Notes of Meeting from Sunday 16th January 2022

Lee Street Church

Notes of Meeting 16th January 2022

 

WORSHIP led by Sue Clarke

Another New Year is with us. Who has made any new year’s resolutions? There’s something in the human spirit that naturally draws us toward new things, and fresh beginnings are no different.  The prospect of 2021 ending brought with it the hope of a new start to many, after another quite difficult and different year.

As humans, right from birth, our brain is hardwired to respond to new stimuli as a part of our learning processes.  This allows us to grow, to push forward into creating new stories, new inventions, to adapt. The unending opportunity for fresh beginnings and the new discoveries they bring are a part of what makes our humanity remarkable.

In today’s worship, we’re going to look at a few things the bible tells us about the word new.

New beginnings can be from a range of contexts: entering a new year; starting a new job; moving to a new city, or beginning a new relationship. A new beginning could also be entering a new phase of life with an updated outlook. 

The Bible offers advice and encouragement for beginning a new chapter in our lives. 

In Christ, God has given us a fresh start. As Christians who have taken that step in accepting Him into our lives as our Saviour, we can look at these promises in God’s word and take encouragement from them.

2 Corinthians 5 v17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 

Galatians 2 v20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

SONG: I am a new creation    197

God gives His people new songs of praise

Psalm 40 v3: He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him”. 

1 Peter 1 v3-5: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Who could have a greater reason for praising God!

SONG: When I was lost  1607

We don’t have to wait until a new year for a fresh start because God’s mercies to us are new every morning!

Lamentations 3 v22-23: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” 

SONG: The steadfast love of the Lord    549

THE STEADFAST LOVE OF THE LORD never ceases,

His mercies never come to an end;

They are new every morning,

New every morning,

Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord,

Great is Thy faithfulness. 

SONG: Bless the Lord 10000 reasons

He offers us a renewed spirit

There are times in our lives when we perhaps feel lost, or out of our depth. Things are happening where we feel out of control or just don’t know how to cope. God doesn’t promise us an easy life, but He does promise us that with Him we can change how we react to the situations we are in. If we trust in Him and in His Word, we can rejuvenate our spirits.

Isaiah 43 v19: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Ezekiel 11:19: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. “

Isaiah 40 v31: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

SONG: My lips shall praise You    937

Living in the new life is our responsibility and privilege

Ephesians 4 v22-24: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” 

Ephesians 2 v10: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” 

God doesn’t expect us to do it on our own, however. He provides His Holy Spirit in our lives every moment of every day to guide us; to challenge us; to help us.

2 Corinthians 3 v 18: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever- increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

SONG: O Jesus I have promised 418

There is more new to come! We keep going because we trust and believe in God ‘s promises and we look forward to that time when we will be made new in Him.

Isaiah 65 v17: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. “

Revelation 21 v1-5:

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with man and He will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold I am making everything new! Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true””

 

Let this last hymn be part of our prayer- especially the last verse with the words - “Finish then Thy new creation - let us see Thy great salvation, perfectly restored in Thee!

SONG: Love divine  377

Prayer Time

We prayed for a number of our Church family and friends, including thanks where God has answered our previous prayers. Please continue to pay for those as outlined in the notes sent out to Church members.

 

Brian’s Message

John the Baptist

I wonder If you are like me and love reading obituaries of the rich and famous – maybe of people who have achieved great things in the medical world, maybe great explorers, maybe test pilots who advanced the knowledge of flying, or astronauts delving into outer space. You enjoy reading most about their major exploits, but you also hope to get an insight into other less-publicised aspects of their lives. Their education for instance, and some things about their parents.

When we look at the lives of people in the bible, there are of course enormous gaps in the biblical accounts, so we are left to guess much about their lives from the small amounts of information we have on record.

This is certainly so with the man I want to focus our thoughts on today, that’s John the Baptist. He’s usually given this full title so as to differentiate him from the disciple and apostle of the same name, the John known for his gospel writings, for his 3 epistles, and the book of Revelation.

We gave brief mention to John the Baptist when we were thinking a few weeks ago about the angels that visited Elizabeth and Mary bringing some amazing news. For Elizabeth, it was the amazing news that she had wanted to hear for many years – in her old age she was to give birth to a son.

Her husband Zechariah had been given some very specific information about the son they were to have – he was to be named John, he wasn’t to touch wine or any alcoholic drink, and he was to be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. He would (see Luke 1:17 – 18).

Luke goes on the record the birth of John the Baptist (1: 57 – 65).

His father Zechariah had no doubts about the purpose of the gift of his son John – he was to…. (vs 76 – 79).

In Luke’s account, we then read just one verse describing the next 25 or 30 years of his life (v 80).

We read nothing further about his parents, about his upbringing, his education, his friends or relatives – we are left to just guess about these things, based on what we know of the social history of that time.

