Come to me, find rest

Text Matthew 11:28-30 Time 04 11 07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church (also Banbury 28 10 07)I'd like us to consider today a great and famous Bible text. These are the words of Jesus himself, words he spoke while he was here on earth. They come at the end of Matthew 11 in 28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.One writer has said 'No sublimer words exist than this call of Jesus to the toiling and the burdened to come to him.'
In Chapter 11 we come to an important point in Jesus's ministry. Jesus has been preaching to the people for some time but the response is generally speaking quite poor. There has been no repentance. In 20-24 he utters these scalding words of condemnation against the places in Galilee where he had done most of his miracles and preached most of his messages. He says
Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgement than for you.
And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgement than for you.
These rather sobering words are immediately followed by those found in 25, 26
At that time Jesus said, I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. Yes, the failure of so many to respond is a disappointment but Jesus sees this as the will of his Father. Though the wise and learned have failed to see the truth, others – the little children – have seen the truth. This was the Father's good pleasure.Jesus then says All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Jesus knows the will of the Father. He is also the one who is able to reveal it to others. There is a unique relationship between God the Father and God the Son and it is impossible to know the one without knowing the other. If you know Jesus, you know God.
This leads to the words before us. There are three things to consider.
1. Consider the command Jesus gives here1. What? Come
That is one of the simplest words I can think of. You learn to read it when you're very young. We used Janet and John books when I was learning to read. 'Come Janet. Come John.' It means to move from there to here. By using the word come Jesus is calling for movement, for a change. To belong to Jesus you cannot simply stay where you are or remain as you are. Change is necessary. Do you see that?
This coming is not a physical coming. Some confusion has been caused in some people's minds by suggesting there is something physical we can do to come to Christ – like coming to the front or raising our hands.
This coming is surely not something merely emotional either – an emotional experience. Rather the word come here is pointing to faith, to putting one's faith outside of oneself – going outside oneself. It is putting one's soul elsewhere.
2. Where? to me
That faith must be in Jesus Christ. Matthew describes him in this Gospel, which is one of four portraits we have in the New Testament showing the character and person of Christ. Clearly he is a man. He acts in a human way. And yet he is also God - God come in human flesh. No-one ever spoke like this man. No-one did the miracles he did.
Matthew and the others go on to tell us how this man died on the cross. Not, it is clear, because he deserved it but in the place of sinners. He then rose again from the dead, triumphing over sin and death and hell and opening up the way to God the Father for all who the Son chooses to reveal him to.
Come to me Jesus says. Don't stay as you are, don't stay where you are but from your heart put your trust in me. He is the one to whom you must come.
3. Who? (Come to me) all you who are weary and burdened, ...
There is an all here. Someone has said it's in the word COME.C – children. That all includes children. If you can understand what I am saying then you are not too young to come to Christ. Trust in him today. I have met some people who trusted in Christ when they were 4 or 5, many who came to him when they were 10 or 11. Many come to faith in their teenage years. I was 12 when I first trusted in Christ. Trust in him today.
O – It includes older people too. No-one is too old to come to Christ. People have come to trust in him in their sixties and seventies and eighties, even in their nineties.
There is even a famous story of a man who was a hundred years old coming to faith. Luke Short was a New England farmer who lived in the 17th Century. Apparently he was sat in a field contemplating his end one day and recalled a striking sermon he had heard some 85 years before as a 15 year old in Dartmouth, England. The preacher had been the Puritan John Flavel. His text was If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha (1 Cor 16:22). Short lived a further 16 years after this and despite his sinful past became a faithful member of the Congregationalist Church meeting in Middleborough, Massachusetts. It's never too late.
M – Well, that's all the people in the middle. They're included in this all as well. If you're not a child and not old but somewhere in the middle then – in your twenties, thirties, forties (like me) or fifties - Jesus is saying 'Come to me' to you this morning as well. Put your trust in me, he says. Believe in me and my work.
E – I don't think I've missed anyone out but if I have E is for everyone. This message is for every person here today.
You notice that Jesus says (Come to me) all you who are weary and burdened. Again this is unlikely to be a physical sense of weariness or burden. He is talking about the lethargy of soul and the burden of conscience that grips us all from time to time. You see it in some people. 'He looks as though he's got the world on his shoulders'. 'I'm sick and tired of it all'.
On the one hand our souls feel weary with all the effort we try to put into life. On the other, the sheer weight of sin and misery in this world wears them down. Certainly it is stronger in some than others and it can vary with the time. One of the paradoxes of coming near to Christ is that as we come nearer we have a greater sense of weariness and burden. Are you finding that? It is hard but it can be a good sign.
Now I don't think we need to get hung up here about how weary or how burdened we feel though. If we feel it at all then that is enough.
Are you weary in your soul,tired of it all? Are you burdened in your conscience, weighed down by your sins? Then come to Jesus. Trust in him. Here is the answer. It's not in you. It's not in me. It's in him.
4. How? Take my yoke upon you and learn from me
Jesus answers with a picture. This is not a very rural community but Jesus was speaking to people who knew about farming and about animals. They knew what a yoke was. It was the instrument used to couple two animals together so that they could be used to pull a cart or plough a field. The word was used as a metaphor to describe being under someone's power. At this very time the Jews were under the Roman yoke. Now, says Jesus, what you need to do is to come under my power. Let me guide you, where you will go and what you will do. Accept me as your teacher, your instructor, your captain, your guide.
Have you done that? Have you bowed to Christ's yoke? That's how to come to him. Accept him as your Lord and Master. Say, 'What he says I will do. Where he sends I will go.'
2. Consider the promise Jesus makes hereNow, of course, we've missed out the most important phrase. Jesus says Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest ... and you will find rest for your souls. I will refresh you he says. I will make it easy. With me you can be rejuvenated, renewed, rested, restored. Here is relief. You know what it's like perhaps to be carrying a heavy burden and then to be able to put it down. To lie down in bed at the end of a hard day worn out. It's that moment of stopping, ceasing that is in mind here. Or think of the refreshment of a cold drink from an ice cold fridge or a mountain spring.
That is what our hearts need. That is the need of your soul and mine, to find rest. How restless and unsatisfied we are by nature. How hard it is to live in this fallen world of sin. We sin and we are sinned against. Things are spoiled by sin and we grow weary of it all. But in Christ there is rest, there is refreshment. He is the Lord my Shepherd and he restores my soul.
Have you found rest in Christ? The rest of forgiveness and of walking with God? You can find it in Christ. If you simply trust in him you will be right with God, the burden will be gone and you will find rest for your soul.
3. Consider the argument Jesus adds hereWell, you say, this rest sounds all very nice but how do I know that Jesus can give it to me? Well, Jesus gives two arguments here. One comes from his character and one is from the very way he saves.
1. His character for I am gentle and humble in heart
In the ancient world gentleness and humility or meekness and lowliness were not often thought to be attractive characteristics. To most people it sounded too much like weakness or servility. Jesus is clear though. He is gentle, mild, kindly. He is humble, lowly. Perhaps Philippians 2 is the chapter that describes it most fully.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Here is one fit to teach us then. He will not be unkind or overbearing. He knows just what we need. He's willing to come down to our level. If you want to get along side kids it's best to get own on the floor with them. That's how Jesus is with us.
I'm not calling you to submit to a Saviour today who comes breathing fire and vengeance with a sword in his hand. Such a day is coming. But today I'm coming to you in the meekness of Christ and I'm saying trust in him. Indeed Christ himself is present and pleads with you, come to me.
2. The character of his demands For my yoke is easy and my burden is light
Here is the final thing. Is being a Christian hard? Well, it's not an easy question to answer. In one sense it is because there's always going to be persecution and it's a narrow road that leads to eternity. But when you compare it to not being a Christian, especially when you compare it to some of the ways people try to get saved then it is easy. I know a Jewish lady and one of her objections to Christianity is that it is too easy. She is frum, she keeps a kosher table. Even in Golders Green that's not easy. It is expensive and time consuming. When it comes to Passover things are even more difficult. But if you are a Christian it's so different. You can eat what you like (though you mustn't be greedy), drink what you like (though you mustn't get drunk), wear what you like (though with modesty). There are no festivals or feasts to keep (though the Lord's Day is clearly to be marked week by week), there's no long list of rules (although we certainly have our dos and don'ts). When you come to Christ it is true liberation. It is true freedom. Nothing can compare with it. It is not freedom from all restraint and responsibility.
