Malachi: treasured possession

Preached on: Sunday 21st November 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 21-11-21 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Malachi 3:13-4:6
Location: Brightons Parish Church
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Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word

 

Holy Spirit, come among us and reveal the call of Father God.

Holy Spirit, be present and reveal the hope we have through Jesus.

Come Holy Spirit with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

 

The day I became a Christian I felt sick in the pit of my stomach. I know it wasn’t because the idea of becoming a Christian made me feel uneasy and it wasn’t because of the hangover I had that morning. I had been out the night before and I don’t remember much of the evening but the bits I do remember, as I’ve shared on a number of occasions, they made me sick to the pit of my stomach because I made some really bad choices that night and I woke up realizing I had a problem and at that time I would have called my problem selfishness. Now. further along the journey of faith. I can be quite honest and say it’s just sin. And what’s more shocking is that I thought I was a Christian. You know, I worked on a Sunday at W.H Smith and so I couldn’t go to the morning service but there was holy-me going to the evening service. Surely that made me a Christian? And I volunteered with my Scout group and gave up my time to benefit young people, and I had a good reputation and people, hopefully, thought quite well of me but, but here was me that morning, the day I became a Christian, faced with the reality of my life, that, actually, in my heart was a growing selfishness, and my heart was very far from God, because God was just an idea, He wasn’t a person I related to in any real way and there’s been so much that I’ve taken from my experience but what I’d want to relate to you this morning is that it’s easy to assume things are okay, it’s easy to ignore the deeper issues in our lives, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the moment that we forget to take stock of our lives, and so, the day I became a Christian, I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, but that day, the day I became a Christian, changed my life for the better and I’ve never regretted a moment since then, I just wish it hadn’t taken me messing up my life quite so much to come to that realization that I had a problem and I needed God’s help. And you know, this morning, you might have a bit of a queasy feeling in your stomach, and it’s probably got nothing to do with anything else other than the bible passage we heard this morning because, if truth be told, it was a wee bit uncomfortable was it not. I’ve been stewing on it all week how am I going to preach from this? What does it mean? And if you feel uncomfortable, the person that invited you to be here for them becoming a member or them getting their child baptized they probably feel even more uncomfortable. So, when you go out the door and you’re chatting about the service afterwards just bless them and be really kind and merciful to them because they had no idea what was coming today, because we’ve simply been working through the book of Malachi and I didn’t aim for this passage to be today, it just happened to be the last bit before we go into Advent.

 

But you know, maybe it’s timely, maybe in some ways it’s timely for you and for us because, sometimes, we need something to help us sit up and take notice, something to make us take stock of life rather than getting into a real mess like I did all those years ago. And so, maybe today is helpful and the message of Malachi might be helpful for us because Malachi was also sent to our people who were completely oblivious. There was something deeply wrong but they didn’t actually have a clue and so God sent Malachi one more time and He says to the people ‘You have spoken arrogantly against me. You have said it is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements?’ and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty. There’s something deeply wrong with the people, something deep in the souls of their being. There’s arrogance and there’s distance from God and, sure their meeting His requirements, they say, and that might be like they’re going to the temple and they’re praying and they’re giving their sacrifices, they’re maybe bringing their offering. They’re going around like mourners. They’ve already got dust and ash and sackcloth on them to show signs of repentance but actually, it’s all just external, going through the motions, it’s not from the heart and they’re bothered by this. They say it’s futile! What’s the point? What good is this to me? There’s no return for this, there’s no profit in this for me God! What’s the point? What good is it doing me? You know, they’ve turned faith into something very selfish. They appear to be serving God but actually they’re just serving themselves and there again is echoes of my story, echoes of my selfishness, echoes of my brokenness, my sin, but it’s an issue we all deal with don’t we. Because if truth be told, as human beings, we can turn just about anything into being about us and asking ‘Well, what’s the benefit in this for me?’ or ‘How can I benefit from this in some way?’ We twist it.

 

So, for example, I was in the playground this week and I was talking to one of the other dads who’s also called Scott, and we got talking and he was telling me about the parents’ night and how it went for his son, and that his son was reading already, primary one, age five, same year as my daughter, and there’s a part of me that’s like ‘Well, Hope’s not reading!’ And there’s almost a part of you that could twist that into ‘I need to get Hope reading’ so that I don’t feel so terrible as a parent. I, you, as a human being, you could twist just about anything family, kids, money, your job, church – How often in church is it ‘Has the service suiting me?’ – as the minister, the elders, the pastoral grouping leaders, the Sunday School. Is it suiting me and meeting my needs? Just about anything in life we can twist because and I think that part of the reason is as our last song suggested, the longing of our soul is something else than where we often look, we often look to these other things and we try and have the longing of our soul met by these other things and it just can’t, and so we end up twisting things. And last week we were thinking about God sorting out the world, sorting out the problems and making this world a better place, that one day He would restore all things and so we that was a really positive message hopefully and hopefully you left encouraged and hopefully you’re like ‘God, come on sort out the world. Come back sort out, sort out the problems out there.’

 

But maybe, when it comes to today’s message of sorting the problems in here, maybe that just feels too uncomfortable, maybe we’d rather say to God ‘You know God, just back off back off! It’s my life.’ or ‘Treat me a bit differently God, you know, I’m not as bad as the person down the road, I’m not as bad as the person in that country, or doing that thing or that politician, just treat me a bit differently. God, come on geeza break!’ But you know, to God, sin is sin and whether it’s the smallest acts or the tiniest indiscretion, He knows it. And this is a truth He had to reestablish with His people through Malachi because they think serving God is futile, they think God just overlooks sin. Here’s these evildoers, they’re getting away with stuff. God doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care. What’s the point? And so, He sends Malachi to remind them of the truth. He sends them to take heed because as He says – there will be a day when He will act. There will be a day when the Lord will act. There’ll be a day when He will restore the world and He’s going to make it all new and there’ll be no more sin or death or mourning. There’ll be no more brokenness or selfishness.

