Notes of Meeting Sunday 29 January 2023

Worship led by Brian Legg

We’re here to meet with God. How wonderful – firstly that He should want to meet with us. Have you come with the expectation of meeting with God this morning? Have you come prepared to meet him? Are you willing to come and bow down before Him this morning?

SONG: 10             All heaven declares the glory of the risen Lord

“I gladly bow the knee, and worship you alone.”

The glory of the Lord was something of which the Israelites were well aware – they knew full well what would befall them if they disobeyed God’s command in respect of honouring his glory.

But under the New Covenant, God has graciously opened up a way for even us to be able to talk to God – I guess none of us are likely to be talking to the reigning Monarch of England, but we can talk to the King of Kings himself.

Our next song is an old one – it has seven short verses.

It was written in the mid-1800s by Frederick Faber, an Anglican by birth and training, but who later in life became a Catholic minister. He wrote very many songs, a number of which remain in use worldwide today.

In this song, he attempts to put into words something of what he felt about God – wonderful, majestic, as he pictures him on the mercy seat amidst unimaginable light. He picks up some of the pictures which John saw and recorded for us in the book of Revelation. – by prostrate spirits day and night incessantly adored.

He speaks of the purity of God – we like pure things, such as water (if you can find any with absolutely no impurities, even then you might not like the taste, because we are so used to water treated with chemicals which are supposedly good for us. But the awesome purity of God is something almost unimaginable.

He reminds us of the wonder that God should stoop down to us to seek our love, despite our rebellion against him – and reminds us too how forbearing God is with us.

SONG: 395           My God, how wonderful thou art

The Psalmist David wrote these words – Psalm27:4 “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

Song: 621             You are beautiful beyond description

“I stand in awe of You.”

Speaking about the great spiritual blessings we have in Christ, Paul wrote these words to the Christians in the church at Ephesus:

Ephesians 1: 3 – 8

Just look at all the blessings we have In Christ. We’ve been:

  • Chosen
  • Made sons of God
  • Redeemed
  • Forgiven
  • We’re recipients of God’s grace

These are summed up in our next song:

SONG: 958           Oh, the mercy of God

As recipients of God’s grace, we surely just want to praise Him, and our next song re-echoes some further blessings we have received:

  • Our guilt has been taken away.
  • Our days made brighter by the Lord, the source of happiness
  • He’s with us in our times of trial.
  • He brings us peace.

SONG: 937           My lips shall praise

Remain seated for our final song:

SONG:  594         When I feel the touch

 

Breaking of Bread

Matthew 26. 27-28, 42  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” 42. He went away the second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for the cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

 

We have just read of two cups that were very different.  The first cup Jesus gave to to the disciples with thanks.  It was a joyful cup proclaiming the forgiveness of sins.   That is the cup we will receive in a few moments.  The second cup Jesus took to himself. It was a cup of sorrow that Jesus agonised over.  He prayed to his Father to ask if there was any other way apart from taking that cup to do His will and redeem mankind.  He knew the answer was no.  There was no question of him not drinking the cup because the will of his Father and our salvation was the sole reason he came into the world.  What did the drinking from that cup involve?  It was about his death on the cross.  But it was no ordinary death.  Apart from the horrific physical and mental suffering he was to endure by crucifixion there was a spiritual suffering that is described in words we can’t fully understand. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.”  We just get a glimpse of the depth of that suffering when “he cried out in a loud voice “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.”   That was the suffering that caused him to pray three times if there was any other way.  There cross wasn’t something that happened by chance.  It wasn’t a case that Jesus was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The cross wasn’t a matter of compulsion.  He wasn’t compelled to go the cross by His Father.  The cross was a matter of choice. Jesus chose the cross to be punished in our place.  It is because he drank that cup of unimaginable suffering for our sin that we can drink the joyful cup of salvation this morning.  Oh how much we owe to him this morning in thanksgiving and worship!  

 

Ken’s Message

God’s Plan For My Life      Jeremiah 29. 4-14

One of the blessings I received when I attended children’s meeting at the Gospel Hall where I attended was memorising verses of scripture each week.  Many of those verses I still remember and have been a blessing to me.  When faced with a problem often I remember a text that encourages, guides or comforts me.  However, remembering verses on their own outside the context of the passage can lead to mistakes in interpreting the verse correctly.   Most promises have a general application to all as in “Whoever comes to me I will not drive away.”  But some have special applications. In the passage we just read verse 11 is a very popular verse which we take and apply to ourselves.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  That is a verse with wonderful promises we all want to apply to ourselves.  However, this time as I have studied the passage carefully having taken the verse from the situation when it was originally given I have realised that I have misapplied and misinterpreted its meaning in the past.

To discover the true meaning of the verse we must ask certain questions.  