I remind you who believe too, there is a yoke to wear. There is a burden to carry. Let's not be slow in taking it up.
But the yoke is kind, gracious. It doesn't chafe away as a yoke on an animal can. The burden is light not heavy.
Take the yoke, bear the burden. It is the way to God and to heaven and there is no other way.

Jesus The Only Way

Text John 14:6 Time 14/10/07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
We looked last week at a famous text, Romans3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It is a famous New Testament text reminding us of our status by nature. We are sinners who fall short of God’s glory and unless he saves us then there is no hope for us.
This week I want us to turn to another famous New Testament text, an even more famous one perhaps. It is also, I suppose, a less negative, a more positive one. It tells us not only about our problems but also what the answer to those problems is. This time I want us to focus on words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The text is found in John 14:6 where it says Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Once again it is a great text and one worth learning if you don’t know it already.
These words were spoken, of course, on the night that Jesus was betrayed, the night before his crucifixion. In John’s Gospel we have quite a full account of that night. All the way from John 13 to John 17, John describes what happened on that night and chiefly what Jesus said.
In Chapter 13 we have the footwashing and the discussion about who would betray Jesus, etc. Chapter 14 begins with Jesus saying Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house in heaven then there are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.
It is this last comment that prompts the question from one of Jesus’s disciples – Thomas - in verse 5 - Thomas said to him, Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way? We don’t know much about Thomas but we get the impression from what we do know of him of a very loyal, even courageous disciple, but a rather nervy character who is full of doubts and fears by nature. Perhaps you can identify.
Jesus has spoken of his Father's house and its many rooms where he is going to prepare a place. Thomas is eager to go to that place but how exactly? What really is the way to heaven, to the place where Jesus has now gone?
The Lord Jesus encourages questions like this. He wants us to be honest. Just think, if Thomas had not asked this question we never would have had this wonderful answer - I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
It is in reply to this question then that Jesus says in 6 I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. He goes on (7) If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. That leads to a further question from another disciple, from Philip, (8) Philip said, Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us. That question receives the answer (9-11) Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say ‘Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves, etc.
All this extra material helps us to understand better what is being said by Jesus in 14:6.
One other thing worth mentioning here is that the phrase I am the way and the truth and the life is similar to a whole series of statements of Jesus preserved only in John’s Gospel. These are what we most often call the I ams of Jesus. There are seven altogether, all carefully chosen no doubt. The others are
I am the Bread of Life, I am the Light of the World, I am the Gate/door, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Resurrection and the life, I am the True Vine.
We can divide John 14:6 up into four obvious parts.
The first part is the most direct answer to Thomas's question about the way. The references to truth and life act in a supporting role to this statement (if the way is the star then the truth and life also play their parts. They serve to amplify and make clearer what may seem otherwise muted or unclear). The final clause gives an important summary conclusion.
1. Jesus is the way we need to walk to get to heaven and God
So think firstly of a path, a road, a way; a way that leads to heaven.
Jesus does not say as so many religious leaders have done 'this is the way' or 'that is the way' to heaven but rather I am the Way. Jesus is the Prophet who points us to heaven but he is more than that - he is the Priest who saves his people so that they have a right to heaven and he is the King who leads his people safely all the way there. He is not only our great example but also our great Saviour.
This is one of the things that distinguishes Jesus and points to him as Saviour. What you need to get to heaven is not a philosophy or a way of life but a person – Jesus Christ.
He makes clear then that he is not simply the pioneer, the one who blazes the trail to heaven but he is the way itself. He is the Saviour, the Lamb of God who takes away sin, the Ladder or stairway up to heaven, the one who can give eternal life.
All these ideas bring it home to us. Without him there is no going to heaven. Without him the way in remains firmly closed against us. It is as we come to God through him that we gain access to heaven. He is the one in whom we must put our trust.
Yes, at other times the New Testament stresses the difficulties of getting to heaven. We have to go through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God. Here, however, Jesus teaches a more fundamental truth – that the way to heaven is through him.
If we remembered the way to heaven and to God then the difficulties in getting there would concern us less.
By nature we are wanderers – we wander far from the right pathway. We are exiles far from home, with no hope of heaven. However, in Christ we see the way back home, the way to heaven. By nature we are far from God and we cannot come to him – that is our greatest misery but Jesus is the Way to him – and the greatest joy we can know is to be brought to God through Jesus Christ. This happens when we put our trust, our confidence, not in ourselves nor in anyone else but in him.
By nature we are not on the road to heaven but Jesus is the way – come to God through him. Put your faith in him.
There are many today who lack direction, many who are wandering far and wide. People are lost. They don’t know where to turn. We need to let them know this glorious truth that Jesus is the Way.
2. Jesus is the truth we need to know to get to heaven and God
I suppose Jesus could have simply left it there – I am the way. That may perhaps have been enough. But he does not leave it there. He adds and the Truth. I am the Way and the Truth. Jesus is not only the way but also the truth.
So this time the picture is more abstract – truth. We can picture truth as a completed circle or a line that is absolutely straight. If a wall, say, is straight, we say it is true. To prove true is to remain loyal – not to let a person down. There is the path, then but there is also knowing the way to walk. 'Stick to the path' that's the key.
Again, however, it isn’t simply that he is true and that his way is true. He is not simply saying that his is the right way – many have said that sort of thing. It is not just that he truly will bring his people to heaven. He is the right way, of course, and he will bring those who look to him to heaven. He is not simply saying that he speaks the truth either – although that is again true. We can trust every word Jesus spoke. Rather he is saying that he himself is the embodiment of the truth, the truth personified.
All other ways are false. To trust in anyone else is to reject the truth and to reject the one who is the truth. We must put our trust, all of it, in Jesus Christ, who is the truth.
I know that there is this idea about today (and it has existed in the past) that truth is relative. You have your truth, I have mine. In fact truth is something objective. If we let go of that idea we will be in big trouble. That is the spirit of paganism not of logical scientific enquiry or of Christianity.
And so when Jesus says what he says he is not saying, as some Hindus might suggest, that he has discovered in himself his own way and his own truth. No, Jesus is saying that the truth, reality if you like, is found in him and in no-one else. We must see this. Not to believe in Jesus Christ is to believe a lie. It is to believe something that is false, something that will be discovered to be false in the end.
Don’t believe a lie. Believe the Truth. Believe in Jesus Christ who is the Truth.
In the Old Testament we have the promises but in Christ we have the fulfilment. All the promises are yes and amen in him (2 Cor 1:20). Jesus is also the Truth then in the sense of being the reality that all the types and shadows of the Old Testament were pointing to. All those sacrifices, the priesthood, the Temple itself, King David and King Solomon, the land itself – it was all pointing forward to the reality itself, Jesus Christ the Truth.
Don’t look to shadows or types, for mere pictures but trust in Jesus Christ, the Truth itself.
By nature we are not only not on the road to heaven but we do not even know where that road is. Jesus is the truth – know God by knowing him. Put your faith in him.
There are many today who feel all at sea. They find it almost impossible to relate to reality. People don’t know what to think. They don’t know who to trust. We need to let them know this glorious truth that Jesus is the Truth.
3. Jesus is the life we need to live forever in heaven with God
Again, Jesus could have stopped with I am the Way and the Truth. No, it is I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. Jesus is not only the way but also the truth and not only the truth but also the life.
This time we are thinking not just of a path and knowing the way along it but of the life that enables a man to travel along that road. By nature we are not able to take one step in the right direction – there I no life in us. But Jesus is the life, he gives us the power and the strength to live the life that leads to heaven. Eternal life is something that is found only through trust in Christ.
