Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Man-made Religion

Bible Readings

  • 2Timothy 4:1-5
  • Judges 17:1-13

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are commencing a new sermon series today under the topic “The king is dead; long live the King!”

This phrase was first declared when Charles VII ascended to the French throne after the death of his father Charles VI in 1422.

The Royal Council in England proclaimed: “The throne shall never be empty; the country shall never be without a monarch.”  So, in 1272 when Henry III died while his son, Edward I, was fighting in the Crusades, Edward was immediately declared king.

Our sermon series will not have as source the British kings, but the kings of Israel.  They lived and died, but the promised Messiah King (capital “K”), Jesus Christ, lives forever.  The Israelite kings failed and as such were precursors for the perfect, righteous, all-powerful, sovereign King who overcame the power of hell, sin, death and Satan.  Of Him the Bible declares:

“You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” (Psalm 2:7–9, NIV)

Today and next week the Word will come from the last few chapters of Judges, and the messages will help us to understand that we should focus, not an earthly king to guide us, but on God in Jesus Christ, our King.

Just as a margin note this:  God assigned to the king (or governments), to the church and to families separate spheres of authority—all of them are under God because this world belongs to Him, the Creator. But the church does not rule over governments; in the same way governments do not rule over churches, and let it be clear, neither government nor church has authority over families. In an ideal world all three these spheres of authority would be in harmony as they are governed by Christ through his Word and Spirit.

This is a bit of a long introduction, I know.  Moving into the sermon, let’s bring into focus the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  Without going into detail it is safe to say that the Reformation was needed because the church lost its direction when they lost the Bible as the authoritative Word of God for life and worship.  Foreign elements were dragged into worship and the tradition of the church was given equal authority alongside the Bible.

Our reading from Judges 17-18 provides a perfect example when man makes his own religion—and still call it worship.

God’s command to Moses

The phrase “as the Lord commanded Moses” (and variations of it) is repeated about 100 times in the Old Testament.

The way the Lord wanted to be worshipped was spelled out very clearly, in detail.  God is holy, and his people had to keep that in mind. Wilful worship, fashioned around personal preference, have no place in the Bible.

The book of Judges repeatedly records how the people did evil in the eyes of the Lord—which is another way to say they shunned the commands of the Lord for their own interpretation—they did as they saw fit.  Things got so bad, so quickly, that priests in the direct family line of Moses, maybe even his grandson, led a whole tribe of God’s people into idol worship.  We’ll get to that shortly.

False, man-made religion

As soon as the authority of the Word is swept under the carpet, man quickly replaces it with something he conjures up from his own sinful mind.  Interestingly, men never quits worshipping; he only fashions false worship in the place of true worship.

Judges 17 tells the story of a man called Micah.  First he stole silver from his mother.  She pronounced a curse over the silver, and maybe over the one who stole it too, which made her son worried, so he gave her the silver back.  Usually when people of old prayed a curse over something they consider it the property of the entity in which name the curse was pronounced.  Should it found it would then be dedicated to that entity.  This was the reason why she dedicated the silver.

But listen to what she said:

I solemnly consecrate my silver to the Lord for my son to make an image overlaid with silver. I will give it back to you. (Judges 17:3, NIV)

Give it to the Lord?  To the Lord who forbids making idols?  Well, it sounds like a good idea to give something to the Lord, even if it is lottery money!  No ways!

This event was most probably what stirred Micah to think that he was some special person too.  Sometimes mothers, or parents, need to be careful with the way in which they encourage their children!  Many are on their way to destruction because Mom and Dad can’t see anything wrong in things they do.

So he built a shrine, and put his silver idol in it.  For good measure he added a few more idols.  He declared his son a priest and made an ephod for him—the vest the High Priest wore when entering the Most Holy.  So, here we have an own private man-made religion!

Very poignantly the Bible records:

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. (Judges 17:6, NIV)

The story goes on.  When a young Levite from Bethlehem, whose task it was to teach the people in Law of the Lord, found himself in Micah’s house, he got a job offer: “Live with me and be my father and priest, I will give you ten shekels of silver a year, your clothes, and your food.”

Private gods, private shrine, private priest, private religion.  When Alice was conversing with Humpty Dumpty, she rebuked him for misusing words. Humpty replied, ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less’.  Alice protested, asking if she could really make words mean different things, to which Humpty answered, ‘The question is, which is to be the master – that is all’.

Micah was the master.  And he was satisfied with his choice.  Listen:

“Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.” (Judges 17:13, NIV)

It’s like a bank robber that gets away with the loot unscathed and then go to the prayer meeting that night to thank God for his safety and provision for his family!

The tragedy of this chapter in the Bible is that people all along thought they worshipped God.

People in our day do the same.  They worship, and even call on the Name of God, but they have long left the Bible on the shelve as a forgotten book written for people thousands of years ago, not for modern people.  Someone writes:

I cannot stomach the whole notion of hell by conservative Christians today. Such a punishment, however conceived, does not fit the crimes (“sins”) I have done. I am not consciously rebelling against God because I sincerely do not believe he even exists. I’m following what I have come to believe to the best of my abilities as a thinking and educated person.

He continues:

How is it possible for God to foreknow the future? How is it possible for a being to never learn anything, and to always and forever exist as three-in-one without ever growing incrementally into something more and more complex? How is it possible for there to exist a being who is 100% man and 100% God with every essential attribute necessary for both?

He comes to this conclusion:  “… we must believe the writings of ancient superstitious people to do so?