Who was the promise given to?  The answer is found in verse 4.  “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I have carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”  God is speaking to Israel who are now captives in Babylon.  Why are they there?  God has carried them there as a punishment for all the idolatry, the worship of false gods, and the immorality of their sinful lives over many years.   That was certainly not a good place to be.  But it is not the end for the nation of  Israel.  God still has a plan for them as is stated in the text.  “I know the plans I have for you.” 

The next question is very important.  When will the promise be fulfilled?  In verse 10 the answer is given: “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.”  The promise of God’s plan to prosper them and give them hope and a future was not until seventy years had passed and they were back in Israel.  This wasn’t a promise for the present but the future.  God’s promise of true prosperity and the brightest future was not a present experience for them but a future one.  They would need to still be in a place of hostility and trial for sometime.  As we apply God’s plan of prosperity, hope and a future to ourselves in the context it refers to our eternal future when Jesus returns to take us home to glory.   True prosperity, a glorious hope and the brightest of all futures is sharing it with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the eternal kingdom in the new heaven and new earth.  God’s ultimate plan for us in being with Jesus for all eternity having new bodies like his and sharing together in the eternal glorious kingdom.

What the nation of Israel didn’t realise was that God also had a plan for their time in Babylon that was different from their promise of prosperity and hope for their future.  He had actually sent them there for a purpose, but all they could think about was getting back to Israel as soon as possible. 

There were false prophets who were telling the people that they would be back home after two years.  That’s what many people wanted to hear and happen.  They weren’t interested in God’s plan for the here and now but just wanted to get back home to Israel as soon as possible.                                                                                                                            

When we first became Christians, it was wonderful to know we were going to heaven that we could easily think that was the whole purpose of our salvation.  However, God didn’t take us straight to heaven but left us here to fulfil his plan for us on the earth.  God has two plans for every Christian.  One is his eternal plan for our future in heaven and the other is for time on earth till we go to heaven. The nation of Israel only wanted two years at the most in Babylon but God’s plan was for seventy years.   Even though they had failed God miserably God still had a plan for them.  He didn’t abandon them but he called them again to be used in his service.  Sometimes after failure we may feel God can’t use us any more, but that is the devil’s lie. In the Bible God used many people again after they had failed him.  What was God’s plan for them in Babylon?                                                                                             

Firstly, God called them to a renewed intimate relationship with himself.  He says in verse 13. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  The reason they were brought to Babylon by God was because of their unfaithfulness to God through their idolatry and worship of foreign gods.  For that intimate relationship to be restored there had to be a total surrender to God and an unconditional trust in God for his guidance for the future with all their heart.  That meant surrender to God and trust in his will and plan for their lives.     This is what should happen at the beginning of our Christian lives as we become disciples of Christ.  To be a disciple of Jesus is to give up control of my life and put it under the control of Jesus. The nation of Israel had forsaken their commitment and trust in God and replaced it by going their own way and merely following religious customs.  That sometimes happens in our lives.

One of the best illustrations to explain what should happen when a person becomes a Christian is when I saw Chris go tandem para gliding when we were on holiday in Austria.  I didn’t have the courage to take up the challenge.  In tandem para gliding, the student and the instructor are hooked into the glider together.  In this instance Chris was the student.  What is required of the student?  Wholehearted trust in the instructor.  There is no trust in oneself but it is 100% in the instructor who is with you.  The instructor is completely trustworthy so you can put our whole trust in them.  The Christian life is about having Jesus in us and trusting wholeheartedly in him.  In Galatians 2.20 the apostle Paul puts it simply, “I live by faith in the Son of God.”  Jesus is the most trustworthy person in the whole world.  He is the expert at everything.  There is no need for fear.  He will hold you in his hand.

The second condition is total surrender to the instructor.  Not taking control but giving control to the instructor.  This is probably the most difficult thing to do for we all like to be in control of our own lives.  As someone said, “As long as everything is exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible.”                                                                                                         

You can only surrender to someone that you trust completely.  Chris made the choice to surrender to the instructor and go his way and not her own way.  When Jesus first met the disciples he said,“Follow me...and at once they left their nets and followed him”. (Mark 1. 17-18)   They surrendered to his control going his way instead of their own way.  This is what it means to deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow Jesus. 

Did Chris regret surrendering and trusting the instructor?  Not at all she had a great experience.  Will not our lives be blessed if we totally surrender and trust completely in Jesus?  I think we can all remember times when we have done that and known God’s blessing and joy. Is it to be just a one off experience?  Why doesn’t it continue?

It can continue if we “take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.”  We just need to commit to trust him wholeheartedly and surrender to him each day and leave the rest in his hands.  That leads to the fulness of life that Jesus has for us.