No doubt Zechariah and Elisabeth would both have wanted the best possible education for their child – he was a gift to them in their old age, and they would have done all they could to ensure he was best prepared for his assigned role in life.

As his father Zechariah knew, he was above all to be preparing the way for Jesus, the Messiah himself – what a privilege, what a responsibility was his, and that must have weighed heavily on his mind in the course of the first 25 years or so of his life.

One thing we do know is “he grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry in Israel.” Matthew does tell us that John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. And for food, he ate locusts and wild honey. Not exactly the easiest of lifestyles, and not for the faint-hearted.

Why did John live out in the wilderness – surely, he would have gained much more insight into most people’s lives by living where most of them did – in the cities like Jerusalem? We do find that prophets often used the isolation of the scantly-populated wilderness areas of the country to enhance their spiritual growth, and to focus their thoughts on God. 

For John, it was important that he remained as separate as possible from the economic and political powers of the day, which as always were affected by corruption, despite being under the much-despised power of Rome. He also needed to ensure his thinking was not affected by the hypocritical religious leaders of his day. The message he was in time to declare was very different from theirs.

It was whilst he was there in the desert that he got a message from God. Luke 3: 1 – 3 puts these events in their historical context. Luke writes:

1

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar —when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene —

2

during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

3

He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

The word of God came to him – this was what he had been waiting for all his teenage and later years – it must have been a very clear instruction, because John it seems immediately became mobilised as a forthright evangelist (read 3).

Luke tells us that he:

  • Travelled from one place to another, seeking out people who would listen to him
  • Telling them of their need to repent and to turn to God for forgiveness
  • Baptising those who repented

Some people might even have thought about the words of their great prophet of years previously, Isaiah – who had prophesied that one would come, “a voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah himself.”

As a preacher, he soon became well known, and we read that “people from Jerusalem and all Judea went out to see and hear John.” I wonder what it was that made people come out to listen to this strange man in the wilderness – maybe he had such a charismatic personality that people naturally gathered to listen to him – whether or not they liked what he was saying. Perhaps the people were so tired of listening to the ineffective words of their own clerics and official temple spokesmen, so they found something fresh and real in what John had to say to them.

Not that he exactly brought words of comfort and encouragement to most of them. His main call was for repentance, as he showed the people how far they had gone away from God – and how their disobedience brought great sorrow to God. But God was giving them a chance to come back to him, iof they would truly repent of their sins.

Listen to what he said to some of the Pharisees and Sadducees who had come to watch him baptising people in the River Jordan. “You brood of snakes, who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Don’t just say to each other “We’re safe, because we are descendants of Abraham”. They weren’t used to being denounced publicly in such a way. John wasn’t slow to criticise the Pharisees for being legalistic and hypocritical, following the letter of the law whilst ignoring its true intent. and the Sadducees for using religion to advance their political positions.

 

John was of course most well-known for baptising people – not just anyone who came along, but only those who willingly accepted the need to genuinely repent of the wrongs in their lives and were now ready to start a new life, pleasing to God. He baptised with water those who repented of their sins and turned to God. But he never hid the fact that someone very much greater than he was waiting in the wings – someone who would baptise his followers with the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisees were not at all happy about John baptising people - what right did he have to do this? He wasn’t the Messiah, or Elijah or the Prophet – but nevertheless, He was baptising Jews – God’s chosen people – giving them the opportunity to undergo this symbolic act of repentance. So, John goes on the explain to that, whilst he baptised with water, there was one standing among them who they did not know. He is the one who comes after me, says John, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” John felt unworthy to even carry out such a menial task for Jesus, the Messiah.

There must have been times when John asked himself “Where is He? When will he turn up?”

The writers of the synoptic gospels all record the fact of Jesus coming to John and being baptised by him. At first, John queried why on earth he, a sinful human being, should baptise Jesus himself. And we might well ask the same question – why should Jesus be baptised? It certainly wasn’t for the forgiveness of sin, because he was totally sinless, so had nothing to confess. Experts down the centuries have debated this subject, and have suggested a number of reasons for Jesus insisting on being so publicly baptised by John.

  1. Firstly, what a way for Jesus to begin his public ministry. Until now, he seems to have limited his ministry to teaching at times in the Jewish synagogues, probably to a fairly select few of the teachers of the law. But from now on he was to begin proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, the message of salvation which was available to all the people, however good or bad they thought they were.
  2. Jesus clearly wanted to show support for John’s ministry – John was after all just doing the job God had called him into – to prepare people to meet with Jesus, the Saviour of the world.
  3. By himself being baptised, Jesus identified himself with our humanity – Jesus, God in human flesh, living amongst mankind whom he had created.
  4. Clearly too, Jesus gave us an example to follow – baptism was important for Him, it is important for us too.