But we should not only point fingers to people far away—it is sometimes much closer than we think.  How do we know and apply the Bible into our daily lives?  Is the Bible our sole authority for life and worship?  How many times do I hear the expression, “I think God would be happy with …”  Or, “I don’t think the Bible is against …” How can people make claims like this?  On what basis?  Our Confession says “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”

Never can we carry something into our worship and life which cannot stand the test of the Word of God.

The fruit of man-made religion

The tribe of Dan had still been looking for a place to settle and in their journey to the north—a land they proclaimed to be God’s provision for them!— they came to the house of Micah and his private priest.  They offered the Levite promotion.

Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?” (Judges 18:19, NIV)

He accepted and with his idols they carried him away.  Not only did they have a very unbiblical view of God, their worship was nothing short of an abomination in the eyes of God.

And Micah.  Well, they stole his god.  Listen:

You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? (Judges 18:24, NIV)

After a 2011 decision allowing gay ordinations, 270 congregations left in 2012 and 2013. And church analysts estimate upwards of another 100 churches may leave as presbyteries vote on a proposal to rewrite the church’s constitution to refer to marriage as being between “two people” instead of the union of “a man and a woman.”

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, some 600 congregations left in 2010 and 2011 following the denomination’s 2009 decision allowing the ordination of pastors in same-sex relationships.

If it was the true God of heaven and earth the Danites worshipped, losing Him would be impossible.  Anyone who worships any god other than the Almighty stands to lose it—if not in this word, then in the one to come!

The Bible has a word to say about the clan of Dan:

There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. (Judges 18:30, NIV)

They lived in Israel, but they were never of Israel!

Conclusion

My dear friends, this year we will celebrate the Reformation of 500 years ago when the Bible was rediscovered, which led to the light of the Scriptures to shine in all its facets, predominantly over the western world.  It changed the face of education, health care, care for the aged, financial systems, governments, and most importantly, it changed people’s lives for eternity.

What if we lose it again?  What if it once again gathers dust on shelves?  What if we end up having our own private religion.  As Paul writes:

“…the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3–4, NIV)

If a church lose the Bible, it loses Christ.  If if loses Christ, it has no King.  All others are dead, but long live King Jesus!

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 May 2017

Christ prays for the well-being of his church

Scripture Readings

  • 1John 2:18-27;
  • John 17:20-26

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Something has crept into church life in the last decade or two.  They call it church shopping.  Driven by our consumeristic world, a church, or more so a congregation—even irrespective of the particular of its doctrinal position—has to have certain characteristics and should have some activities to the liking of those who church shop.  Only when he/she finds a church that will meet the shopper’s demand, will he/she join.  This leaves the door open of course to leave whenever those expectations are not met.

Seldomly does such a church shopper measure his or her standards for what a church should be like against the desire of Christ for his church.

Today we will learn from the Scriptures what Christ was praying for his church.  Our Lord was about to give his life when He prayed this prayer.  His death was only hours away.  Last requests are usually important requests.

The Church to grow by proclaiming the Word

In John 17:20 we hear our Lord pray:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message… (John 17:20, NIV)

In the first part of the prayer Christ prayed for his disciples, but now He goes further:  Jesus prayed for the church to grow through the preaching of the Word.  Before He left them to return to his Father He gave them the Great Commission:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19, NIV)

His eye was on the ends of the earth:  from every nation, tribe tongue and people God’s own has to be gathered in.  Sometimes we don’t understand that this commission also includes our city; on average we support missionaries in far-off countries.

But what we more often than not lose focus of, especially in modern day congregations where the main items on the agenda have become music, entertainment and consumer satisfaction, is the medium, the tool by which we must conquer the world.  What is it?  The message (or as it sates in the Greek text of 17:20—the word!

We hear of “spirit-filled” worship, thundering music which sounds like rock concerts, of happenings, of emotion, and even of healings and miracles, but any worship service without the proclamation of the Word of God is no worship service.

Word proclamation was right on top of Christ’s prayer list for his Church to grow.  Gospel proclamation is to have the people of God hear Him speak through his Holy Spirit; its about the message of Christ who came to take away the sins of the world; its equipping the saints for their work of service; through the Gospel God’s Spirit work to bring about regeneration, the new birth, the opening of blind eyes, the opening of deaf ears and to unlock a stubborn mind to understand the mercies and greatness of God.

The church in Corinth had all sorts of things happening in their worship services; people spoke in tongues, others performed miracles, others drove our demons, but somewhere along the way they missed out badly.  Listen to what Paul writes to them:

So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying [this is: proclaiming the Word], they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14:23–25, NIV)

What is your expectation of a church?  Children’s programs, a certain music style, a more relaxed style of worship?  Has the pure proclamation of the Word ever been on the top of your list?  Is walking away from a worship service with a heart thumping like the music you heard more important than the knocking voice of Christ on the door of your heart.  What will take you through low times other than the Word of God?  What is your answer to a seeking sinner if you are not trained in the truths of the Gospel.  Can you handle the sword—the Bible—of the Spirit?

We need to be attuned to the prayer of Christ and be a church who grows by the preaching of the Word.

The Church to be in unity under Christ

The second petition of Christ for his church was unity.  We have to understand that the unity of Lord is praying for here is not oneness or uniformity.  What our Lord is asking for is that his church would be one with Him in the same way He and the Father are one.  This has not to do with structural unity, but does excludes such unity.

