling me the significance in this passage of the choice of Greek word that Jesus and Peter use in this passage and what that means. Well I’m not going to go too deep into the Greek really, because I think the point Jesus is getting across, is he is asking Peter “Look do you love me!”….. “I mean do you really Love me”…. and this question is so important! It’s a question we ask new Christians, A question we ask mature Christians. This question is so important. And not because our answer suggests anything of our salvation, that if we Love Jesus enough we will be saved, because we are just great at loving Jesus, No, actually it shows our understanding of the act that does save us, his sacrifice on the cross. I mean the Love that Jesus has for us to come down and die for those who believe in him, is an incredibly passionate self-sacrificing, perfect Love. And why do we love Jesus, because he came down and died for us. And we don’t love him like a warm cuddly your my best friend sort of Love we love him in the same way he loved us, though it will be an imperfect love because our own self-seeking sinful heart may get in the way of us truly loving Jesus in a self-sacrificing way not for our glory but for his.

So having heard of the love for Jesus,

the second thing to notice is the cost of that Love.

Look at what develops from the questioning of Peters Love.

John 21:18-19

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter, having just told Jesus He loves him, is greeted with the news that he will die for Christ, to the glory of God. Peters love for Christ, the love that brings Glory to God will lead Peter to his grave. Now this sounds quite bleak. But we all have a call on our lives, the call on what God wants us to do. If we love Christ and want to see Him glorified, then we should show that in Love for him, the fact that we would be willing to do anything for him. This may scare a few of you, I mean feel bad for Peter he has just been told straight out at a BBQ at the beach, yeah well you’re going to die for me. But when you think that Jesus Came and through Love gave his life as a ransom for many, it puts a call on our lives into perspective…. But Jesus I don’t want to go minister to those people over there, they are just to awkward, to difficult, the questions they ask just too hard is what you say…. Well Then Jesus would just point to his hands and his feet. For him his love for us lead him to the cross. So out of love for him we should want to serve his will and see him glorified more and more.

So we Love Jesus because Jesus Loves us so much so that he died for us, there is a cost to this Love but then when it is Put into perspective against Jesus’ sacrifice it makes you think of the cost of your love for Jesus.

Thirdly, the truth of this love.

We Move on to the final few verses of Johns Gospel, look at Verse 24-25

John 21:24-25

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

my question to you having read those verses, have you ever had those times where you just sit there and go you know, I don’t think you Love me!

You couldn’t love me?

why would you love me?

Well John tells us in verse 24 that the testimony given in this Gospel is truth. That means every verse of this Gospel is true, from the baptism of Jesus right the way through all the miracles to the crucifixion of Jesus. Including this passage, let me read it to you  AS THE FATHER HAS LOVED ME SO I HAVE LOVED YOU, NOW REMAIN IN MY LOVE. And following on from that GREATER LOVE’ HAS NO ONE THAN THIS: TO LAY DOWN ONE’S LIFE FOR FRIENDS. YOU ARE MY FRIENDS IF YOU DO WHAT I COMMAND. That’s taken from John 15: 9-14. That’s truth. JESUS LOVES US! Take comfort from that! So when the questions like: I don’t think you Love me! You couldn’t love me, why would you love me. Delve into the word of God, for it is all true. You will realise Jesus loves you more than you could even begin to imagine, that’s the chain breaking truth of the gospel, the love that Jesus has for us.

So then to conclude:

I do hope you have been able to take something from this talk, that we should Love Jesus, and not in a warm and cuddly sort of way but in a self-sacrificing way, like he did for us. That because of that self-sacrificing love there is a cost, but when we look at the cost, compared to the cost that Jesus undertook on the cross, it puts it into perspective. Then there is the truth of the Love, that when you doubt that Jesus loves you, maybe you have a sin bearing heavy on your life, or you are feeling depressed, run in to the arms of Jesus as, you see in scripture that he loves you so much more than you could comprehend.

Yours In Christ

G.

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Salvations Certainty

1 Peter 1: 10-12 (ESV)

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and enquired carefully, 11 enquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Do any of you remember the game show, Catchphrase? In this great fun program the contestants competed to guess what the caption is for the picture on the screen, when they got one right they had to choose a block to get rid of to try to work out what the main caption is, but things needed to be revealed piece by piece. In the same way that is what Peter is going on about in this passage in terms of Salvation.

Our first thing to notice is how our Salvation was prophesied.  We are going to look at verse 10:

1 Peter 1: 10-12 (ESV)

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and enquired carefully,

The prophets Peter is talking about here, are the Prophets of the Old Testament, this is your Isiah, Daniels, Micah, Zechariah. All the prophets that were talking of a grace that was coming, well that grace that came was Jesus and his sacrifice. And that grace fell on every generation from his resurrection. The Old Testament is useful to see how our sovereign God has had the plan of our rescue in the works for a long time, since the fall. How speaking through the prophets he assured the People of God that a work of grace greater than any other was coming. So what the Old Testament prophets and people did as it says at the end of verse 10 is they “Searched intently and with the greatest care….” They and others began to search and wait for the saviour, prophesied in the scriptures.

That’s where we move on to our second point to notice.

What would this salvation look like? We see in verse 11 the checklist of what they should expect from this salvation and Saviour this checklist included suffering, glory, grace extending worldwide. Look at Verse 11

1 Peter 1: 10-12 (ESV)

11 enquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

The problem that a lot of Old Testament prophets had and in fact a problem that existed right until Jesus came and still to this day, this idea of a suffering servant that would be glorious. We have prophets saying he will come on clouds in glory but then others saying he will beaten beyond recognition. How could a saviour be like this? The Old Testament writers and people were looking for the time and context in which the saviour would come, people stepped up claiming they were the messiah, but none stood the Test. Then in the small town of Bethlehem was born Jesus, Both fulfilments of prophecy, who came and died, which everyone probably thought that meant Jesus was just like all the others failed, but going back to our old testament checklist we find Jesus ticking the boxes, he came and suffered on the Cross, he received glory by having risen from the dead, he was ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God. And finally Jesus commissioned the disciples to go to all people in Acts having been equipped by the Holy Spirit.

So having worked on what this Salvation would look like, let’s look at our final point.

Salvation Revealed. We have seen today how the old testament prophets spoke of Jesus’ coming, but looking at verse 12 we see some thought provoking sentences:

1 Peter 1: 10-12 (ESV)

12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

The coming messiah was revealed to the prophets but not for their gain but ours, so that we would see how God has worked for our Salvation from the beginning as we have already seen. But now we see how the same Holy Spirit which inspired the Old Testament writers of Jesus’ coming is the same one that spoke through the New Testament books too, that reveal the salvation, the gospels, the epistles the pastorals. And even through the preaching that we have heard, this means one thing, having had this Salvation revealed to us we need to go out and tell others of this salvation, that if it is God’s will they might respond, and know of the salvation of Jesus. What has been revealed to us through scripture alone is an amazing act of grace and love, something which at the end of Verse 12 says “Even Angels long to look into these things” the angels wish they knew of the freedom of salvation that we find in Christ. Which shows that even heavenly creatures do not know the power of this grace that we find in the rescue from sin.

To sum this up then, we have covered quite a lot, in three verses, but what should we take from all this, well confidence and assurance. Confidence that from the beginning God has had a plan, and to encourage us he spoke through the Old Testament prophets, revealing parts of his plan. Assurance, because the Spirit with which God revealed his plan in the Old Testament, he did the same in the New Testament, in telling the true story of how it happened. But the main thing I want you to take away, is that final point that we need to go out tell people about the salvation through Jesus, and trust that God by his Holy Spirit will reveal this salvation to them.