As part of Christian Union Sunday, Steve Blyth from CU preached from Matthew 11:1-15. In this passage, John the Baptist introduces Jesus to the world but is a confused messenger. He asks to check if Jesus is the one we’ve been waiting for and what he has come to do. Jesus reassures him from the Old Testament prophecies concerning himself and commends John’s message as he prepared the way. Yet we now have a greater perspective than even John as we live on the other side of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection. We have the privilege of introducing Jesus to others as we share the hope that we have in him.
The text of Acts 1:1-11 brings together some of the main events following the resurrection of the Lor Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. After Jesus had spent 40 days with the disciples, teaching them many things and explaining how the main theme of the Scriptures find their fulfilment in Him, while gathered with the disciples on the Mount of Olives, Jesus ascended bodily into heaven. The disciples were left standing there, gazing with wide eyes and open mouths, when 2 angels appeared to them, giving them a gentle rebuke to get them moving and a strong encouragement that the Jesus they had just seen leave would return again. In a world that seeks to undermine the this truth that all believers know, this return of Jesus (at a day and hour that no-one knows) is the well spring of our great hope.
When Vasco da Gama first rounded what was known then as the ‘Cape of Storms’, he went where no man had ever been and became the first to live to tell of what he found far out in the East. When Jesus rose from the dead, never to die again, he also came back to tell us what lays beyond the veil of death. Yet some in the church at Corinth were having significant doubts about the resurrection, and this led Paul to write to them in 1 Corinthians 15:1-34 about the facts of the resurrection and by doing so, remind these believers that the resurrection is vital to the Christian faith. Abandoning belief in the resurrection was to deny the very tenets of the faith and miss out on all that Jesus came to do for the salvation of God’s people.
The cross of Christ is so important. It is not something that we can just give a brief amount of attention to. We ought not give a passing thought to it, but survey it from the top to the bottom and note the fulness of its message – its height, length, depth and breadth. But rather than survey the cross from the perspective of any of the gospel writers or the apostles, this message brings the cross into perspective from 700 years before, through the eyes of the prophet Isaiah in his great 53 chapter. (Isaiah 53:4-6).
Rev Ian Brown preached from Romans 8:18-39, where we are encouraged to see beyond our suffering to our hope which comes through Jesus’ death and the life that comes in his resurrection. Our salvation is not based on our own goodness or anything else but Jesus. We groan under the weight of sin and long to see Jesus face-to-face. Yet we already have this inheritance and it shapes our prayers and our life now.
Guest speaker Len preaches from John 4:1-42. Jesus has an appointment to pass through Samaria, but the woman he meets needs that meeting. This passage about the Woman of Samaria is all about Jesus and his character – he did not see people as others did. How do we see people? Do we offer hope? Jesus asks the women for a drink from the well but offers her living water (compare with John 7). This living water is his Holy Spirit, that Jesus’ saving work at the cross might be applied to our lives. As the passage goes on, we learn more about who Jesus is. The woman – of low standing and bad reputation – realises that Jesus is the Christ, she has received forgiveness and forgets her task at the well to tell the whole town. Be sure that you have met Jesus. Like Jesus, be no respecter of persons (looking up or down on anyone). Drink deeply of that living water that you cannot help but speak of it!
Because Paul’s letter to Timothy was written in order to help this young pastor get the church at Ephesus back on track, after writing of the priority of prayer and God’s intent and actions to save all kinds of people through Jesus, Paul then continued in his instructions to Timothy about men and women in the church. According to 1 Timothy 2:12-15, Paul did not allow women to have teaching and ruling roles in the church over men. Though he has been much maligned because of this, Paul meant what he wrote for two reasons, both of which have been around since creation. God made man (Adam) before woman (Eve) and it was the woman (Eve) who was deceived before the man (Adam), though it could be argued that Adam should also bear the brunt of that blame! Because God has left only two institutions on earth – the church and marriage – both reflect the same design where men lead and teach and women follow while both men and women can belong to God’s family by coming to Jesus as repentant sinners
Because Paul’s letter to Timothy was written in order to help this young pastor get the church at Ephesus back on track, after writing of the priority of prayer and God’s intent and actions to save all kinds of people through Jesus, Paul then gave Timothy instructions about the special callings of men and women in the church in 1 Timothy 2:8-11. The men were particularly encouraged to put aside anger and violence and lift holy hands to God in prayer. The women too were encouraged to see beauty as something that is from within rather than an outward show of ‘bling’. As well, the women were to be respectful in worship by their attentiveness to what is taught from God’s Word. In all of these actions, Jesus, the head of the Church is glorified as men and women combine their separate callings as part of God’s Church.
After reminding Timothy of the fact that we are to pray because God is in ultimate control of all world leaders and because he is the only God there is, in 1 Timothy 2:4-7, Paul reminded Timothy that we can only approach God through the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Though we live in a pluralistic world which maintains there are many roads to God, there is only one way of approach that God has ordained. God esteems all mankind to be lost, however He desires all kinds of people to come to Him to be saved through Jesus. The gospel is for the whole world but has a very narrow focus and a singular entry point. The Apostle Peter said, ‘There is only one name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ (Acts 4:12)
After reminding Timothy of the need to hold on to faith and a good conscience and so avoid making a shipwreck of his faith, in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul outlined what needed to be done in Ephesus to put the church back ‘on the rails’. First in terms of priority was prayer. This should not surprise us. The Scriptures encourage us toward prayer as the means by which God acts in the world. The Bible has many examples of men who prayed and of God’s many answers. In particular, Timothy was to pray for all in positions of authority. It would not have been easy living under Roman rule and the Caesars were not tolerant of Christians, but prayer like this would be vital. Such prayer pleases God and brings to mind that His will is that all kinds of people – high and low – those in the public eye and those who are not – come to know of His saving grace in Jesus.