 

But that creates a problem, doesn’t it? Because what does God do with you and me, the darkness in us. If not a jot of sin can be in that new creation, what does He do with us?

 

Another prophet put the problem this way ‘We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way.’ And the new hymn actually picked up on that too, I hadn’t noticed until we sung it there, we all got our own way. We’ll tell God to take a hike, and our culture just reinforces that message, doesn’t it? It just says, be free, throw off restraints, just go for it alone, ignore God, don’t let Him tell you, don’t let the church tell you how to live your life, be free, because that’s the way to a good life, a best life. But you know, it’s a lie it’s a lie because at 19 I pursued that, at 19 I pursued life my way, and where did it lead me? It just led me into more brokenness and for more for the heart for other people and so on the day I became a Christian, as I sat there with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I had to own up to my brokenness, my sin, because nothing was going to change if I didn’t do that first.

 

And part of being a Christian involves that lonely moment when you acknowledge that, when you acknowledge that reality in your life, and all our members, new members who stood there today at one point or another they’ve all had to own up to that reality, that they have a problem, like I have a problem, like you have a problem. That problem is sin and, as we affirmed in the Apostles’ Creed, that has been the belief for 2000 years and beyond, that God was going to come back one day to deal with sin and none of us will be exempt from that. And so, God has to get these truths back into the lives of His people, people who are oblivious to this reality and they don’t know something’s wrong and so He brings a wake-up call He did in my life the day I became a Christian. That was a wake-up call for me and maybe you’re sitting there feeling really uncomfortable and really wishing you weren’t in church today and you’re really going to give the person a hard time that invited you along, despite what I said earlier, but you know maybe that uncomfortableness, maybe even that anger, because this can raise anger in us, maybe those feelings are actually God shining a wee torchlight in your life and just saying ‘Look there is a problem here. There is something we need to talk about. There’s a deeper issue we need to address.’ but you know, God doesn’t do it to be mean, He doesn’t include passages like this in the Bible to be mean, and He doesn’t do it to leave us feeling condemned or judged or guilty, because, most of the time, I don’t live my life that way because not only did God on the day I became a Christian I’d highlight my problem, He provided a solution because He loves us, He loves you in the depth of His being He loves you.

 

And so, also in Malachi we read these words ‘Surely the day is coming the Son of Righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.’ The day of the Lord is coming and on that day, though it will be like the rising of the sun, and the rays of that event will bring healing to the world, to all creation and do away with sin forever and that idea, that hope, that reality is spoken in so many places across the scriptures. We read earlier from Isaiah, and in just before the verses immediately before what we read, we read this also from Isaiah ‘Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. Yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted but he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray. each of us has turned to our own way and the lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ Time and time again God tells of an event and then of a person who will come to bring this restored world about who will bring this freedom from sin who will bring healing for all.

 

And that event came 400 years after Malachi. That event happened in the Advent season we’re about to celebrate. It happened with the coming of Jesus, when God stepped into our broken world, when God went to the cross to die the death we should for our sin. So, you might get angry at God for what He’s saying this morning, I’m really uncomfortable with it, but let’s remember He also provides that solution he hung on a cross and bled for you and for me that’s how much he loves you, He died so that sin wouldn’t have the final say, He died so that if you put your faith in Him you can share in that great and glorious day when He’ll make all things new and the Son of Righteousness will bring healing from all sin and you know since that day, since the day Jesus died and then rose again, and across the centuries since then, people across this world have been putting their faith in Jesus, just like our new members did, they’ve been finding that the words of scripture are true that there is forgiveness through Jesus, that you can be reconciled to God through Jesus, and we’ve come to see that it’s all of grace, it’s all a gift, we don’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, we simply receive it through faith in Jesus and every day, even today, there are people coming to faith in this truth, they’re coming to find life and hope through Jesus, this one who will bring healing when the Son of Righteousness rises.

 

And so, what do we do with today’s message? What do we do with these two sides of the one coin? On the one side we have the really bad news that we all have a sin problem, and on the other side of the coin there’s good news, that there’s hope and forgiveness through Jesus. What do we do with that?

 

Well our passage gives us two ideas and the first, on the first thing to do is to repent, which means change your thinking, such that your heart and your life changes as well, and there were people who heard what the Lord said they heeded Him and they turned to Him, and in turning to Him, the Lord said over them they were his treasured possession and He would spare them.

 

Maybe you need to repent today. Maybe you’re not a Christian. Maybe you’ve been coming to church for a long time and you know you’ve not made that choice yourself. Maybe today is the day you need to repent and turn to the Lord and admit ‘I’ve got a problem God, and I need Your forgiveness.’

 

The second idea of how to respond this morning is to stand and be counted. Those that responded, their names were written down they were counted, and our new members today, their names will be added to our Church Roll, they’re being counted and so maybe one of the things you need to consider doing is becoming a member here in church, to publicly say ‘You know, I believe in Jesus. I’m following Jesus, and this is my spiritual home.’ Maybe that’s the step you need to take to stand and be counted but that membership as the promises were asked today not only includes having your name on a bit of paper it involves being part of this church family through the giving of your time, talents and your money, and so maybe there’s something in that for you. Maybe you’re standing and being counted needs to look like getting involved or caring for the people who call this their spiritual home. It’s if you’re not infirm and housebound or limited in some capacity like that then really do we have an excuse? We need to stand and be counted because if we’ve counted this as our spiritual home and made these promises we made promises to get involved. Maybe you need to get involved.