The world will be in no better position to believe that Christ was the One sent by the Father if there was only one denomination over all the earth.  Structural unity might play a part, but the most important aspect about unity is that the church who lives under the authority of Christ would speaks the words of her Master, and thinks the thoughts of Him who her Head.

Right through the ministry of Christ we hear Him say things like:

Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19, NIV)

And:

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30, NIV)

Or:

My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. (John 7:16, NIV)

Or:

I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. (John 8:50, NIV)

The unity between the Father and Christ was to think and act in unity; they are one in purpose, one in mind and one in deed.

When the mind of the church is set on the mind of our Lord and his Father, so that our words, our purpose, our goals and our actions reflect what God has ordained for his church, the world will take notice.  This, of course, means that the church will be immersed in the Word of God.  Like the prophets of old our only message will be, “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

Who will believe our message if what we proclaim varies like a leaf in the wind of every new idea.  It is now that we need to firmly need to stand by the Word to help those who seeking meaning in the tempest of modern day sexual revolution.  Listen, the Word of God, says the prophet, is “like fire and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, NIV).  The writer of Hebrews says,

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

Charles Spurgeon once said:

“If you wish to know God you must know his word; if you wish to perceive his power you must see how He works by his word; if you wish to know his purpose before it is actually brought to pass you can only discover it by his word.”  

Oh, that the Church of Christ might start thinking Gods thoughts after Him.  Let’s cast out man-made ideas and wishy-washy doctrine which is the truth, because it is the truth which sets us free. Our message is never ours; its about Christ,, the One whom the Father sent to save sinners whom He calls through his Word.

The Church to shine forth the love of God for Christ

From unity of mind, spirit, action and purpose with the Father and the Son flows the necessity for the church to shine forth the love of the Father for the Son and for those He Himself loves.

Love without doctrine is mere emotion and will not stand the storms of life.  Doctrine without love is nothing more than lifeless morality.  But love and doctrine, how pure the intentions with if may be, without Christ is nothing but an ideology without a base.  When Christ is in the centre, When He is the well-spring of doctrine and preaching, love necessarily follows.

Our time is obsessed with love with no substance.  It never satisfies; its forever nothing more than shifting shadows.

But when someone finds Christ and meets the love of the Father everything changes.  He can and will read more about it in the Scriptures, indeed he will consume God’s testament washed in the blood of Christ.

The challenge of the Christ is to shine forth this love—and it starts with a personal relationship with the Saviour.  Nothing is more off-putting than someone telling you to do something he knows nothing about.

What does our congregation look like in the shining forth the love of the Father which He had for his Son?  It’s not about me, or about you, Mr Church-shopper.  It’s not about what you can get and how you can be a consumer of Bible goods; its about how you should shine forth the love of Father displayed in the Father.  We are mere mirrors and soundboards—not the images and the sound.

The Church to live towards a sure destination

Our Lord prayed to ask his Father something we really can’t fathom:

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24, NIV)

Man! Do we really get this? Is it your one and only desire to enter into the glory of your Saviour?  Our Lord could ask boldly because He opened the gates of paradise when He was nailed to the cross, and He secured eternity for his own when He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  Now, those who live in Him will be taken into the realms of glory of Christ which were his before He left it to ransom his church with his blood.

He prays,”I want them to be with Me where I am.” That’s a sure destination.  It’s not based on our good works or out utmost performance; it’s sure because Christ went ahead of us.

Christ prayed this petition for his church so she would never lose sight of her eternal destination.  Through toils, snares and tribulation Christ’s own must look forward and say:  We have an eternal home!  My Lord is praying for me till I reach the everlasting shores, and then He will take my hand and welcome me into his glory!

Conclusion

Let’s close knowing that Christ prayer for his church to grow through the preaching of the Word, He prays for his church to think his thoughts after Him and are of the same mind, He prays that his church will live out and shine forth the love of the Father for his Son, He prays for his church to come home to Him in glory.  Is his prayer your prayer too?  Let’s make his prayer the prayer of our congregation.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 23 April 2017

Jesus is the Christ and Lord

Scripture readings

  • Psalm 16
  • Acts 2:22-41

Introduction

Brother and Sister in the Lord,

There were numerous occasions as a child when we were caught out being mischievous and dangerously disobedient. In some cases Dad would not even listen to what we called “reason”. The more you tried to defend yourself, the more it added to “back-chat”, in itself very dangerous. Other times Dad would invite us to defend ourselves. Without fail it didn’t help and with helpless pity you had to admit: you were on the wrong side. The big question was: what now?

This makes me think of the Israelites who were listening to the sermon of the apostle Peter that morning.  On the day of Pentecost he, addressed the Israelites saying:

Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This Man was handed over to you by Gods set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

The charge

Israel was God’s chosen people, privileged in any way. The apostle Paul writes about this in Romans 9:4-5:

Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)

They murdered the prophets, and eventually killed the Son of God.

Jesus, the carpenter’s son of Nazareth

You, he said, nailed Jesus to the cross. Who was this Jesus?  Peter begins his sermon with the title Jesus of Nazareth. He grew up in Nazareth as the son of Mary and Joseph. He started his ministry in Galilee, were He did many miracles.  He also visited Jerusalem for the major festivals, but most of his teaching ministry happened in Galilee, not for from Nazareth.  The apostle reminded the people about this Jesus. He was accredited by God to them by miracles, wonders and signs, “which God did among them through Him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). Everyone knew about it; even the Pharisees had delegations visit Galilee to hear Him teach and see the miracles He performed. What He did was no secret to anyone.