And so again we say trust I him. Eternal life, the true life that leads to heaven is found only in him.
Again it is not simply that he gives life but that he has life in himself. He is the source of all life. Apart form him there I no life – but only decay and death and deadness. He alone can bring a person alive from death so that he can walk the truth path to heaven.
Yet again we see the contrast with other religious teachers. This is how to live they say but they cannot say here is life, come to me for I have life in myself that I can give to you. Jesus is quite different to that. Cf John 5:24-26.
By nature we are not only not on the road to heaven and ignorant of where that road is. In ourselves we have no life to enable us to find and to travel on the road. Jesus is the life – become alive to God by receiving life from him. Put your faith in him.
There are many today who feel utterly dead and that is exactly their state by nature. They are cut off from God and life in him. People lack spiritual life. They are listless and languid and lacking in true life. They are dead in their trespasses and sins. We need to let them know this glorious truth that Jesus is the Life.
It is as we see that Jesus is the truth that we come to know him as the life and so find the way to heaven.
Thomas A Kempis has Jesus say "Follow me. I am the way and the truth and the life. Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living. I am the way which you must follow; the truth which you must believe; the life for which you must hope. I am the inviolable way; the infallible truth; the never-ending life. I am the straightest way; the sovereign truth; life true, life blessed, life uncreated. If you remain in my way you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free, and you shall lay hold on eternal life."
4. No-one can come to the Father except through Jesus
The final picture is perhaps a locked gate or door allowing admittance only to those with the key. Or better a sentry on guard at that door or gate.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
It is often illustrated quite simply in this way. If I want to get from the front door of this church to the parlour behind me then I have to come through this room. Given the starting point and the destination it has to be that way. You can get into the parlour through the back it's true (and every illustration breaks down somewhere it's true) but that's not really starting from the front door. In the same way, of you want to go to God the Father (given our position, our state by nature) it has to be through the Son. There is no other way. It is not that we will not let you go some other way – it is simply that there is no other way given that starting point.
More simply there is only one bridge from hearth to heaven, only one bridge that will take you all the way – Jesus Christ.
Jesus is revealed in Scripture as the One Mediator between man and God. He is the only Way, the only Truth and there is no life except in him. If you want to pray to God – it has to be through him. If we want God to speak to us it is only through him that he will speak. If we want to go to heaven it is possible only through him. To live a life pleasing to God is only possible through him. Apart from him none of these things are possible.
Often people like to think that there are many ways to God but in fact there is only one. God deals with us all as individuals and no two stories are exactly the same but the actual way to God is the same in every instance for there is only one way – Jesus Christ. This sort of statement does get people quite upset at times but we need to be very clear about it.
Can you come to the true God through just any religion? Can you find God through Hinduism or Buddhism for example? No you cannot. It is only through Jesus Christ.
Can you come to the true God through Islam, through believing what Muslims believe? No. It is only through Jesus Christ.
What about Jews? Is simply believing the Old Testament Scriptures and living a good life enough? No, once again (and this is so offensive to some I know) it is not. Everyone Jew and Gentile must trust in Jesus Christ the only Messiah.
What is you simply say you are a Christian and do Christian things, is that enough? Again that is not enough. You have to come to the Father through Jesus Christ otherwise you have not come to God at all. There is no coming to God except through him. As Peter says (Acts 4:12) Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
It is clear then that we must all put our trust in him and in no-one else. Further, it means to say that we must let everyone know. If there is no other way of salvation but through Christ anything less than that will not do. We must let people know.

Falling short of God's glory

Text Romans 3:23 Time 07/10/07 Place Childs Hill Baptist
This evening I would like to look at a text of Scripture found in Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It is a famous text and one that we should all try to learn. Some of you know it already - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In many ways it is similar to other verses in the Bible that talk about the problem of sin in our lives.
Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray
Ecc 7:20 There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.
Prov 20:9 Who can say, I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?
Ps 143:2 Do not bring your servant into judgement, for no one living is righteous before you.
1 John 1:8, 10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. ... If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.Now the letter to the church in Rome was written, of course, by the Apostle Paul. Paul was a great evangelist or church planter, probably the greatest of all time. In a relatively short period he founded churches all over the eastern Mediterranean and as an inveterate evangelist his attention began to turn to the western Mediterranean. Whether he actually got to Spain we don't know for sure but he certainly came to Rome, to the very heart of the Roman Empire – not perhaps in the way he expected – he came as a prisoner in the end - but he came there.
The other letters that we have in the New Testament were written to churches Paul had planted but this letter was written as a sort of introduction to the church in Rome, which had already been founded. What Paul basically does in this letter is to set out his stall. He systematically goes through the gospel message and looks at what it says, answering the various objections that people often raise to it. This verse is found in the early part of the letter and sums up much of what he lays down in the first three chapters - that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It is important in his argument because Paul wants to go on to show that the only way to be acceptable to God is through an alien righteousness, a righteousness not of our own. We need this alien righteousness because we have none of our own. We will refer to these first three chapters and others as we look at the text but just note the immediate context for now.
Cf 21-24 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament) testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, everyone needs it for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and (if they trust in Christ) are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.There are really three things to consider here.
1. Consider the glory of GodIn this text Paul says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We need to consider what that phrase means then – the glory of God.
Of course, when Paul says people fall short of the glory of God he could simply mean that men do not have anything to glory before God, or boast before him, about. We can't boast of our innocence, we don't have any. Perhaps, we can boast before men but not before God.
Otherwise the phrase the glory of God here can refer to
1. The glory or praise we give to God
In Romans 1:21 Paul says of men that although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. When man was created he was made head of the visible creation. His aim was to be to glorify God in this. But sin has come into the world and so man fails to do this. Instead of glorifying God, he dishonours him. We were made to give God glory but by nature we do not.
2. More generally man is to give glory or praise to God in the sense of being his image
In 1 Corinthians 11:7 Paul says of men that they are the image and glory of God. The very way we were made was intended to reflect God's glory by governing the creatures, by being righteous, holy and wise, loving and what is good and right. Again, because of sin, we fail to reflect his image in the way that we should.
3. There is, of course, also the glory or praise that God gives to men
In John 12:43 Jesus speaks of men who loved praise from men more than praise from God. By nature we are short of justification, acceptance with God, glory begun and of holiness or sanctification, glory continued and all hope and expectation of being glorified with God in heaven. It is impossible to get to heaven by way of spotless innocence. There is as it were a cherub and a flaming sword set to keep that way to the tree of life.
It is most likely that Paul has in mind this idea of being the image of God that we have failed to live up to.
God created man perfect, in his image. Like a mirror man was perfectly to reflect God's image. But that mirror has been smashed. The image is marred and spoiled. We do not reflect his image as we should.
2. Recognise that all have sinnedAnd so when it comes to the image or glory of God we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In what sense have we sinned? There are at least two senses we need to see.
1. There is original sin
Paul goes into this in detail in Chapter 5 but the fact is that Adam in the Garden was our representative and when he sinned there is a sense in which we all sinned in him. He is what is sometimes called our federal head or our covenant head.
I like to think of it as when a leading mountaineer falls from a mountain. If he falls then all those roped to him will also fall with him. We are born sinners – born guilty in that we are children of Adam, born sinful too in that we inherit a bias towards sin from our parents and from our ancestors all the way back to Adam. As the 1689 Confession says (and here we paraphrase)
(Chap 6) Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which would have led to life had he kept it and that threatened death if he broke it, man didn't remain for long in this honourable state. Satan used the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve and then through her, seduced Adam, who went on to wilfully transgress the law of their creation and the command given to them by eating the forbidden fruit. God was pleased to allow this, according to his wise and holy counsel, having purposed to use it for his own glory.
Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God and so did we in them. So death came on all of us, all becoming dead in sin and totally depraved in all our faculties and parts, body and soul.