 

But maybe standing be counted as also like in verse chapter 4 verse 4 here where it says ‘Remember the law of my servant Moses’ we think of remembering as just having a bit of information in our head but in Hebrew and in the Old Testament the idea of remembering was that you not only remembered it but you lived in light of it, you walked in accordance with God’s ways, you lived your life God’s way, that’s what it means to truly remember and you know maybe there’s an area of your life that you need to stand up and be counted. The other six days of the week you’re out and about because our final promise that our members made today was to do that to witness to Jesus in all the rest of their life and you know maybe there’s something in your life, an area of your life you need to stand and be counted. It might be sharing your faith, but it could be that you need to choose God’s way rather than your culture’s way or the way of your colleagues. Maybe you need to walk in truth and in uprightness. Maybe there’s a sin in your life that you know God would want you to turn from. Maybe anger. Maybe sexual immorality of some form. Who knows what it might be.

 

And the question is Will you stand and be counted by walking in God’s ways rather than yours or the culture? Will you live in response to the grace you’ve received? is basically what the passage is calling us to do. So, before we finish up, I want to give us a moment to pray. I want to give a moment first of all to turn to God in repentance. That if you’ve never done that, maybe today is the day to do that because I wouldn’t be doing my job if I simply told you an idea but maybe just didn’t help you along that next bit of the journey. So, if you want to make that step today, let me help you make that step and I’ll lead you in a prayer and then we’ll go on to pray as well about how we respond to the grace we’ve received by being stuck by standing and being counted. So, let’s come to God in prayer. Let us pray:

 

So, if you want to welcome Jesus into your life and receive forgiveness, why don’t you pray along with me just in the quiet of your heart, pray these words with me.

 

Lord Jesus, I’m sorry for the things I’ve done wrong in my life for the selfishness that’s there, and I take a moment to name anything that’s on my conscience this morning.

Lord, please forgive me.

I turn from everything that I know is wrong and I choose to walk in step with You. Thank-you, You died on the cross so that I could be forgiven. Thank-you for Your love. Thank-you for Your grace.

I ask for you to fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might walk with You all the days of my life.

Thank-you Lord Jesus.

 

Lord God, we hear a tough message from Your word today but You speak it in love, to call us deeper, to call us into Your ways, to respond to Your grace and so I pray for those that have made that choice today, to respond for the first time, protect them, I pray, protect this choice they’ve made today.

 

And for all of us Lord, as we as we ponder the magnitude of Your love and grace, that took You to the cross, and the reality that one day You will return. Help us live between now and then to Your glory, to live lives worthy of your calling and so stand and be counted in all the areas of life.

Lord where there’s a sin we may be trapped in, give us grace and break us free Lord where we need to stand and be counted by getting involved or coming into membership or making You known at work.

Lord, give us grace that we might have strength and power to witness to You and to give our lives for Your glory.

Oh God, You’re a good God, a great God, and we delight in You this morning. Thank-you that You delight in us, that we are your treasured possession. May we go here from here knowing that, rejoicing in that, and inviting all to know that as well by coming to faith in Jesus, for in His name we ask this. Amen

 

If you have made that choice for the first time today, please come and talk to me, tell me, tell a trusted Christian you know, because it’s easy to make it, just keep it very personal but you need to take that next step of faith to say ‘I’ve made that choice and that will just help to solidify and strengthen that choice of faith you’ve made today. So, come and chat to me. I won’t ask you a lot of questions, I’ll just rejoice with you, or tell a Christian, a trusted Christian, that you’re here with today.

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I am forgiven (Psalm 130)

Preached on: Sunday 14th June 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-06-14-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 130
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 130 (NIV)
Sunday 14th June 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

I promised on Facebook that we would have a super-easy, quick game, so here it is! Are you ready?

Which of these fruit is an apple? The answer is…
Which of these birds is a magpie? The answer is…
What sauce do I prefer to have on my sandwiches? HP
Which of these dogs is my dog Hector? The answer is…

OK, final question – and this one is hard! Which of these people is a Christian? I’m going to give you 30 seconds to think or talk about that at home – so over to you! (PAUSE) That was a bit harder, wasn’t it! Well, the answer is…I don’t know. I don’t know which of those people is a Christian or not, because I just got their pictures from the internet! My point is this – looking at these people, we can’t tell by them standing there who is and who is not a Christian. So, how can we tell? Is it even possible?

Well, what things would you include on a list, if you were trying to figure out if someone was a Christian? Would it be – “goes to church”, “reads the Bible”, “doesn’t say bad words”, “knows the Lord’s Prayer”, “is loving”. What if none of those things is what makes someone a Christian?

There was once a man called John Wesley – he lived a long time ago in the seventeen hundreds. When John had finished school, he went to university in Oxford…
and became a minister, like me. With his brother Charles, John formed a group of friends who made a promise to read the Bible, pray, fast and help other people. John and his brother even went all the way to America as missionaries for a while in 1735.

But even though they did all this, neither John nor his brother Charles, ever felt sure that they were a Christian. In his own words, John later said at that time they had “a fair summer religion” and about their trip to America he said, “I went to America to convert the Indians; but, oh, who shall convert me?”

You see – it’s possible to be a very good person yet not be a Christian; it’s possible to do all the external things that a Christian should do, like go to church, read your Bible, pray, and even be a minister, but still not be a Christian. That was the experience of John and Charles Wesley, and many other people over the years.

So, is it possible to know for sure if you are a Christian? I’ll give you another 30 seconds to think or talk about that at home. (PAUSE)

There’s a lot in today’s psalm and we’ll get to more of it in the Tuesday Evening Sermon, so join us then if you’re able, or catch it later in the week as a recording.

But this morning, I’d like to focus on a few verses, starting with verse 4:
‘But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.’
The psalmist speaks about forgiveness, because he is aware he needs forgiveness. In verse 3 he said:
‘If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,…who could stand?’