Jesus, the King of whom David prophesied.

Peter’s sermon filled them in on who Christ was and who He all along claimed to be. He quotes the words of David, the greatest of all kings in the history of Israel.

But however remarkable David was, he died and was buried. His body saw decay and the only thing remaining about him is the memories and his grave. When David was seventy years of age he died.  The Bible records:

So David rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David. The period that David reigned over Israel was forty years; seven years he reigned in Hebron, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years. (1 Kings 2:10–11, NKJV)

But there was something about the house of David which was special.  The Lord gave David this promise:

The Lord declares to you that the Lord Himself will establish a house for you… Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ” (2 Samuel 7:11,16, NIV)

So, when David wrote Psalm 16 he understood that God meant more than just a continuation of the throne in Jerusalem.

I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (Psalm 16:8-10)

David was counted with those who lived by faith, those who the writer of Hebrews referred to.

They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:28-40, NIV)

David prophesied about someone who would be more than him.  Someone whose body would see no decay and who would be king forever and over all dominions and kingdoms of the world.

Peter on Pentecost Day turned to Psalm 16 and showed how David realised that he could not be that king.  It pointed forward to the everlasting King of all kings.  The Psalm of the morning reads in verses 8-10:

Boldly and with confidence the apostle Peter, now after being equipped with understanding and knowledge which He received from Christ Himself (between His resurrection and ascension, as we read in Luke 24, for forty days Christ explained to the disciples the Old Testament from Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms the things concerning Him); and now, empowered by the Holy Spirit Peter declared that Jesus was the fulfilment of those prophecies. David died, he said, and they don’t have him body anymore. If David was so sure that he would not be abandoned in the grave, and he is still dead, well, then he must have spoken about someone else. Now Peter proclaim to them that this Person David prophesied about was Jesus of Nazareth.

Peter said:

But he (David) was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.

With this statement Peter moved on to an extremely important point. He pointed out that this Jesus of Nazareth is far more than only the son of the carpenter of Nazareth:

Jesus, the Christ (Messiah)

He was the Christ. He was the Messiah.

In one of the most striking Messianic passages of the Bible, Isaiah 11, we hear the sound of joy about the coming Messiah:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—and He will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what He hears with his ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day you will say: “I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

This is, Peter said, is what you are experiencing. God has sent his Spirit. The prophecies are being fulfilled before your very eyes. Yet, you are spiritually blind and cannot see the wonders of God and see the power and majesty of his Son!

Jesus, the everlasting and eternal King

The apostle went further to explain to them who this Jesus the crucified was. Quoting from Psalm 110:

The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”

The Lord, God, said to My Lord (not David, but the Lord Jesus who would be born in the fullness of time) sit at my right hand until I make your enemies the footstool for your feet. We hear the same language from the apostle John in Revelation 19:13-16:

He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron sceptre.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

This is the climax of the sermon that day. Peter proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, the carpenter’s son of Nazareth, who is more and greater than David, the Christ, and the eternal King. Peter summed it all up in the words:

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

What now?

Now we are back in the bathroom with the strap. We try to argue ourselves out, but nothing helps. We lost the argument. And with fear and tremble we plead: What must I do?

To hear that you were co-responsible for the death of the King of the World, the Messiah so long expected, is to say: we blew it. There is no hope left for us. We almost had it, but by ignorance and hardness of heart we missed the only opportunity to be saved: we crucified the King.

But that’s not the only truth of the sermon of Peter that day: He proclaimed the risen Christ.

God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.

Jesus, the Christ and King, is alive!

God exalted Him to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear (Acts 2:33).

If Christ is alive, and because we were responsible for his death and the punishment of the cross, we may be in deep trouble. This risen King of all kings may come to punish us for our unbelief and disobedience. “What, Peter, what shall we do?”

The Gospel, now that we still experience the grace of God, is a gospel of hope. Everything that had happened to Christ, was by the foreknowledge of God. It was God’s plan of redemption. It was to make us free from the judgment of God because of our sins.

How does that happen?   Now that you understand the message of hope, now that you have heard that God’s love in his Son is there to save you from judgment and the power of sin, “Repent!” Peter said: “Repent and be baptised, every on’ of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

So what is repentance?

  • First, I need to know that Christ lived as a human being on earth to be like us, yet without sin. Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him. (Acts 2:22, NIV)
  • Second, I need to acknowledge that Christ is the fulfilment of the promises of God the Father, who gave his Son so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.  Listen to the text:  This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23, NIV).
  • Third, I need to acknowledge that no salvation is possible outside of Christ, because no other so-called Saviour. Listen to the text:  He is exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:32).
  • Fourth, I need to acknowledge Him as my King:  The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand (Acts 2:34, NIV).
  • Fifth, I need to acknowledge Him as the Anointed One, God has made this Jesus the Messiah. (Acts 2:36, NIV)  The Jews are still waiting for the Messiah, but who wants to know forgiveness of sins, must acknowledge Christ as the One who has come.
  • Sixth, I need to worship Him as God:  God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified Lord. (Acts 2:36, NIV)
  • Then, I need to ask forgiveness of my sins, turn from it and follow Christ.
  • In the last place, by faith I need to take up the new life in Him:  “God rose this Jesus to life.”  Whoever has the Son, has life.”