Adam and Eve were the root. By God's appointment, they represented all mankind and so the guilt of the sin was imputed to us all and a corrupted nature was passed on to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. Everyone is now conceived in sin and by nature are children of wrath, servants of sin, subjects of death and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus sets them free.
2. There is actual sin
Of course, quite apart from original sin there is actual sin – the sins that we ourselves commit.
'From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.'
This sort of sin is defined in 1 John 3:4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. We sin when we transgress the law - not only by our actions or deeds but also by what we say or think too. Blaspheming or lying are obvious sins of the tongue. Coveting is a sin of the mind. God sees such sins. Of course, there are not only sins of commission but also omission. For example, it is a sin to kill someone but it is also a sin not to positively do something to help someone who is in some need.
3. This applies to all
In his letter Paul begins by showing that the Gentiles, the non-religious, if you like had all sinned.
He shows how although they know there is a God they don't glorify him as God or seek to do what is right. He concludes
28-32 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.There are plenty of people around us today who are obvious sinners. They break the law without apparent care and encourage others to do the same. Such people would not even claim not to be sinners in most cases.
As he comes into Chapter 2 Paul also deals with the Jews, with religious people. They too are sinners by nature he shows. God doesn't show favouritism
2:12, 13 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.Religious and irreligious alike all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
3. Recognise all have thus fallen short of the glory of GodSo all are sinners and with regard to the glory of God, and this is the third thing - they fall short. That is their nature – they are all falling short.
Think of an archer shooting an arrow. He shoots at the target but there is not enough power in the shot. It falls short of the mark. Or think of a runner falling short of winning the race and the prize.
My sons went to the cinema yesterday and they had less money with them than was needed – they fell short of what was required.
A good old illustration is in an exam where the pass mark is 50%. To get anything less than that is to fall short. There are differences, of course. Some get 10% or 20%. Someone may get 49% - but if its less than 50% it is still a fail. Of course, the pass mark with God is 100% - nothing else will do and we all fall short.
One writer spoke of how some are down in the pit, as it were, and others or up on the Alps. I don't know where you would place yourself – on a little hill somewhere perhaps. But none have reached the height of heaven itself.
4. Applications1. Do not be surprised at the disappointing way people behave
Given what this verse teaches it is no wonder life on this earth is like it is. People all around us are failing and falling short all the time. Bear that in mind And try not to expect too much from people. And don't be surprised at life's troubles.
2. See that there is no place in any of us for pride
What have we got to be proud of? We certainly can't boast before God. Rather we have many reasons to be ashamed. How humbling this verse is.
3. None of us can claim a place in heaven by right
Clearly known has a right to heaven. By nature we fall short of that honour, that glory.
4. There is no way to God by our own efforts
If we simply rely on our own efforts to overcome this handicap then we will get nowhere. There is nothing in us that can overcome our falling short. We cannot pull ourselves sup by our own bootstraps.
6. We desperately need a Saviour
This verse underlines our desperate need.
7. We clearly need to repent
We have spoken about our sins, which this verse reminds us of. It is a reminder of the constant need to repent.
8. This is something that everyone needs to know
There are people who are ignorant of what this verse teaches. It is not a pleasant or comforting message that it contains but it is one that it is vital for every single person on this planet to know.

Praying for deliverance and judgement

Text Psalm 7 Time 09/09/07 Place Childs Hill BaptistWe come this week to Psalm 7. Once again it is by David. It is called a shiggaion but as we don't know what that means so it serves only to remind us that these psalms were meant to be sung in the Temple. We are also told that it is a shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning Cush, a Benjamite. Such pointers are not common in the psalms. This one is only a little help as we don't know who Cush (or Kish) was. Being a Benjamite he was no doubt a supporter of Israel's first king, Saul, who so opposed David.
It has been called 'the song of the slandered saint' because in it David protests his innocence and complains of those who pursue him and want like a lion to tear him and rip him to pieces. Often in the psalms we will find the psalmist complaining about his enemies. When as Christians we read such things we ought to remember that we too have enemies. The Devil is against us and so is this fallen world. Further, even within us, though we are converted, remaining sin continues to war against our souls.
Most of the psalm, as ever, is a prayer and it is an example again to of us of how to pray under pressure, particularly where there is opposition. I want to say three things from the psalm.
1. Pray for protection and practice puritySo the psalm begins with prayer – a prayer for protection from one's enemies. So we say
1. Pray for protection
O LORD my God, he begins, I take refuge in you. He wants to hide in God. He wants to find safety from every trouble in him. He prays specifically save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me. He feels like a little lamb being pursued by wild animals. David had seen wild animals tearing into sheep and that was exactly how he felt at this point - very vulnerable. And so he calls out to God to grant him safety and deliverance.
In a similar way we should pray for protection too. Remember Peter's words (1 Pet 5:8) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. In light of that we need to cast ourselves on God looking to him, as David does here. Make him your refuge. Hide in him. The only place of safety for any of us is in Jesus Christ.
2. Practice purity
It is not nice to be accused of doing something when we are innocent. 'You broke it'; 'it was your fault'; 'you're the one to blame'. When we are accused unjustly it is even worse. But that is David's position. He goes on in 3-5 with an oath O LORD my God, he says again, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands - if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe - then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust. Selah. In other words 'if I am guilty of the sort of thing that people may accuse me of, the sort of thing that Cush and others certainly were guilty of – then may I be punished. I deserve it.'
The point, of course, is that he is in fact innocent. He has not done such things. Therefore, there is no reason that God should give him up to his enemies. David, as we know from what we read of his dealings with Saul, always scrupulously kept his conscience clear and was without guilt in such matters. We must do the same. Here, nevertheless, David was being slandered by this man Cush. We too must seek to be pure. However, it will not necessarily exempt us from accusations and other troubles.
Can we pray like this?
Sadly, there are times when we cannot - when we are guilty of things that we are ashamed of and that we know are wrong. At such times we simply have to accept our lot. We cannot argue. We can plead, however, the perfection and purity of Christ and so for his sake we can expect a measure of mercy.
At other times we are innocent and yet still we are unjustly slandered and accused and opposed in other ways. We must not fret at such times thinking there is no hope for us but cast ourselves on the Lord. He knows the truth. He will see that we get justice and more.
2. Pray for judgement and commit yourself to the Righteous Judge
David prays not only for mercy but is realistic and recognises that if God is going to act there are going to be consequences for those who oppose him. We can be critical perhaps of the way the psalms seem to denounce others at times but sometimes we fail to do joined-up thinking. If we are going to be delivered or rescued then we will need to see our enemies overthrown. We need to pray for judgement on Satan and on all who oppose the truth, as David does here.
1. Pray for judgement
Pray that your enemies will be judged
See how he prays in 6 Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. Arise, he says. It is as if God has been sleeping. He's fallen into a deep slumber. David wants him to wake up and to come and to grant justice to him against his enemies.
It is similar in 9 O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. He reminds himself firstly that God is a righteous God – he is concerned about such things. Further, he is concerned not only with outward righteousness but inward too – he is a God who searches minds and hearts. There is nothing superficial about his judgements. He knows men's thoughts he knows men's hearts. We can fool one another but not him. And so David prays with confidence - O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. He wants the righteous to be made secure and so he wants an end to the violence of the wicked. It is like the problem we have with violence in our communities. We all want it safe on the streets so that people can feel secure. To do that the violent things that bad people do – mugging and vandalism, etc – need to be brought to an end. And so such people have to be dealt with somehow. In a similar way, for the righteous to be secure then their enemies (Satan, the world and the flesh) must be overthrown. Pray for that to happen.
Pray that everyone will be judgedIn 7 he says Let the assembled peoples gather around you. It is the Day of Judgement in David's mind's eye and people are crowding around the Judge as they would do if it were an ordinary judgement day on earth – the day of the assizes or when a circuit judge arrives in town. David goes on Rule over them from on high; let the LORD judge the peoples. He is longing for that great day of judgement when Christ will come down from heaven as the Judge and all will be gathered before him to be judged.
All of us, if we are Christians, we should be looking forward to that day for it will be a day of vindication for us.