So, he wants forgiveness, he knows he needs forgiveness for his sins, the wrong things he has done. Then in verse 1 he says: ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord…’

Maybe he feels like there is a great distance between God and himself; maybe God feels very far away. Maybe he feels that his relationship with God is broken – that’s possibly why he uses two different names of God: ‘LORD’ in capitals, meaning ‘Yahweh’, which is the covenant name of God; but also ‘Lord’ with only a capital L, meaning ‘master’ or ‘king’….
But both are about relationship; a good relationship, one of trust, reverence and love. Yet, the psalmist knows the relationship is broken, because of his sin, and so now there is distance between himself and God.

Nevertheless, he knows something else – he knows that Yahweh, the Lord, his King, is a forgiving God, that with Yahweh is forgiveness – that forgiveness is part of God’s character, and God has the authority to forgive.

So, the psalmist waits on the Lord, he puts his hope in God’s promise to forgive. Maybe the psalmist is thinking of Isaiah chapter 1:
‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet,…
they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’ (v18)

He knows that the Lord is willing to forgive but also that out of this forgiveness will arise, even must arise, ‘reverence’, a reverence that leads to serving the Lord. Other translations speak of forgiveness leading to a healthy ‘fear’ of the Lord; a fear where we submit to God as our King, giving Him His place in our lives.

I talked about this at the end of last week’s message: of having a faith where God’s Word shapes our lives, shapes our hearts, and changes us from the inside out. But for that to happen, we must first receive the forgiveness of God and bend the knee to our Lord, allowing Him to be… King of our lives once more, maybe even for the first time.

The great preacher of the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, said: ‘none fear the Lord like those who have experienced His forgiving love.’ So, if we come back to those four individuals, which one is a Christian? We don’t know – not even by their outside life!

And that’s because, what’s most important, is what’s in your heart. Do you know the forgiveness of God for yourself? You might not know when you first received it – but a Christian should know, in here, that they have received the forgiveness of God, and this forgiveness should shape their lives, such that out of reverence, holy fear, we give our lives in service to God….
Where there is no reverence, where there is no holy fear, where life is lived largely according to your standards and God’s ways are far from your thinking and will – well, if that’s you, then I worry you may have that “fair weather religion” John Wesley spoke of, and truly, that form of religion does not make you right with God, you haven’t really experienced His forgiveness, because with forgiveness comes reverence and service.

A few years after John Wesley came home from America, he still felt much the same as in 1735, he did not know the grace and peace of God. But on the 24th of May 1738, he heard today’s psalm in an afternoon church service, before going to a Christian meeting that night. He later wrote in his journal a now-famous account of his
conversion, he said: “In the evening I went…

very unwillingly to a [meeting] in Aldersgate Street, where [some]one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

In the years after his return from America, it took John Wesley time to see that it’s not “Christ and good works” which secure our forgiveness, but Christ alone who saves, resulting in good works.

Many of you listening today are Christians, so what is there for you today? Well, we always need to be asking ourselves if we are convinced and resolute on this, or have we become lukewarm and apathetic about the forgiveness we have through Jesus? Because to remove the absolute, eternal need of forgiveness for everyone, or to play down the death of Jesus on the cross, is to gut the Bible and the Christian faith of all substance. Also, such was the impact on John Wesley that he travelled some 250,000 miles on horseback and gave over 40,000 sermons. How is God’s forgiveness impacting us?

I hope today there are also others listening in, folks who know they are not a Christian; you’re maybe watching for the first time, or after some time away from church.
There might be others, who have fulfilled all…
religious duty like the young John Wesley, but you know that the forgiveness of God has not touched your heart: you lack reverence for God, and God is not King, not the Lord of your life, if you’re brutally honest. And there may be in either of those groups, and others beside, folks who do not feel at peace with God – He may seem distant to you, and for any and all these people the forgiving love of Jesus may well be unknown to you.

So, why not today, bend the knee to Jesus, admit your sin, and come into His embrace? It’s in that place you can come to know the hope, the peace, the freedom that the people of God have experienced whenever they have put their hope in the promises of God. If that is something you would like to do, then let us do it just now, and I invite you to repeat the words of this prayer with me… “Lord Jesus Christ, thank You that You died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free. I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life and I name these before you now…Please forgive me. I now turn from everything I know is wrong and allow You to be King over my life. Thank You that You offer me forgiveness and the gift of Your Spirit to help me serve You. I now receive these gifts. Please come into my life by Your Holy Spirit to be with me forever. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.”

Friends, if you’ve prayed that for the first time, or if you know that this has brought some change for you today, then please tell someone else, it’s a really important step when we receive the forgiveness of God – get in touch with me if you like, I’d love to hear that you’ve taken this step. To God be the glory, now and forever. Amen.

I will confess (Psalm 32)

Preached on: Sunday 10th May 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-05-10-Morning-Message-PowerPoint-Study.
Bible references: Psalm 32
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 32 (Easy English Version)
Sunday 10th May 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls, do you like stories? I love a good story and during lockdown I’ve been reading books by my favourite author. Shout out for me your favourite story at the top of your voice! (PAUSE) Wow those sound like amazing stories and I’m sure you’ve read them lots of times!

But we don’t only read about stories, we often tell stories to each other – hands up if you’ve been video calling friends and family? Me too – we’ve been calling people to tell them what we’ve been doing, and it’s been lovely to tell our stories.
There might also be things around our homes which help us remember important stories in our lives. Let me show you some things which do that for me, in my home.

(PICTURES IN LIVINGROOM)

In all our lives there are moments which are important, which shape our lives, and there may be pictures or ornaments that help us remember those moments.

I wonder, boys and girls, what big things can you remember doing with your family? I’ll give everyone thirty seconds to talk or think about that at home. (PAUSE)
Our psalm today is another prayer by David, and it is thought that David may have written this prayer… sometime after events in the Bible when David made some bad choices; it’s the story of David, Bathsheba and Uriah. Because of David’s selfishness he chose to commit adultery and then to lie and then to cover it all up. Psalm 51 was probably written at the time when David owned up to his mistakes, but Psalm 32, our reading today, was written later on, as he reflected on what had happened and how it had shaped his life.