The second part of God’s plan is in verse 4,“Build houses sand settle down; and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters ……. Increase in number there; do not decrease.”  The time in Babylon wasn’t to waste but to work and grow.  It wasn’t a time to complain about the situation but to blossom in it. It wasn’t a time to go it alone but work together in building a community.  What’s the application for us today?  Jude instructs the believers what they should be doing, “build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in God’s love and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”(Jude 20)   We are not called to build a house of bricks but a house of faith.    There was only one place where God commanded Israel to grow and that was Babylon.  This world is the only place and opportunity to grow spiritually.  Our spiritual growth is so important.  We just have one shot at it so our spiritual growth is vital and we are accountable to God for it.  Where is the area of growth of my faith to be seen?  It’s not in power but in purity.  We are to grow in our “most holy faith.”  What does that mean?  It’s living like God.  God says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1.16)  It’s living like Jesus.  We are called “to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8.29). It’s living by the Spirit to bear the fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5.25). How can we be built up in our most holy faith?  Three actions are given.  Praying in the Holy Spirit.  Being kept in God’s love.  Waiting for the return of Jesus.  May God help us in those three things so we won’t stay as we are but grow and be built up in our most holy faith.

The last command God gave the nation of Israel was in relation to the city and people of Babylon. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city……..Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29.7) This must have been a shock to hear for the Israelites.  To seek the prosperity and pray for their enemies who had been so cruel to them destroying their country and reducing Jerusalem to rubble seemed so unbelievable.  Added to that was the clause “if it prospers you too will prosper.”  What kind of a God would desire that? He reminds them that they are not there because they were just defeated by the Babylonian army but because God “carried them there.”  That phrase in mentioned three times so there being in Babylon was not a chance event or that they were merely victims of circumstances.  They were there because God wanted them there.                                                                                                                                                          

Why were they there 70 years?  God could have brought them earlier.                                                                                                                                                                  

God could have brought them back earlier.  One reason they were there so long was so they could be a witness to the ungodly nation of Babylon.  Whilst their real home was Israel they were now living in Babylon as witnesses for God.  That was God’s original purpose for Israel being in the world, that by their conduct and witness the pagan nations would be drawn to God and become believers in the one true God.  Sadly, it worked the other way round where Israel were led into idolatry through the worship of foreign gods.   On this occasion by seeking the welfare of their enemies and even praying for them it would be an amazing testimony.  It would be similar to Paul’s witness when he was in jail at Philippi.  Through his praise and prayer the jailer was moved to seek salvation and was wonderfully converted.  Like Israel in Babylon we have a double citizenship living in the world but our true home is heaven.  It is heaven where our focus should be having our values, mind and treasure there.     

 So what is our role in the world?  We are ambassadors for Christ being his representatives of his kingdom.  We are also his witnesses in the world sharing his message with our lips but also his life through our actions.  Our witness and lives aren’t enough to be truly effective in winning the lost. God commanded Israel to pray for the Babylonians.  Pray releases God’s power to save people, it can’t be done in our strength alone.  We do the possible and God does the impossible.  God commanded them to pray especially for nation of Babylon.  Our country is going through many difficult problems and crisis at the moment and needs our prayer.  In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 we are urged to pray for kings and all those in authority.  It is difficult knowing what to pray for in relation to our country at the moment with so many important issues.  I have found the prayers supplied by Care very helpful.  There are ten prayers on different topics, and I just pray a couple a day which covers Monday to Friday.  You can use them in any way you want.  It is an excellent way to pray for our country.  I have leaflets with their prayers written on them on the table.

We rejoice in expectation at God’s plan for us in the future.  That time that will be filled with perfect prosperity, glorious hope, and an eternal future with God on the new heaven and earth with no suffering, sorrow, sickness, tears, sin and death.  God desires that we should look forward to that with great anticipation.   He also wants to us to embrace fully his plan and purpose for us now on the earth.  We have covered the three main issues he wants us to make a priority.                                                

Firstly, our personal relationship and walk with God centring on our daily surrender and wholehearted trust in him.  That should be our first priority. Secondly, the plan for building up our holy faith by maintaining a fervent love for God, a continual transformation into the likeness of Christ and living in the Spirit so that his fruit of can be clearly seen in our lives.     

Thirdly, the plan to be salt and light in our witness in the world, fulfilling our role in praying both for individuals and our nation that God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.  May God enable us to fulfil his plan for us in the world.  Will you sign up for God’s plan today?

 

 

Notices

  • Our speaker next week at 10.15am will be David Ansell.
  • Prayer Cards for February are now available.
  • Please be reminded that besides being available on-line on Zoom, our services can be heard by dialling in to a Conference Call number from any telephone. Details available on request to the Church Secretary.

 

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
20/04/2024

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