Pray that you will be judgedSee how boldly he speaks Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. He knows that he also has to be judged but, as we said before, he is confident that, as far as this matter is concerned, he is innocent. He does not lack integrity. When we read a verse like this we can legitimately take it in two ways.
Firstly, it reminds us that where we really have been wronged and are innocent then we can go to God for justice and he will hear. He will be absolutely fair.
Secondly, because David is the Lord's anointed he also points us to Jesus Christ, the Son of David, who can say absolutely, without qualification, Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. He is truly without flaw. If we are in him then we can face God the Father and be judged with the same confidence. We are innocent, without spot or blemish. So in 9 he prays O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, not only bring to an end the violence of the wicked but also make the righteous secure.
2. Commit yourself to the Righteous JudgeBecause he is confident that God will make the righteous secure he confidently commits himself to God, God Most High. He is a God (10b) who saves the upright in heart. He (11) is a righteous judge and a God who expresses his wrath every day. Therefore David says (10a) My shield is God Most High. This shield imagery we have had in previous psalms. God protects his servant. He is safe against attack when his Shield is there.
And so he warns his enemies about God, using then contemporary battle imagery (12, 13) If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.Here is God, what is he doing? He is making preparations for the battle – sharpening his sword on a whetstone, bending his unstrung bow and putting the string on it again. He is preparing his deadly weapons of various sorts. Some of his arrows he is dipping in oil and lighting them ready to be shot at his enemies.
If you want it in more modern terms – he is fixing his bayonet; he is loading his gun; he is making sure he has enough bullets for the job, enough grenades. He is priming the bombs ready for discharging over enemy territory.
Commit yourself to God because the judgement day is fast approaching and if we are going to survive that then we need to commit ourselves to God the Righteous Judge who alone can save us.
3. Expect God to turn things around then give thanks and praise to himWell, this is how to pray. But will it make any difference? Will anything happen if we pray like that? It is clear that David thought so. The psalm ends on a very positive note.
1. Expect the tables to be turned at lastIt is important that we always remember that the way it looks now is not the way it is going to look in the end. No, there is going to be a great reversal in the world to come. Here we see the biter bit and the consequences of spitting at the wind. Remember how Jesus put it – the first will be last and the last will be first. It is hard to imagine sometimes but that is how it is going to be and it is part of faith to see this. David puts it in three ways here.
1. A disappointing pregnancy
14 He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. All the rounded plumpness of evil, all its boasting and its pride, where is it leading? Well, when they give birth, they give birth to disillusionment, to nothing at all. It's just a puff of wind. It all comes to nothing at all.
2. A dangerous digging operation
15 He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. With what enthusiasm the wicked throw themselves into digging their holes to trap others. But what is going to happen? They are going to fall into the pit that they themselves have made. They are setting a trap only for themselves.
3. A backfiring weapon
16 The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head. Do you know that expression 'hoist with his own petard'? It appears in Shakespeare's Hamlet. The petard was a notoriously unreliable war machine that used gunpowder. The evil man lights the fuse intending to kill others and ‘Kaboom!’ - he blows himself up! That is how it will work out for those who oppose the people of God. They cannot win. So take warning if you oppose them.
2. Give thanks and praise to God it is soThe psalm ends triumphantly on a very positive note of thanks and praise (17) I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. We also ought to be thankful and give praise to God, for we know that victory is certain in him. If we keep looking to the lord all will be well in Christ.

Seek mercy with confidence

Text: Psalm 6 Time: 02/09/07 Place: Childs Hill Baptist

This week we turn to Psalm 6. This is one of seven psalms often know as the penitential psalms because they are prayers for mercy and forgiveness. Like previous psalms it is again a psalm of David and it is again for the director of music and with stringed instruments. It also says it is to be according to sheminith which is one of these musical notes that we really do not know how to translate.
When David wrote this psalm we do not know. Possibly it once again arises out of the rebellion of Absalom that so harmed him. Certainly he feels under pressure once again. There is some sort of trouble. He says his soul is faint and his bones are in agony (2). He is worn out from groaning all night long. He says I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. His eyes grow weak with sorrow. In 7 he says his eyes fail because of all my foes. In 8 he tells all who do evil to depart and in 10 predicts that all his enemies will be ashamed and dismayed. Whatever the background at this point his chief concern is with his anguish of soul before God and his need to find forgiveness. If it does follow on from the previous psalms and is again arising out of Absalom’s rebellion perhaps there is a lesson here that when troubles come we tend to think first of the faults of others and of how they are hurting us but then, as we reflect, we see too our own sinfulness and that becomes part of our burden. That too must be brought to God. The psalm begins with prayer for mercy and an expression of his great need. Then from 8 he speaks with great confidence against his opposers sure that the Lord has heard his prayers. We can say at least two things then arising out of this psalm that we would all be wise to keep in mind.
1. Seek God for mercy and deliverance
1. Negatively, pray that you will escape God’s deserved wrath and angerDavid believes that there is such a thing as the wrath or anger of God against sinners. The sorts of things he is now going through are like those that people who are under the wrath of God might know. He fears that maybe these troubles perhaps are an expression of the wrath of God. O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Some take the view that what David is saying here is something like 'rebuke me, but not in your anger ... discipline me, but not in your wrath' and that may well be correct. 'I cannot expect an easy life. I need your discipline but in the midst of it do not be angry with me.' No doubt the thought is something like remember that you are my father and I am your child. Do not treat me as though I did not belong to you and so deserved only judgement.
Are you aware of the wrath of God? It is a terrible thing. Pray that you will never be exposed to it. There is nothing worse than it. We do deserve it but pray to escape God’s deserved wrath and anger for the sake of Jesus Christ the only Saviour.
2. Positively, pray that God will be merciful to you
David puts it in several different ways. His prayers are a model for us. Pray to the Lord to
1. Have mercyDo you know the story of David and Mephibosheth? Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan and grandson of King Saul. He was the sole survivor from the House of Saul when David came to the throne. As a possible rival to the throne Mephibosheth might have expected to be put to death but David had mercy on him and in short for the rest of his days he ate at the king’s table. That is mercy - that’s what David wanted from God.
Or think of people today who owe such huge amounts of money that they can never pay them off. Now imagine someone having mercy on such a person and saying 'it’s okay, you don’t have to pay. The debt is cancelled.' How wonderful! How marvellous! How amazing! That is what David prayed for from God.
Verse 2 begins Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint. This is our position too - we deserve the wrath of God. We are like rebels who have foolishly rebelled against the King and our only hope is if he deals mercifully with us.
It would be quite right for God to consign us to hell but he is a merciful God and so we cast ourselves on him for mercy in Christ.
That is what we must do. Go to him for mercy.
2. Heal youHe goes on O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. David could simply be sick here and praying for physical healing. Given the context, however, it is much more likely that he is praying for a spiritual healing but picturing it in terms of a physical illness. We are used to people speaking about mental illness to describe some of the problems that people have that are not physical sickness. People even about 'sick buildings' when there are major problems with them. One helpful way of thinking about our spiritual plight is in terms of spiritual sickness. We are sick and we need the touch of God’s healing hand to make us better. Just as Jesus was able to make well the sick - the paralysed and lepers for example, just with a touch so he is able to make us well even though we are spiritually sick by nature, as David was here.
We are spiritually sick. We will not get better by any means other than a touch from God himself. Go to God for healing. Ask him to make you well.
3. Turn and deliver you
In 3, 4 David says My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me. This is yet another way of saying the same thing. David is in great trouble. He wants the Lord to turn to him and to deliver him from his troubles. It is as though God is turned the other way. He has his back to David. And so he prays that God will turn back to him and deliver him from his troubles. Think of an animal caught in a trap and needing to be delivered. That is the sort of picture used here. ‘Get me out of this’ says David ‘set me free’. You read sometimes about pot-holers or miners trapped underground and it is quite an effort to rescue them but we sometimes have good news of such deliverances. We too are trapped in our sins and need to be rescued. We can be in Christ.