So, it’s really interesting that David chooses to write a prayer about this – it’s like he chooses to hang up a picture about his past mistakes and invites people to remember his story! I suspect many of us would find that a little bit uncomfortable. So, why does David do it? I’ll give you another thirty seconds to think about that or talk about it at home. (PAUSE)
Let me share with you what I think David’s psalm teaches us about why he chose to share his story. Firstly, it seems like David has found happiness, joy, by coming to know God’s forgiveness. In verses 1 to 2, he says: ‘When God has forgiven someone’s sins, they are truly happy!
They may have turned against God, but when God forgives them, they are happy. They may have done something bad, but when the Lord says, ‘Not guilty!’, he has truly blessed them…’ (v1-2)

And David is not alone in feeling that way; many people can speak of knowing greater peace, contentment, hope when they have asked God to forgive them. Sometimes people may feel this because they were worried…
about the future, or about what happens after we die, but I think many more people have experienced joy, peace and hope because when they received God’s forgiveness they also came into a meaningful relationship with God. That was my experience, and I’ll tell some more of my story on Tuesday evening.

Yet David speaks of this himself as well – did you notice how he structures the psalm? First there’s forgiveness and flowing from that comes knowing God as his refuge (v6-7), then having God as a guide into the “right way” or the best way to live (v8), then in verse 10 comes knowing God’s unfailing love and finally in verse 11, having a true and deep sense that you ‘belong to the Lord’. It’s really no wonder that David says people are happy and blessed when they have their sins forgiven.
But I wonder if that all sounds too good to you? Or, I wonder to what degree it matches with your experience of being a Christian? And to each of those questions, I want to share something specific.

Firstly, on Tuesday evening, in place of a sermon, I’m hoping to have 5 or 6 of you share your story about the difference God’s forgiveness has made to your life. I’d like to get all sorts of stories – from men, from women; from the young and the less young; stories of people who came to faith in a moment and stories of those who came to faith over time.

My hope is that hearing these stories may help us all. We may learn a different kind of story and so expect more of
God. We may hear a story a little like ours and so…
feel affirmed. We may hear a story and yearn for God to do that in our lives as well. So, join us on Tuesday evening as we hear the stories of others.

But I’m still looking for 3 or 4 more stories, so please get in touch this afternoon if you are a Christian and can share how God’s forgiveness makes a difference in your life. Please don’t allow fear to stop you – because what if your story, like David’s story, is the one people need to hear to help them find hope? Imagine if David had kept quiet about his experience – would we realise that God is ready and willing to forgive any, and all, of our sins? Without David’s story, would we realise that it’s only when we quit the pretence of being perfect, and own up to our mistakes, that it’s only then do we come into a right and meaningful relationship with God?
I’m so grateful for this psalm because of what it teaches about God and the kind of relationship we can have with Him. So, friends, I look forward to hearing from you this afternoon, because it’s important we tell our stories.

But what if this psalm doesn’t match with your experience of being a Christian? Specifically, some of you may say you’ve never really known God as refuge, or guide, or any sense of having Him surround you with His unfailing love, or you belong to Him. If we were meeting together I might ask some questions and try to understand some of your story, even though I wouldn’t necessarily have an “answer”, but I’d be curious to know what your relationship with God is like. Because I’ve known a little of those feelings myself – before I came to know God’s forgiveness, I believed in God, but…
He seemed pretty distant. I did not know Him as a refuge or guide, nor did I have any sense of belonging to Him.

I think that’s because, until that point, I didn’t truly understand forgiveness. You see, most of us grow up with an idea that God is so loving and nice that we can ask God for forgiveness, He’ll just give us it, and then we can carry on as normal. But again, notice the progression in the psalm – David is forgiven by humbling himself, and stays humble by being open to God’s teaching.

Boys and girls, can you remember our second song this morning? If I did the actions, would it help? (ACTIONS)

That’s it – “I’m following the King”… “I’m ready to obey, to listen to His Word.” In my own life,…

I must have asked for God’s forgiveness many times in Sunday School and church, but it wasn’t until around the age of 19 that I came to the point of bending the knee to Jesus, of truly accepting Him as my King, or as the Bible calls Him, my Lord. And that meant allowing Jesus to call the shots; allowing Him to teach me what values, principles, priorities to have.

You know, if you look around my home, you won’t actually see any pictures of faith – there’s no pictures of Jesus, there’s no pictures of the cross. And it got me thinking – most of us don’t have pictures of Jesus or faith around the house, and that’s OK, because it should be in our lives that people see Jesus, it should be in our lives that the story of us bending the knee to Jesus should be seen.
So, if I looked at your life, if I look at my own life, what would I see? Would I see the values and priorities of Jesus? Would I see the ways you bend the knee to Him? Is your life somehow different because of the forgiveness you have received through Jesus?

It’s my experience, that when we bend the knee, heed His teaching, and allow Him to be Lord and King over every area of our lives, that then our relationship with Jesus becomes meaningful and we come to know Him as refuge and guide, with a true sense of belonging to Him. But it begins first, most often, with forgiveness.

I wonder friends, do we know the forgiveness of Jesus, and with that have we welcomed Him as Lord and King? I pray that we might, and so come to know the same joy… as David and have a story to tell of God’s grace which speaks to others in our day and in the days to come.

May it be so. Amen.

I will declare Your Name (Psalm 22 Tuesday evening)

Preached on: Tuesday 5th May 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-05-05-Tuesday-Evening-Sermon-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 22
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 22 (NIV)
Tuesday 5th May 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Once again in tonight’s sermon, I’m going to draw upon the parts of the psalm left out from Sunday morning so as to help us see what else these contribute to the all age message which was shared. Because clearly the absence and action of God are core to this psalm, and so it wonderfully weaves together raw honesty with worldchanging hope, and these ideas are still there in the other verses of our psalm.