Conclusion

Christ is risen. This is the focus of our preaching. God made Him Lord and Christ. Lord: to him belong all dominion and power Christ: He saves by the redemption in his own blood. He has risen so we may live. Now, turn away from sin. Turn toward Jesus Christ. Take up the new life in Him. AMEN.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 16 April 2017 (Resurrection)

The Intercession of Christ (2)

Scripture Readings

  • Exodus 28:6-21
  • John 17:11-19

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, we might make the mistake to disregard everything the Old Testament in connection with sacrifices and offerings.  It is true that we living on this side of the cross of Christ do not need an earthly high priest, neither an altar, nor sacrificial animals.  Moreover, we don’t need a temple which is divided in different sections where only certain privileged people may enter, and others are excluded from those sections.

Jesus Christ was the end of the sacrificial system.  In Him we have access to the Father, but then only if we by faith rest solely on his complete righteousness.  We understand from last week that their is no other Saviour, no other other link between the Holy God and sinners.  The Holy Spirit is the promised Comforter who takes us by the hand to this only Saviour. No other person or persons can make the claim Jesus made:  what belongs to the Father belongs to Him—and whom the Father gave to Him, He saved.

The shadow of the old covenant

But having said this, we cannot disregard certain aspects of the Old Testament priesthood which acted like a shadow of the real High Priesthood.  For as long as the tabernacle of the old covenant was in place, so says the writer of Hebrews, they served as

“… an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. (Hebrews 9:9–10, NIV)

This writer continues:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. (Hebrews 9:11, NIV)

Our reading from Exodus this morning took us to beginning of the office of High Priest.  Aaron was that person, assisted by his sons.

There are three particular themes in the symbolism of the garments of the high priest.

  1. The first is beauty. The Bible describes the quality and design of all the items of clothing, together with the use of colour and precious stones. But beauty is dominant in the breastplate; the Hebrew word translated approximately as “breastplate” has as its basic sense “beauty” or “excellence.” The clothing symbolises beauty, while beauty describes the office.  The high priest, Aaron, fully robed, was a splendid figure, and the splendour of his garments indicated the magnificence of the office with which he had been entrusted.
  2. The second theme is the role of the priest as representative of Israel before God. The names of the tribes of Israel were engraved on the two onyx stones in the ephod, and in the 12 precious stones attached to the breastplate. The high priest entered God’s presence to seek deliverance from God’s judgment for his people and in order to keep the people constantly in God’s remembrance.  Verse 12 states:

Aaron will bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for a memorial. (Exodus 28:12) 

On the breast piece there four rows of precious stones with the name of one of the twelve tribes engraved on each one.

Aaron will bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breast piece of decision over his heart when he goes into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. (Exodus 28:29)

  1. The third theme is the role of high priest as the representative of God to Israel. The Urim and Thummim, (objects kept in the breast piece of the High Priest and used to discern the will of God) were kept in the breast piece, by means of which God made known his will to Israel.

The eternal High Priest

When Christ came to be our High Priest He first of all came not in splendour, but as a ordinary human being.  But Hebrews says about Him:

For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26)

He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).  He made his dwelling with us and we have seen his glory, the glory as from the Father (John 1:15).  In his prayer (John 17) Jesus prayed to the Father:

And now, Father, glorify Me at your side with the glory I had with You before the world was created. (John 17:5)

Only He could declare:

Everything I have belongs to you, and everything you have belongs to me, and I have been glorified by them. (John 17:10)

Like the high priest He revealed the will of God to his people.  On his heart were the names of those who belonged to the Father. After Christ completed his work, the office of high priest disappeared, because

“I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word. (John 17:6, NET)

But like the high priest He intercedes for those who belong to the Father, having their names engraved on his chest.

My dear friend, before the splendour of our High Priest, who is our Lord, our Saviour, our Mediator and our God, we need to stand in awe and worship. He is the only One who knows the Father as an equal. He is the only One who has made the Father known to us; without him we lived in darkness, but in Him we were translated into light; once we were blind, but now we see.  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

But He is also the only One who may stand in the presence of the Father with our names in his heart.  He says,

When I was with them I kept them safe and watched over them in your name that you have given me. Not one of them was lost … so that the Scripture could be fulfilled. (John 17:12, NET)

If you believe and trust Him will all your heart, soul, mind and all your might, if his sacrifice as the Eternal High Priest is you only hope to one day stand before the throne of the Father, know this: your name is on his heart.

The intercession of our eternal High Priest

To complete his mission He had to go back to the Father where He came from.  Yes, He would send them the Holy Spirit to teach and guide them, but He interceded for those who belong to both Him and the Father even before He left them. He was facing the most terrible anguish and loneliness, but He did not pray for Himself.  One commentator puts it like this,

“I come to Thy presence where there is fullness of joy, and to Thy right hand where there are pleasures for evermore. I come—to where the river of the water of life flows from the throne of God; but these, these are in the wilderness. I come—where no enemy can follow me, where no temptation can assail me, where no weariness can distress me; but these, these are in the world. I come—to reap the trophies of my great victory. I come’—to grasp the scepter, to wear the crown, and to ascend the throne. I have been weary here, but I shall soon be weary no longer; the way has been rough and thorny, but it is all over, my haven is almost reached; yet these, these are in the world!”

What does He ask?