Again we can pray like David. Pray that the Lord will turn to you and deliver you from trouble. Only he can do it. We are in trouble partly because of our own sins. Pray then for deliverance.
4. Save you
He also says save me because of your unfailing love. We gave an example of someone being saved this morning - a little girl trapped in an overturned sea-plane. We hear of people being saved from the sea and rescued from the mountains or from other fearful situations.
That is what we all need - God’s salvation to save us from our sin and from death and hell and the devil. Pray for it. Pray ‘Save me Lord’. He alone can save.
3. Arguments to use
When you read the psalms and other Old Testament prayers you will notice that they are not content merely to make requests. Rather, they use arguments with God. They are in earnest and so they pray with arguments. We ought to pray like that too. What arguments does David use here? There are at least three.
1. God’s love
Save me he says because of your unfailing love. The word he uses is a Hebrew word that can be translated grace or unfailing love. It is because God is a merciful and loving and kind God, a God of grace, that David can be confident that God will hear him and have mercy on him and heal him or deliver or save him. This is the root of it all. It is not until the New Testament that it is revealed exactly how God brings this about through the Lord Jesus Christ but even in the Old Testament we have many assurances of God’s loving and merciful nature and so the Old Testament saints were confident that they would be heard and God would act. We can have the same confidence and indeed even greater confidence now we know that mercy is guaranteed in Jesus Christ.
2. The undesirability of our deathAnother argument David uses is in 5. This is a stranger sounding one in the light of the New Testament. He says No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? In other words 'don’t let me die, I’m better to you alive for here I can praise you still'. You get this sort of thing more than once in the Psalms and some are rather quick to say this is just evidence that David and other Old Testament saints didn’t have a proper understanding of the after life and so thought that once you died that was it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although David didn’t have the clear New covenant understanding of death he certainly believed in heaven and the resurrection at the last day. No, I think we can understand David in one of two ways here.
On the one hand, it may be that he is thinking of eternal death and this is another prayer for salvation - ‘No one remembers if he dies in his sins. Who praises you from hell?’
Most likely David is praying to live longer on earth because he wants to come through this particular crisis and give praise to God while still here on earth. It is a little bit like Paul’s dilemma (in Philippians 1) when he doesn’t know whether it would be better to live or die but he feels life on earth would be better as he can then teach the Philippians more.
We can use this sort of argument then at times. Pray that God will preserve you and deliver you for service. There is no other argument for our preservation. If we pray for life it must be a prayer that we may live to use that life for God’s glory.
3. The need
The other argument David uses is his need. His soul was faint, his bones were in agony, he was in anguish, etc. See
2b for I am faint
3 My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?
6, 7 I am worn out from groaning, all night long I flood my bed with my weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow, they fail because of all my foes.The point of this catalogue is to appeal to God’s concern for his servant. It is important to remember, of course, that David is God’s anointed. This is not merely a selfish prayer for himself. It was important that he be delivered for the people’s sake. he is their shepherd and king.
We can pray on similar lines pleading for the cause of Christ, especially when it is languishing and weak and in great need, which in our experience so often is the case. Such arguments hold weight with God. Use them.
2. Pray for and be confident of victory over all who oppose you
Finally, much more briefly, in 8-10 we have some closing words that speak of David’s confidence in victory. We can say two things
1. Be sure that evildoers will be removed on the basis that God hears prayerHow to think
In 8 David says Away from me all you who do evil. Now we must remember that David is the King over God’s people. This is no imperious or impetuous 'go away'. No, this is more like what we have in Psalm 2. This is a rebuke and a warning from God's anointed.
Why to pray like that
His confidence comes from the fact that he has prayed and committed it all to the Lord. For the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry far mercy, the LORD accepts my prayer. It is that confidence that makes all the difference. We too can be sure that all our foes will be vanquished and removed if we look to the God who answers prayer.
2. Be confident that God will bring all your enemies to shame, dismay, defeat and sudden disgrace
The closing verse is full of confidence (10) my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed, they will all turn back in sudden disgrace. Christ is the great Victor. For him victory is certain. It is certain also for all who are in him. I’ve told you before about that fellow reading the Book of Revelation for the first time. He didn’t understand many things but he got the gist of it. When asked what eh had learned he said quite rightly - “we win!”
The Devil is a defeated foe, the world cannot overcome us in the end and even or sinful flesh will be eaten up one day. Victory is certain, In him we cannot fail. If God is on our side - or better if we are on God's side then victory is certain. I close with Paul's words at the end of Romans 8 (28ff)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ...
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Praying under pressure

Text: Psalm 5 Time: 26/08/07 Place: Childs Hill BaptistWe are looking at the psalms and we come this week to Psalm 5. Like Psalm 4, Psalm 5 is headed For the director of music and A psalm of David. There is a different musical note however. Where as we can translate the note above Psalm 4 With stringed instruments that above Psalm 5 is translated For flutes. Music can be a powerful means of setting a mood and when these two psalms were originally sung in the Temple worship they would have sounded quite different. The brightness and clarity of the strings would have contrasted with the mellow, haunting sound of the flutes. David speaks of his sighing and crying here at the beginning and also urges joy and rejoicing at the end. No doubt the flutes would have picked that up and underlined the mood.
As for the psalm itself it is, as is most often the case in the Psalms, chiefly a prayer – indeed it is really all prayer. David is clearly under some pressure from his enemies – something perhaps we can identify with – here we can see how he prays at such a time and there are a number of things that I want to draw to your attention from the psalm.
1. Concerning yourself - make expectant requests to be heard by GodDavid begins Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
So first some general things about prayer. We ask two questions
1. Who is he praying to?
We made a similar point last week but we cannot assume that everyone who prays, prays to God. David is clear here, though. He is praying to the LORD, the covenant God of Scripture. He says my King and my God ... to you I pray– my master and my all, I'm praying to you. Not a king and god but my King and my God.
Is he your Lord and God? Do you pray to him? Take every opportunity to do so.
2. How does he pray?
There is a seriousness and an earnestness here isn't there? Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help .... In 3 he says In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. There is a regularity and consistency about his praying. Too often we pray in fits and starts. He also prays expectantly. That is the way to pray – expecting to be heard, expecting answers to our prayers.
2. Concerning others - pray willingly acknowledging God’s wrath against sinnersThen in 4-6 we come to David's particular concern. He says to God You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.Hebrew poetry is based not on rhyming words but what we can think of as rhyming (or sometimes contrasting) ideas. Here he expresses the same basic idea in several ways. He is talking about people who are characterised by evil; who are wicked, arrogant, who do wrong, who tell lies and are bloodthirsty and deceitful. As far as such things are concerned God takes no pleasure in them. He will not have such people in his presence. He hates them, he abhors them and will destroy them.
It is important that we see things as God sees them and in part this is what happens in prayer. We start to look at things through God's eyes. We begin to see it in his way. Now at this point it would seem David is happy to do that because it is the wicked, arrogant, deceitful and bloodthirsty wrongdoers who are opposing him.
Nevertheless at the same time he is conscious that he himself is not perfect and we will say something about that in a moment. His chief burden at this point, however, seems to be to remind God of his hatred of evil, his wrath against sin and so his obligation to seeing his enemies overthrown. His request for God to do something about the wicked comes later.
When we pray then we do not pray that God will do something out of character. Rather we pray that he will do what is in line with his character. Here we are thinking of his wrath against unrepentant sinners. Although we are to love our enemies we are also right to pray that where they persist in their opposition to God that God bring them under his judgement.
3. Concerning yourself again confidently plead for mercy and for guidance into holiness
Now as I said a moment ago, the moment you start thinking of the sins of others it reminds you of your own sin and so David goes on to pray here (7, 8) But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies - make straight your way before me. So he pleads for two specific things – for mercy and for guidance.