Having now heard this prayer a second time, we might begin to feel quite familiar with the struggle David is facing. He feels forsaken, he feels that God is absent,… and this just doesn’t make sense to David, and so he cries out, “My God, my God, why…”

The specific occasion that raises this question for David is not revealed to us, yet we see in some of the later verses, the affliction he faces. There are enemies which treat him so badly that David says: ‘I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.’

David feels reduced and degraded below the status of a human being by the taunts of his enemies; he is dehumanised by their attacks such that he sees himself in these early verses of lament as little more than a worm.
This fierce attack reduces David to fear and weakness. He describes these oppressors in the imagery of animals. The lion and the ox represent the epitome of power; the dogs and pack of villains evoke a picture of helpless prey being surrounded. As such, his strength departs like water poured out on the ground so that his body feels awkward and out of control. Similarly, the psalmist’s heart, his courage, melts away like wax before a fierce flame. He feels weakened by fear and unable to speak as death approaches. So desperate is his situation, that he speaks of his ‘precious life’ – his only life – now hanging in the balance.

Yet what makes this even worse for David is that he feels that these vicious animals can only have come close because God is so far away, and that is a scenario… he never expected, it boggles his mind and rends his soul, because he feels forsaken, he feels like no one is there to help, not even his God.

And that is a struggle for David because God has revealed Himself, and been praised by Israel, as ‘the Holy One’. To name God in this way is short-hand for affirming that God is set apart, unique, from human beings, as such God is seen as pure, righteous, and so should always be known and praised for His faithfulness to His promises. As one commentator said:
‘To say that God is holy in the midst of lament about unanswered prayer means that God is not indifferent or impotent like the pagan gods – He is different; He has power; and He has a history of answering prayer.’
(Goldingay, Psalms, page 327)
In the tension of who David knows God to be, and the experience of what he faces, the psalmist cries out: ‘My
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

As we saw on Sunday, this prayer can be a model for us when we are in the midst of terrible times, moments when we face the apparent absence of God. We can, as the saints and people of God have done over the centuries, we can take these words to our lips, take this form of prayer, this very lament, and use it to echo the depths of anguish we may feel. The psalms give us permission, as does Jesus, to come with raw honesty before our God.

Yet, it’s also fitting to remember that these psalms were later compiled and used within the corporate worship… of Israel, indeed, the later part of this psalm itself raises the very idea. So, this psalm, and the other laments we find in the Psalms, were not only for individuals but also to facilitate the corporate voice of Israel, the corporate voice of lament. And that raises two ideas for me.

Firstly, is not such a psalm fitting for our times, as a nation, as a world even, to give us all a voice, a form of words, a form of prayer, to echo the rending of our souls in these difficult times?

But secondly, to find such a psalm in the Scriptures, to know such a psalm was used in the corporate worship of Israel, and not cast aside, but allowed to remain and be seen as inspired by God such that it should form part of the Word of God – does this not maybe challenge us about our corporate worship? Do we have space in our time, in our songs, in our prayers, for lament? Would we even know how to weave that in and facilitate it? And would we be willing, in an age which hungers for answer and ease and contentment, would we be willing for the raw, honest questions to be raised and even sometimes left hanging, unsure of how it will be answered?

Part of my faith journey has been learning to live with mystery, with questions unanswered. I have found that to be hard, frustrating, soul rending at times, rending not only once, but year on year, when an anniversary comes round or an event happens, and once again the mystery raises its ugly head and the pain returns. I wonder friends, if you are in that place, or know of that pain? And do you say with David, ‘My God, my God, why…?’
But as I’ve also said, even in recent weeks, there are some things I cling to, and likewise, David had things he clung to as well. About the middle of the psalm, David finally, and only once, uses the covenant name of God: ‘LORD’ in the English, or ‘Yahweh’ in the Hebrew. By invoking that name of God, David can recall the very great promises given to him, and to his forefathers. We looked at this in detail in our autumn series on the kingdom of God. We saw there that God made this promise to David in 2nd Samuel:
‘“The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you:…I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom….I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son…Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me…”’
(2 Samuel 7:11-16)
David remembers this promise as he calls on the name of the Lord, but maybe he also remembers that far older, even greater, promise made to his forefather Abraham: ‘The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’
(Genesis 12:1-3)

Maybe David, by the Spirit of God, calls both promises to mind because from verse 19 the tone changes. Another way of translating verse 19 is this:
‘But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid’

In verse 11, David said there was ‘no one to help’, yet now, he remembers that the Lord is his help, for the Lord has made great promises to David and to his father Abraham. From verse 19 David grows in confidence, his hope returns, and eventually he is able to envisage a future where that great promise to Abraham comes to fruition, and all the nations remember and turn to the Lord, to Yahweh. In that future, the nations are drawn, as if by a magnet, to worship the Lord and to know His blessing. As they submit to His power…
‘the poor will eat and be satisfied…the rich of the earth will feast and worship’ (v26, 29) – there is a levelling of the rich and poor – and those who have gone ‘down to the dust…who [could not] keep themselves alive’ – they are there too and enjoying the reign of God.

All this David appears to hold on to as he calls upon Yahweh, the Lord, the one who has made covenant with him and with his forefathers. I wonder, in the midst of our searching, our wrestling, what promises do we call to mind? Do we even call these promises to mind?

I guess that will depend on what we make of these promises. Are they simply wishful thinking on the part of David and previous generations? Is this prayer just a poem, or a corporate worship song, rather than anything more?

So, this is where we need to remember Jesus. Yes, what I said on Sunday still stands – this prayer, said by Jesus, speaks of His identification with our suffering and our sense of abandonment. But equally, the psalm speaks of prophecy, speaks of God’s will…being done.