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name.”  (17:11)

We who are followers of Christ don’t have a home in this world.  Our Lord says, “… they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (17:14, 16)  This is profound statement. Jesus Christ makes a comparison:  He is not of this world, so are his disciples not from this world.  How is this possible.  We have to go back to chapter 1:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13, NKJV)

Nicodemus also had to hear from our Lord that natural birth does not make anyone a child of God.  The Pharisees thought they were children of God because they were descendants of Abraham (8:33), but Christ made it clear:

He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:47, NKJV)

Being born from above those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour got now citizenship:  it now rests with Christ at the throne of God.  At the moment we are like sojourners, like foreigners on a 465 visa:  we can can one be here if we have a job and a sponsor.  And we have both.  Jesus said,

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:18, NKJV)

Do you still remember that you have a job to do?  You have to represent your Lord as ambassador; you have to tell of his glory, his salvation, his love. And you have to love as Christ loved; you also have to pray as He taught you, pray that the Lord of the harvest will send labourers to bring in the sheaves to the storehouse.

Why does He ask?

Our job is not an easy job.  Although we have good news, and although the news and the grace are free, this world hates us.  Why?  Their master, the devil, hates Christ, and so he hates us too.  The world does not hate us for being loving, caring for the sick and the needy, providing shelter to the helpless, or care for the elderly—they actually constantly remind us of our duty to be loving.  But when we love to the point that we want them to bow before the Saviour and give Him all they have, and receive salvation as we have receive by grace, they spit on us.

Whoever thought to be a Christian is glamorous need to rethink his or her claim that his indeed a Christian.  Being a Christian is being on Christ side, and to be on Christ side is to face a hostile world.  The brother of our Lord, James understood this all too well.  He writes:

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NKJV)

He who wants the good of what Christ offers, while still clinging to the things of this world, is like an adulterer who tries to split his devotion between more than one person.  It’s either Christ, or the world—not both.

But if you follow Christ with an undivided heart, know this:  our Lord is mentioning your name to his Father:  “Protect them from the evil one.” (17:15)

Conclusion

I’ll end the sermon here.  I had in mind to still touch on Christ’s prayer for our joy and sanctification.  But let’s just conclude to say this: if you know Christ as your High Priest, you’ve got it all—you’ve got reason for joy because He has sanctified you when He walked through that temple curtain which separated God from sinners, and now He is appearing before the Father on your behalf.

The price is paid; hallelujah! Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 9 April 2017

The Intercession of Christ (1)

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 20
  • John 17:6-13

Introduction

My dear brother and sister in the Lord, Jesus Christ,

Early in January this year, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland, invited Muslims to its recent celebration of Epiphany, which marks the revelation of Christ’s deity through the wise men’s visit to the infant Jesus.  Madinah Javed stood at the lectern and read in Arabic from the chapter of Maryam, or Mary, which tells the story of the birth of Christ.

But Javed reportedly went beyond the allocated passage translated in the service sheet and read a verse from the chapter saying Jesus isn’t God’s son.  That verse reads: “It is not befitting to Allah that He should take to Himself anyone as son, Holy is He. When He decrees anything, thus then He says to it, ‘Be’ it becomes at once.

Apparently similar interfaith readings had “happened a number of times in the past in this and in other churches, and have led to deepening friendships locally, to greater awareness of the things we hold in common and to dialogue about the ways in which we differ.”. This is a quote from bishop Chillingworth.

Can their be such a thing as interfaith worship? What do Christians and Muslims hold in common?

The more and deeper we study the Gospel of John—which in no way contradict any other part of the Scriptures—the more we understand that the Person and work of Christ is the only bridge between sinful man and the Holy God.

Christ, who is God, who comes from God and from all eternity, where He enjoyed the same glory as the Father, together with the Holy Spirit.  He completed the mission of the Father to gather a church for Him; this He did by living a perfect life of righteousness in the sight of God—He also exchanged his righteousness for the unrighteousness and sin of unholy people to purchase them with is blood. This no other person did; no one ever will, because Christ is unique:  He is the only mediator between God and man.

Salvation through Christ is free, where all other religions preach salvation through efforts by the adherents, in some cases even through perpetual reincarnation, to climb the ladder to eventually reach God.  The message of the Bible is quite the opposite: it’s not us who must apply all efforts to reach up to God, but it’s about God who came down to us and did what we cannot do, how hard we might try.

Salvation – from beginning to end the work of God

Every word recorded in John 17 comes from the mouth of our Lord.  We studied the first 5 verses last week. We understand from those verses that Christ completed the mission of the Father to save those the Father gave Him. In another sense we also understand that, not only is the work of Christ completed, but it is complete—nothing is added to it.

Moving on to verse 6 and what follows this theme is continued.  Some commentators think that what Jesus prayed for in the first few verses—that the Father would glorify his Son with the same glory He have before He left heaven to come to complete his mission of saving sinners—is based on what He had done, as it is recorded in verse 6 and what follows.

What these verses spell out is Christ’s work to make his Father known to sinners.

He revealed the Father 

It might be a good idea for you to have your Bibles open to read and follow with me.  We are at verse 6. Jesus prays to the Father:

I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world. They were yours; You gave them to Me (John 17:6, NIV)

Just those words first. Christ speaks in the past tense “They were yours; You gave them to Me.” This is a profound statement.  They were yours.  There are other Bible verses which will help us understand what our Lord is saying here.  Let’s go to Acts 13.  Paul and Barnabas were on their early missionary journey.  They arrived in Antioch, expounded the Word about Christ and how He was God’s Son.  Then in 13:48 we read these remarkable words:

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48, NIV)

We almost hear the same thing in Acts 18.  The Lord comes to Paul in Corinth and we read verse 9, “And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid. Go on speaking; do not be silent, no matter what the threats were.” God would protect Paul, but he had to preach the good news.  Why?  “…because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:10, NIV)

There were people living in Corinth who knew nothing about God.  They were worshipping idols and lived in utter sin.  But they belonged to God.  They needed to hear the Gospel of Christ who would reveal the Father to them.