Once John had been persuaded to baptise Jesus, he goes ahead and fully immerses Jesus in the water of the river Jordan, because we then read in Matthew that “as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending upon Him, like a dove.” Jesus’ baptism wasn’t by having a few drops of holy water wiped over his forehead, but by full body immersion in the waters of the Jordan river. Not only that, but a voice from heaven declared “This is my Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased”. How thankful John must have been to hear these words. He had obediently carried out the baptism, and here was God’s confirmation that Jesus was indeed the chosen one of God – about to live a life of ministry and sacrifice, doing always the will of his Father in heaven.

John had become one of the most effective evangelists in history. Many evangelists in the past century or so would have so loved to reach as many people as John did during his brief period of ministry. I was recently watching an old film on television of the Billy Graham crusades in London back in the 50s and 60s, when so many people came to know Christ through the faithful preaching of the word of God. Billy Graham was in effect the CEO of a major organisation, but throughout his ministry he made sure that the honour for everything he did went to God. He was just the mouthpiece through which many decided they needed Jesus to be their Saviour. And John was just that – effectively a sign-post pointing people to the coming of the Messiah.

John faced many questions from the Jewish authorities about “who he was”. Was he Elijah? The Jews remembered that Elijah had not died, and they were expecting him to return at some stage. But John emphatically denies that he is a reincarnation of Elijah. Was he the Prophet that is spoken about to Moses in Deuteronomy 18, and still awaited by the Jews? No says John. 

Then who on earth are you? they asked. Our bosses back in Jerusalem need to know, so please give us an answer. Was he the Messiah they were awaiting, or was he just yet another false prophet? 

So John replied, using the words of the prophet Isaiah “I am the voice of one calling in the desert “Make straight the way for the Lord”, “clear the way for the Lord’s coming. So John didn’t really tell them who he was, but emphasised why he had come – to prepare the way for the Messiah.

It seems to be just a few days later that Jesus is actually baptised by John.

From this time on, John’s ministry changed.

We find John pointing out clearly to people the one who they are to follow and listen to – Jesus of Nazareth, from Galilee. John said “he must increase, and I must decrease” – what humility, from being a successful evangelist baptising hundreds of people, to now handing over the reins and telling people to listen only to Jesus.

But John it seems continued to preach the need for repentance, and in the end, it cost him his life.

Matthew 14:1 -12 Read.

John had vocally criticised the fact that Herodias, Philip’s wife, had left him and was now living immorally with Herod Antipas. Herod wanted to silence John, but he also knew that John was popular with the people. But he made a sad mistake in the promise he made to Herodias’s daughter. The end result was that John was sadly beheaded at Herod’s command.

We shall never quite understand why God allowed John’s life to be cut short in such a way. But what we do know about John is that he had completed the task for which he was born.

Remember the words to Zechariah 

16

He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.

John was in many ways a strange person. His appearance, his lifestyle. 

But he was successful in drawing people to listen to his preaching by the river Jordan. People travelled many miles just to listen to him.

The key aspects of his life, which we would do well to emulate, were:

  • Obedience. He clearly knew the role he had to play in the world – the purpose for which he had been brought miraculously into the world in the first place – that of announcing the coming of Jesus, the saviour of the world, and preparing people to listen to him. He put all his energy into carrying out this mission.
  • Courageous. He wasn’t put off his task by all those who were casting doubt on his credentials. Despite criticism from religious and sectarian authorities, he continued carrying out his God-given ministry to the people. His example must be an encouragement to Christian ministers in many countries where there is tremendous opposition to anyone declaring the word of God in public.
  • He spoke out the truth. He challenged people to turn from their sins, and baptised them as a sign of their repentance.
  • He remained humble. Despite gaining a large following, which must have initially at least been very hard work, he never lost sight of the fact that his calling was simply to point the people towards Jesus. John was to fade away, but Jesus was the one they were to listen to – He alone had the words of life.

God has I believe a purpose for each one of us. He is with us, to guide us in good and bad times. He has graciously given us his Spirit, to strengthen us, to enable us to be his witnesses in a world which is increasingly antagonistic towards spiritual things.

But I believe he calls each one of us, in our own spheres of life, you in your small corner and I in mine (as the old chorus remind us). Those characteristics of John’s life – obedience, courage, truth, and humility, which had such an impact on the Jews who heard his preaching and witnessed his lifestyle – may they be seen by others in our lives, and thus be challenged to follow our Saviour themselves.

 

SONG: 1448 May the mind of Christ my Saviour

 

NOTICES

  • There will NOT be a Coffee Morning this Wednesday
  • There will NOT be a Wednesday evening bible study on Zoom this week
  • Next Sunday our speaker at 10.15 am will be Martin Shorey (Minister of Horley Baptist Church)
  • Our Annual Church Members meeting will be held at 12 noon on Sunday 27th February.