1. For mercy
But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. He wants to come to God and worship him. He speaks of bowing down towards the Temple or tabernacle, the place where God then visibly dwelt. And he envisages worshipping God – but he does not presume on acceptance, rather he pleads God's great mercy. You see how again it is in line with God's character that he pleads. God is a God of wrath – he hates sin – but he is also a God of great mercy and so there is hope even for sinners like David and us. Remember the story of Esther and how the rule in King Xerxes time was that no-one could ordinarily go into the king's presence unless he called you in on pain of death. However, if you went in unbidden the king had the option of extending his golden sceptre towards you - a sign that all was well. Esther, you remember entered in fear and trembling and yet was welcomed.
There is hope too for all who go to God in the name of Jesus Christ and seeking God's great mercy. By God's great mercy you can come into his presence – you can look to his throne in heaven with confidence – I urge you to it. Come to him and find mercy. He'll extend the golden sceptre to you.
2. For guidance
Then there are these famous words in 8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies - make straight your way before me. Because of his enemies David doesn't know what to do. He fears that they will cause him to do something sinful. And so he asks the Lord to lead him. Make straight your way before me he says. When you are driving at night in places where there are no lights it can be difficult. Thanks though to the white lines in the middle of the road and especially to cat's eyes although you can't see anything in the distance or either side of the road, you can at least see the direction the road is taking. We need the same sort of guidelines for our lives and so we must pray to God to make the way forward clear.
Pray 'Show me how to live to your honour'. We can pray like David. Pray that he will guide you along the narrow path to life. Pray that he will show you how to live in a way that honours him and is according to his will. He hears such prayers.
4. Concerning others again openly recognise man’s evil and call for judgementIn 9, 10 he turns his attention back to the wicked and this time more specifically he prays for their overthrow. First, he describes them
1. The character of the ungodly9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. Paul uses these verses in the New Testament (Romans 3) when he wants to demonstrate the total depravity of man. This is what men and women are like by nature – untrustworthy, full of hatred and malice, their speech is murderous (an open grave) and full of deceit. Sometimes it surprises to realise how sinful people can be but we must make no mistake about the depths to which human beings are willing to sink given the necessary circumstances. I don't know if you've ever read William Golding's first novel, the 1954 book Lord of the flies about a group of boys marooned on a desert island and their descent into savagery. It brings out well the inherent depravity found in man. The Bible certainly teaches total depravity – total here meaning not that we are as bad as we can be but that we are bad in every part, every part is fallen – tongue, throat, mouth, heart, every aspect.
2. An argument for judgement
David goes on (10) Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. They are rebels against God, therefore David prays for judgement on them from God. 'Don't let them get away with it' he prays. 'Turn the tables on them' he pleads.
Again we say that though we must love of our enemies, if they remain unrepentant then it is quite right that we pray that God will declare them guilty and bring them down. Pray for his judgement.
5. Concerning others finally, earnestly pray for protection and joy for those who love God’s name
At the same time we also want to pray for God's blessing on his people. And it is on that note that David ends (11, 12) But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.
Notice
1. Who he prays for – he refers to all who take refuge in you and those who love your name
He calls them more briefly the righteous. The righteous then, those who are right with God, are those who take refuge in the Lord, who hide in him and who love his name, that is his character.
Are you hiding in Jesus? Have you made him your refuge, your hiding place? I urge you to do that. Do you love the name of Jesus? He is the God of mercy and grace, the God who also is filled with wrath against sinners who refuse to repent. He is coming again - what a fearful thing to face him in his wrath. Trust in him today so that when he comes he will receive you into eternal glory.
2. What he prays for them – basically two things - for their joy and their protection
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Give them joy in their hearts and keep them from all harm. Put more simply he is praying for them joy and peace – the words that appear in the closing verses of Psalm 4 (7, 8) You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. What David knew for himself he prays here for everyone.
Are we praying in the same way? Pray that every believer will know the joy and the protection that God alone can give. In12 he talks of the sort of protection God gives in terms of surrounding favour as with a shield. The shield idea appears back in 3:3 and is a powerful one for speaking about the way that God protects his people from their enemies. We are confronted by enemies on all sides – the devil, the world and the flesh – but let's pray that God will keep us safe through it all.
3. The argument
And why should God look after such people and give them joy and peace forever? The argument here is in 12 - For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield. Who would he bless with the gift of joy but his righteous people? Who would he surround with his favour as a shield but them? As we have said before true prayer prays in accord with God's will and surely that is what he desires for his own.

Induction Keith Hoare

Text: 1 Peter 5:1-3 Time: 01/09/07 Place: Herne Bay Evangelical
I count it a great privilege to have been asked to speak today. I’ve known Keith and Janice for over 25 years. The first time Keith and I met was at a Christian Union event in Aberystwyth University where we both came to study in 1977. (I was beginning my BA and Keith his PhD). I remember that Keith thought at first that I must be unconverted and tried to witness to me but I assured him that (despite appearances) I was already converted.
Keith and I and then Janice all went on to serve on the CU exec. We also attended the same church. What enjoyable and spiritually enriching times they were in Aber. Keith served first as Overseas Student sec then President. In our third year we ended up living next door to each other (someone had cleverly worked out that we had a lot in common), sharing a kitchen with the president of the Islamic Society (another bit of genius from administration), an Algerian, a Sudanese, a Bangla Deshi and two first year students. Together we sought to testify in that international setting. I’m not aware that we made any great impact but we sought to be witnesses.
Since then I have chiefly been pastoring in London to all sorts and Keith in France, especially with Muslims in mind. Now suddenly we’re a little closer to each other geographically and in other ways and it may well be we will once again know a closer relationship as we have in the past.
My purpose today is to deliver what is traditionally known as "the charge" to Keith. There was a time when at inductions there would be both a charge to the minister and to the church but that is less common these days. Although I chiefly want to speak to Keith then I want also to speak to everyone present, especially those of you who are members of the church here and are today formally receiving Keith as your pastor.
In order to do this I want us to consider the opening verses of 1 Peter 5 - Peter's appeal to the elders in the congregations to which he is writing. I want to say three things to you then Keith from this passage - there is a word of explanation, a word of exhortation and a word of encouragement.
1. A word of explanation
The chapter begins with Peter addressing the elders among you. Because he speaks first to elders then young men you might think that by elders he simply means older men but he tells these elders they should Be shepherds or pastors and serve as overseers so it is clear he has the office of elder in mind. He's addressing church leaders – people who were in the same position that Keith now finds himself in with regard to this church. Now the first thing to see is the basis on which he appeals to them.
1. As a fellow-elder
Now what's interesting here is the first basis on which Peter appeals to these elders. I suppose that as an apostle he could have begun with something like ‘as an apostle I command you’ but instead you see that first of all he says To the elders among you I appeal as a fellow-elder. He was an apostle but he was also a leader in the churches. He knew then what he was talking about when he talked about being an elder, a pastor, an overseer. It can sometimes be frustrating when so-called experts try to tell people what to do when they have no practical experience of what they are talking about. Now Peter is not in that position here. He is talking about something he really knows about.
So quite apart from the fact that this is Scripture you would do well to take note of what Peter says here, Keith, because he is speaking to you as a fellow-elder. In a secondary sense I am also speaking to you as a fellow-elder. It is not all theory for me either.
2. Peter does go on to appeal also as a witness of Christ’s sufferings
This was one of the things that qualified him to be an apostle. And that is one reason why you can't just take this as good advice. If it was just my advice you could take it or leave it. If it was Peter's advice that would be more compelling but it would still be advice rather than apostolic precept. But no, here is the word of one who was with Christ – who heard his teaching, who saw how he lived and especially who was a witness to his sufferings on the cross and in other ways. Peter is an insider – one who knows what ministry is all about. He has seen Jesus, who said that he came to serve not to be served and whose ministry was marked by suffering. It is in this context that he speaks.
You need to listen up then and take careful note of what Peter says then. He speaks not only out of his own experience but in the light of Christ's sufferings too. Context is very important and when we speak about Christian ministry that needs to be the context. Mere good advice is not enough.