The same principle is in Ephesians.  Long before we knew anything about God, He had his eye on us through Jesus Christ.  Paul writes to the Ephesian Church

For He chose us in Him [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He [God] predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— (Ephesians 1:4–5, NIV)

In 2 Thessalonians 2, verse 13, Paul continues along the same lines:

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13–14, NIV)

It should not surprise us to hear the same principle even in the last book of the Bible:

and all those who live on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed. (Revelation 13:8, NET)

If we now go back to John 17:6 we can’t otherwise but to understand that what Jesus was saying that God gave some people to his Son to save them, even before they themselves knew anything about God, or about their need to be saved, the Saviour, and salvation itself.

But Christ revealed this plan of God to those his Father gave Him. This is a work which will continue until our our Lord returns.  To his disciples, his church, He gave his Word and his Spirit to empower them with the commission to go into all the world to proclaim this good news.  Jesus prays for his church:

“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who [will] believe in Me through their testimony… (John 17:20, NET)

They still go in his name, under his authority, and still the success of the work does not depend on them, but on the Father who knows the names of those whom He knew and those from all eternity.

We know Romans 8:28 well, but lets not take it from its context.

And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:28–30, NET)

Jesus says in John 17:6 that He made the Father known to those who had no idea that He had his hand on them from eternity.

What was the effect of Christ’s ministry?  

Let’s take it step by step.

Verse 17:

Obeying or believing the Word of the Father

Not only did Christ proclaim to them the Word of the Father, He was the Word (John 1:1).  Those who believe  the word (not “words”—verse 6), know—a key word in John, because to “know” in John’s Gospel is to have moved out of the darkness sin into the light of eternity. When they hear the word of God they understood that Christ is from God.  They accepted the teachings (now “words”—verse 8) of Christ as coming from God the Father.  Moreover, they know and understand that the Person Christ is sent by the Father, and the He came from the Father—and therefore He is God.

See, there is no other Saviour.  There is no other link between heaven and earth. One believes in Him and live in a relationship with the Father; he who does not believe in Christ, has no relationship with the Father.  Such a person in still dead in sin, without hope and without salvation.  If you are are such a person, hear the word of God about Christ, and fall at his feet.  All that the Father gave Him will come to Him, and He will never cast out those who come to Him.

They worship Christ as Lord

Verse 10:  Jesus is in prayer with his Father.  He says:

Everything I have belongs to You, and everything You have belongs to Me, and I have been glorified by them. (John 17:10, NET)

So, what does this verse say?  Those whom the Father gave to Christ, believe in God, but they also believe in Christ.  According to the Bible to give glory, is to worship.  Indeed, they worship Christ as God.

Conclusion

So, we have to say to the Archbishop and to the Muslim girl:  we do not worship the same God; our faiths have nothing in common between them.

But let’s not stop there:  not allowing for anything common between Christianity and other religions does not give any man or woman who does not worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour any soapbox to stand upon to look down on any religion, because anything without Christ is futile.

And truely, let’s be honest, nor does any Christian have a soapbox to stand upon:  we have not sought Christ, we have not loved Him first; but He loved us first and came into to world to seek and to save the lost. He made the Father known to us. What we do know is that we are saved by grace and not by works, so that no one should boast.

Because of this we know the privilege to know God through Jesus Christ.  And we know that He is interceding for us:

I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. (John 17:11, NET)

We do understand that no-one can come to the Father but by Christ. That’s why we need to proclaim Him, even to those who still don’t know that they belong to Him:  they need to know Christ to know the Father.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 2 April 2017

Complete Salvation in Christ

Scripture Readings

  • Proverbs 8:22-36
  • John 17:1-5

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Over time words can loose its meaning. Some time ago the word “awesome” was reserved to describe the actions or person of God; these days a hamburger can be awesome! Some time ago the words “ever” and “forever” described something which no one at any point has seen or experienced and will not see again anytime soon; but according to modern day TV “ever” describes something which has not happened since last week. We hear phrases like, “It was the hottest day ever!” Or, “This program is the best you will ever see!”—yet, they are already working on the next series, which in all honesty then, must be worse.

When words like “ever” and “forever” are used without any real meaning, not only does the past loose it meaning, but the future does not offer much hope either.

Reading the Gospel about Jesus Christ we must make sure that we truely understand references to time: “Eternity” and “eternal life” are not words we should not read over as if they refer to something with a use-by date, or will only be of significance till the next new thing on the market presents itself.

Christ’s eternal mission accomplished in time (John 17:1,4)

Right in the beginning of the Gospel of John we read these words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1–2, NIV)

This beginning refers to eternity, and what happened when the eternal God created time and space. This is also the opening statement of the Bible:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, NIV)

John 1:3 continues to explain how God created in the beginning:

Through Him [Christ] all things were made; without Him [Christ] nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:3, NIV)

Then, just a bit further into the Gospel John writes:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)

When John the Baptist introduced Him to the people—and keep in mind John said that the reason he was baptising was that Christ might be revealed to Israel—he said:

“This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ ”) (John 1:15, NIV)

Christ was from the beginning, from eternity, equal with God, God Himself, one in the Godhead together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But there was a space of time—about thirty three years—in which Jesus Christ lived on the face of the earth.