As I highlighted a little in our service, much of this psalm can be seen in the life, and especially the crucifixion, of Jesus. Of course, we know that Jesus prays verse 1 Himself on the cross, but verses 6 to 8, and verses 12 to 15, remind us of the mockers who gathered around Jesus and said:
‘He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him…’ (Matthew 27:43)

Or the incident where Jesus’ clothes are divided up by the casting of lots, which is written in verse 18 of our psalm and highlighted in John chapter 19, verses 23-24.

Then there’s the verse which speaks of hands and feet being pierced, verse 16. If you look at the various translations, you might notice that there is some variance in the words. The Good News says: ‘they tear at my hands and feet.’ The NRSV says, ‘my hands and feet have shrivelled.’

The issue here is largely due to how you translate one particular Hebrew word, but ‘pierce’ seems the best fit, not due to the crucifixion of Jesus, but because when the Hebrew version of Psalm 22 was translated into Greek around the 3rd century BC, the translators at that time chose ‘pierce’. This means, at least two hundred years before Jesus, the Jews thought that the word should be ‘pierce’. Two hundred years before Jesus, was a prophecy, initially given at around 1000 years before Jesus, that someone was pierced in the hands and feet, that that person had their clothes divided by lot, that person would be surrounded by mockers, that person would suffer as an afflicted one, that person would lead to the conquering of death and the affirmation that God has done it, it is finished. To my mind, this all points to Jesus and indeed Psalm 22 has been seen as containing prophecy concerning Jesus since the early church.

So, if God could bring about the fulfilment of that part of the prophecy, then God is able to bring the rest of the psalm to fruition as well. God’s will, will be done…
God is present and He is working out His good promises, including that day when we will see the nations return to Him and know His blessing. What God promises, He brings about; no if’s, no buts – for there is a King, of the line of David, sitting now upon the divine throne, even if all evidence might cause some to mock and call into question the very existence of God, as the mockers did in David’s day.

But holding on in faith to the promises of God is nothing new for God’s people; indeed, the early church did that very thing, for as Paul reminds us:
‘Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.’ (1 Cor. 1:22-25)

The wisdom of this world, or own human wisdom, might seek to either rubbish the Good News of Jesus, or even simply downplay it. But in His wisdom, God has chosen to act in the person of His Son, and that doesn’t answer all the questions; even with the coming, death and resurrection of Jesus we still face mystery. And yet, He also gives us ground for hope, a world-changing hope: that God is faithful to His promises, and one day, one day, the dead will rise, the old order of things will pass away, God’s blessing to extend to the nations, and we will all say, ‘He has done it.’

In the meantime, we have that call to share in the choice of the psalmist: ‘I will declare Your name…’ (v21) – yes, beginning with the people of God, but as the Great Commission of Jesus shows, we are called to ‘go make disciples of all nations teaching them to obey…’ the Lord (Matthew 28:19-20). It’s quite hard to teach without making known, without declaring. You and I might have quite different roles in this, but we are all called to share our faith, to make known what God has done.

Now, what we read in verse 22 onwards is likely from a thanksgiving service where David fulfilled a vow (v25). David had prayed and then he was delivered, and the Old Testament Law encouraged those who had vowed some service to God, and found their prayer granted, well they were to fulfil that vow with a sacrifice,…
followed by a feast, which might last as long as two days. They were not to keep their happiness to themselves, but to invite servants and other needy folk to eat with them in celebration of God’s faithfulness.

Strikingly, I came across a quote this week, which I’ve heard before, yet never knew where it came from. It is accredited to Indian missionary D.T. Niles, who once described Christian mission as ‘one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.’ We are to share the feast with others; we are to invite them to the feast of God, that they too might ‘proclaim His righteousness, declaring…He has done it.’

So, how might we do that? It’s interesting, I’ve had conversations even in the last week which have sown ideas and encouragement. For example, I was talking with one member of our congregation and she was telling me about how she was inviting friends, family and even neighbours to come watch the church service online.

Or there was the discussion we had within the Discipleship Team last week about running the Alpha Course online from September, just as many people are doing, even now. The church where Alpha is based out of, were starting a weekly online course during the first month of the pandemic in the UK, such was the interest in an online course. We may very well go with the idea, but ultimately Alpha works by people being invited, and they’ll only be invited if you are in their life and ready and willing to invite them. So, I’m just sowing the seed, because sometime over the summer you might want to bring up the idea with them.

Or, how about sharing a summary of the Sunday message if it was helpful to you, or a prayer from our Facebook page or website, if those were helpful to you? There are lots of easy ways we might share our faith and help others to begin a journey of finding hope through Jesus.

Friends, brothers and sisters, in these days, may the words of Psalm 22 be an encouragement to come before the Lord with raw honesty, knowing that He has shared our experience of the absence of God. But equally, may Psalm 22 also encourage us to say with David, “I will declare Your name…” and then go on to fulfil our vow, one beggar to another. May it be so. Amen.

Who is the ‘elder brother’ today?

Preached on: Sunday 2nd June 2019
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 19-06-02-Brightons-Powerpoint-Scott-sermon-morning.
Bible references: Luke 15:11-32
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Texts: Luke 15:11-32
Sunday 2nd June 2019
Brightons Parish ChurchIn our sermon series on Luke chapter 15, we have been exploring what these three parables of Jesus reveal to us of our heavenly Father and our focus has primarily been on the sheep, coin and younger son. Each of these three is very clearly lost – the sheep wanders away and the shepherd goes to find it; the coin falls, rolls into a dark corner and the woman hunts high and low; the younger son rebels but is welcomed home by a loving, patient, compassionate and forgiving father.

But in the telling of these three parables, who was the target audience for Jesus? What prompted the telling of these parables in the first place? We read in v1-3:

‘Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable…’

There are two groups of people gathering to listen to Jesus: the sinners, the bad people, and the religious leaders, the moral people. And it is the muttering of the religious leaders which prompts Jesus to tell the three parables.