3. Thirdly, he adds that he is one who also will share in the glory to be revealed
Of course, Peter had also seen Jesus transfigured (he speaks about it specifically in his second letter) and was a witness to his resurrection. It was also his hope that one day he was going to share in the glory to be revealed at the return of Christ. Peter was not in glory when he wrote this but he was on the way there and so he writes not only as one who'd witnessed Christ's sufferings but as one who would soon see Christ's glory. This also shapes his exhortation and is another factor in his approach worth noting, one we'll come back to at the end.
So Keith here is a word from a fellow-elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings but also one who has his mind on eternity and who is confident he will share in the glory to be revealed at the return of Christ. It seems to me that this is something worth listening to then. For you, Keith – as you enter on this ministry. But also for the rest of the family who are so interested in your work and for the church here as you formally receive Keith as your minister.
So out of his experience and in this context of present suffering and future glory what does Peter say? He says two things by way of exhortation and then something more by way of encouragement.
2. A word of exhortation
Peter says two things by way of exhortation
1. Be a shepherd of the flock under your care
Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care. Peter has already said (2:25) they were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. He will refer again in a moment to the Chief shepherd. Here he has the under-shepherd in mind.
We often refer to the minister as the pastor, which means shepherd, of course, and it is one of the Bible's favourite ways of referring to those who lead God's people be they kings or ministers. Keith, you are the shepherd, the church here is like a flock under your care. That means several things but perhaps we can summarise with four words that rhyme – Lead, feed, read and heed.
Lead
In this country I believe shepherds tend to take up the rear. They drive the sheep from behind. In the east it is much more common for the shepherd to go ahead of the sheep and for them to follow.
As the pastor of this particular church, as the shepherd who has this particular flock under his care, part of you work is to provide leadership. You are to head in the right direction and do what will encourage the people to follow you. Rather than wandering in any direction you fancy, those of you who are members here are to follow Keith's direction, his lead. He is the leader. He is assisted in this by other elders and together they are to lead.
Feed
A chief part of a shepherd's work is to make sure that the flock is well fed. Part of his leadership is to lead the flock to green pastures. The very word used for shepherd really has the idea of feeding in it.
The people need to know what the word says and a chief part of your work will be studying the Scriptures in order to preach them to the people so that they may feed on it. Endeavour to sustain them – to give them what they need from God's word.
Read
By that I mean that you need to know the state of the flock. Cf Prov 27:23, 24 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. It may sound little drastic to say you must read them or you'll lose them but that is it in a nutshell. You need to get to know the congregation. There are various ways of doing that. Many people are out all day and perhaps traditional ministers visits are not possible in many cases but somehow you have to get to know them. The chief thing there then is listening and paying attention. Some will be quite forthcoming, others will be harder to get to know. In these early weeks you just have to 'box blind' if I can put it that way. Preach in the way you think best for the people. As you get to know their needs there can be more fine tuning. You will increasingly be able to preach in an appropriate way.
Heed
As you get to know your congregation you will find that some are in trouble of one sort or another and some even are quite lost. By that I mean that some have never become Christians while others have begun on the right road but wandered of it. You know the wonderful parable Jesus uses to describe what needs to be done in such a situation. It does describe Jesus himself but it also shows what a faithful shepherd or pastor will do.
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.
May you be a diligent and caring shepherd and may you often know the joy of seeking wandering sheep and bringing them back into the fold.
2. Serve as an overseer
The other thing that Peter speaks about is serving as overseers. An elder can also be referred to as an overseer or bishop. He watches over the flock as a watchman. To flesh this out Peter uses a series of three negatives and positives – not ... but. Sometimes it is good to have a negative to underline the positive requirement. So we say watch over this flock, this church
With a willing way not under compulsion
Not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be. Now I know that you became a minister in the first place willingly and your move here has not arisen, as far as I'm aware, because of any undue compulsion. Nevertheless, after a few months when the newness of it all has worn off you might find yourself slipping into that sort of attitude. The children are starting back to school now. I don't know about you but I always returned to school quite enthusiastic all ready for a fresh start but then around late October, early November when the summer seemed in the distant past and Christmas a long way off and it was only the fact that I had to go to school that would make me get up to go or do any homework at all. Now something similar can happen in the ministry. We start off well but we grow weary. Rather, you must continually put your mind to this work.
I was reading about a footballer, a Bulgarian called Stilian Petrov. He was bought by Aston Villa for £8 million from Celtic last year but in 36 games he only scored twice and was distracted by the birth of his second son and a bust-up with the Bulgarian national team coach. Interestingly, the article begins "The 28-year-old midfielder admits his mind was not on the job last season". That was clearly the problem. Keith make sure your mind is on the job. Pray for a willing way, a mind set on this work. All of you pray for Keith that he will keep his mind on the job.
With a spirit of service not of greed
Not greedy for money, but eager to serve.
I came across quite a funny spoof article recently about a McDonald's employee (Sean Boyce) who was perhaps doing it purely for the money. He apparently "cares more about getting paid than dedicating himself to his craft." An interviewee says "It's sad when a person's sole motivation is money, but that really seems to be the case with Mr. Boyce. The only thing he's interested in is getting that paycheck." It goes on "Contrary to claims made at the time of his hire, Boyce does not crave the challenge of brightening people's day the McDonald's way." His employer complains that "the longer he was here, the more apparent it became that it was all about the money for him. He's always asking stuff like, 'Wasn't I supposed to get a raise last month?' and, 'I thought I get time and a half when I work overtime.' At some point, he needs to wake up and realise that money isn't what's truly important." Etc. The idea of someone working at MacDonald's for anything but money is perhaps laughable. It should be equally laughable to think of someone being in the ministry for the money. Yet it can happen.
I don't know what the financial package you've been offered is, Keith, but I'm sure it was not your chief concern with regard to coming here. You're not in the ministry for the money, for 'filthy lucre' as the old versions say. Nevertheless that serving spirit can sometimes be submerged under a desire for the comforts that this life offers so that the desire for peace and quiet or for your day off or the holidays or retirement begins to dominate your thinking. You start cutting corners and looking for the easy way about things rather than the best. We have already spoken of Christ's servant spirit, it must be seen in his servants too.
As an excellent exemplar not as a tyrant
Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. The other danger Peter points to is the danger of being something of a tyrant rather than a great model or example. Not domineering, as one version puts it. If you look at any manual on what makes a great leader you will always see this point. Great leaders lead by example. One writer says, for example - "This is the foundation of everything else that makes a truly great leader." He adds helpfully "They set the bar high for themselves, and strive to live up to their own expectations. However, just because they have high standards doesn’t mean they expect perfection from everyone else. Everybody makes mistakes, even those with the best intentions."
These people are God's people but they have been entrusted to your care. You are to be an example to them, a model of Christian living. Simply standing there week by week telling them what they must do will achieve little. Rather, you must provide them with a strong and convincing example of how the Christian life is to be lived.
3. A word of encouragement
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. In any enterprise it is always important to keep an eye on the goal. Peter does that here and this is where we want to end too. Two things
1. Consider how it is all going to end
A moment is going to come when the Chief Shepherd appears. You and I are only under-shepherds, charged with looking after the flocks until the day when the Chief Shepherd himself comes to take his flock to himself. People use a kind of short hand when they talk of Gary Brady's church or Keith Hoare's church. We know what they mean. It's Christ's church really. What a day that will be when he returns. That day must be kept in mind as we minister to God's people. It is a day of reckoning, a day of judgement, the day when every secret will be revealed.
2. Consider the reward you are going to receive
Peter says to these elders about that day, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. The crown in mind here is not the crown of a king so much as the crown of victory. As you know, when someone won a race in ancient times a laurel wreath or something similar would be placed on their heads. Such prizes obviously fade with the years but this crown of glory is one that will never fade away. It remains fresh throughout eternity. Peter's point is that there is something glorious about being an elder. It has a never fading glory.
On Monday mornings then and at other times when it's all on top of you, remember this, when Christ the Chief Shepherd returns, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. May he keep you faithful until then.