Now, in the parable of the prodigal father, there are two sons – one bad and rebellious, one good and obedient. There are two groups of people are listening to Jesus; there are two sons in the story. So, quite clearly, the elder brother, the one who stays at home,…
portrays the religious leaders. In telling this parable, with its particular characters and ending, Jesus is seeking to speak into the lives of the religious leaders, He is seeking to challenge their way of life just as much as He is seeking to challenge the tax collectors and sinners.

So, what is Jesus saying to them? Well all three parables are about being lost and how we become found, how we return home, how we become reconciled with Father God. The sheep is found, the coin is recovered, the younger son is welcomed home. So, we can naturally conclude that Jesus is saying the elder son is just as lost as the others and that there is a way for him to find his way home as well.

So, in what way is the older son lost? Well, when the elder brother hears that a celebration is being held for the return of the younger son, this is his response:

‘The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”’ (Luke 15: 28-30)

The elder son is furious, furious at the father for the grace and forgiveness and compassion that has been shown to the younger son.
But just like the younger son, the elder son also disgraces the father, for he refuses to go in to what is perhaps the biggest feast and public event the father has ever held. The elder son, remains outside, a vote of no confidence in the father’s actions, a refusal to condone such love and welcome. This forces the father to go out to the elder son, a demeaning thing to do when you are the head of the family and host of a great feast. And in response, the elder son does not address his dad as “esteemed father”, or “my dear father”, but simply with the word “look!” – in our culture, we would probably say “look you!”, and to say that, in a culture of respect and deference to elders, is simply outrageous behaviour. The elder son, in mere minutes, has disgraced his father three times, and in his disgracing of his father, we begin to see how the elder son is lost, for in the midst of his rant he says this:
‘All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.’ (v29)

I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. The elder son has been seeking to earn his way into his father’s good books; by slavish obedience and rigid morality the elder son has become lost. For sure, he toes the line with diligence and self-sacrifice, but it is done out of duty, not love. For sure, he stays in the same house as the father, but he is not at home. For sure, the elder son is within reach of the father, but he is distant in his heart. The elder son is lost, and he is lost because of his good works, not in spite of them.

And so, what Jesus seeks to convey here…
is that you can rebel and be distant from the father, from God, either by breaking His rules, like the younger son, or by keeping all His rules diligently, like the older son. This is the challenge of Jesus to the Pharisees, that by their rule keeping, they are just as lost as the sinners gathered around Jesus. As one commentator wrote, ‘the main barrier between the Pharisees and God is “not their [blatant] sins, but their damnable good works.”’

And sadly, in every generation, across all the millennia of human existence, we have thought we can earn God’s approval, that we can earn salvation, that we can balance the scales and do enough to merit the Father’s love, to merit access to heaven, by our good deeds. But the teaching of the Christian faith, the teaching of Jesus and of the early church, challenges that very idea.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: ‘For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.’
(Romans 3:20)

He also wrote to the Galatians: ‘we know we cannot become right with God by obeying the Law. A man is made right with God by putting his trust in Jesus Christ…No man can be made right with God by obeying the Law.’ (Gal. 2:16)

Jesus himself taught the same thing, for in another parable He said, ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said,
“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” ‘I tell you,’ said Jesus, ‘that this man, rather than the other, went home right with God.’ (Luke 18:10-14)

In every generation of human existence, there have always been elder brothers, like the Pharisees, who have sought to be their own Saviour and Lord, and who have been blind to this reality in their lives.

But the teaching of the Scriptures, the teaching of Jesus, calls out to us – challenging that tendency within…

all our hearts to think we can do enough, to think we can be our own Saviour.

Friends, on a day when we have heard a profession of faith in Jesus and come to celebrate the meal that reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus, can I ask you: who is your Saviour? On what grounds does the Father accept you? On what grounds are your sins forgiven? On what grounds will you get into heaven?

If you think you don’t need forgiveness, then that is a sign you are lost. If you think God will overlook your sin, then that is a sign you are lost. If you think the Father accepts you and will welcome you into the kingdom of heaven … because you’ve tried to be good, and you’re not as bad as other people, then that too is a sign you are lost.
But the Good News of the Christian faith is both frightfully challenging and wonderfully liberating: you can’t be your own Saviour, yet Jesus died and rose to save you, and He is a Saviour you can fully trust.

In preparation for today, Alan and I worked through the Open Door material, and we spent some time talking about this verse from John chapter 1:

‘Yet to all who did receive him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’ (v12)

You are never welcomed into the family of God through good works, nor the family you were born into, nor attendance at church or being a member –
as Alan and I discussed, we enter God’s family, we come home to God, when we believe in Jesus and receive Him. It’s not enough to have the right thoughts, the right beliefs, about Jesus – even the demons know who Jesus is.

But when we act upon our beliefs, then we receive Jesus: to receive Jesus, we must acknowledge that we need forgiveness, we must trust in Jesus for that forgiveness by asking for it, and we must submit to Him as King, as Lord, of our lives.

The Good News of the Christian faith is both frightfully challenging and wonderfully liberating: you can’t be your own Saviour, there’s no shortcut, there’s no back door into the family of God, it’s only through Jesus.
Yet, wonderfully, He makes it so easy, you must simply ask for His forgiveness, and yet it is also so costly, for you must submit to Him as Lord of your life.

In the parable of the prodigal Father, the younger son, the rebellious one, he comes home, he accepts the Father’s ways. But it is the elder son, the obedient one, who refuses to come in; he refuses to accept the Father’s ways, he refuses the way of grace and love and forgiveness.

Friends, who will we be? Who are we?

Are we younger sons and daughters, ready to acknowledge our need of forgiveness,…
to depend on the grace of Father God, and come home by trusting in His means of salvation through Jesus?

Or, are we elder brothers and sisters, blind to our true condition and seeking to be our own Saviour and refusing to bow the knee to Jesus?

Who is your Saviour? Is it yourself and your damnable good deeds? Or is it Jesus?

Who is your Saviour, my friends? I pray it will be Jesus.