The reason why He came from eternity into time and space was to bring light into a dark world. John the Baptist puts it this way:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29, NIV)

The prayer of Christ recorded in John 17, the first five verses we read this morning, marks the beginning of the end of his earthly ministry. Only hours from this prayer they arrested Him, charged Him, nailed Him to a cross and He died to take away the sin of the world. He prays: “Father, the time has come.” In verse 4 He prays:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4, NIV)

By completing the mission of salvation his glory would be restored. It was the glory Paul writes about in Philippians 2:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 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 acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6,9–11, NIV)

Christ came from eternity, He ministered in time to sinners who had no hope and no eternity apart from eternal condemnation, so that those who believe in Him will have eternal life, that is, they will live for ever. Jesus declared at the grave of Lazarus:

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26, NIV)

Christ’s authority to grant eternal life (John 17: 2,5)

Keep in mind, Christ was God from all eternity. As the Son of God He came into this world. As Son of man He completed God’s mission of salvation. He has all authority in heaven and on earth, because He is God. While on earth the Father granted, or gave, Him authority over all people. Satan wanted to stand in his way by killing all boys under the age of two; he then tempted Christ in the desert, but in all attempts he failed. The Jews tried to kill Him their way, but they couldn’t; Judas tried to have Him killed his way, but He couldn’t. Who his hour came, Jesus willingly stepped in to do the will of the Father.  He once declared:

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18, NIV)

Because of his eternal authority, and because He completed the eternal plan of salvation for which the Father gave Him to this world, He gave eternal life to those his Father gave Him.

My dear friends in the Lord, let’s get this right: we don’t let Christ into our hearts, because we feel the need of a Saviour. We have no authority—we are dead in our sins, and true to our sinful nature, we can’t seek our Christ and make Him our Saviour. It is He who seek and save the lost. He is not the powerless Saviour who eventually loses the battle for our hearts if we decide to let Him go. No, the Bible says He has authority to give eternal life to those the Father has given Him.

Yes, some indeed hear the invitation to receive Him as Saviour, but continue in their sins to eventually enter eternal hell. Why? Our Lord said of those who did not believe:

… but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. (John 10:26, NIV)

But whom He wants as his own, hears the voice and to them it is life. He said:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29, NIV)

If you do not worship Christ as sovereign God, you will not fully trust Him; your faith will be troubled in difficult times, and when Satan causes you to doubt, you will probably fall back on your deceitful emotions. If you had any part in your salvation you have reason to doubt.

Further, if you rightly understand that the eternal Saviour, who is God with all authority, claimed your life because He shows his grace to you by saving your life, you will want to give Him everything, please Him in everything, and only live to please Him. Do you remember what Peter did when he was sinking in the waves and only Jesus could save him? He cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Jesus reached out and took hold of him.  Then those in the boat worshipped Him: “Truely, You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)

Surely, if you know Christ as sovereign Saviour in salvation, who is eternal God, who calls with authority and even the devils cringe in his presence, you will fall before Him in adoration and worship. When difficult times come you will hold on to his words: “No one can snatch you from my hand” (10:29); and, “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” (16:33)

Eternal life: To know the Father through the Son (John 17:3)

Jesus came from eternity, He came into time, into space, and lived with us. Why? To complete the mission of the Father. What was it? That He might give eternal life to those whom God had given Him.

Now, you may ask, “What is eternal life?” and, “How can I receive eternal life?”

Right in the first chapter of John we learned this:

Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12–13, NIV)

All people born after Adam and Eve are born with the need to be saved from sin. The Bible is clear about this. The Holy Spirit needs to give us a new birth for us to become children of God, because birth by natural descent will never get us into heaven. The decision to be saved rests with God. But He revealed his decision in Christ, who is our only connection with the Father. The salvation He offers is complete—not only is it done, it’s complete in the sense that nothing needs to be added to it.

So what did Jesus do to connect us with God? He made the Father known to us. To “know”, to “see”, to “believe” in John describes the ministry of Christ to the sinner. Through Him we know, through Him we see, believe, move out of darkness into the light, and live—and as a result we receive Him as Saviour (which is the opposite to not recognise and therefore not receive Him as Saviour).

Now, in John 17:3 our Lord says:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3, NIV)

Eternal life is to know the only true God and and receive life through Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. Or put in other words:

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

Conclusion

My dear friend, what you have heard today is the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. The eternal, sovereign God, who is rich in mercy, gave his only Son—who is equally eternal and sovereign—that whoever believes in—or knows—Him will not perish but have eternal life.

This is the best news ever! It’s good forever! It’s awesome! If you shut your ears to this gospel you’ll regret it forever! So, come to Christ—now! Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 26 March 2017

Christ, the Holy Spirit and joy

Scripture Readings

  • Romans 8:6-17
  • John 16:12-33

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

They say the American painter, John Sargent, once painted a panel of roses that was highly praised by critics. It was a small picture, but it approached perfection.

Although offered a high price for it on many occasions, Sargent refused to sell it. He considered it his best work and was very proud of it.

Whenever he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his abilities as an artist, he would look at it and remind himself, “I painted that.” Then his confidence and ability would come back to him.

John records what happened in the night before Christ was arrested, only to be crucified the next day.  It was in more than way a night of confusion and agony. First, Jesus— like a slave—knelt before  them and washed their feet.  Then one of them walked out into the night to betray their rabbi to the Jewish leaders, and then they heard that another would disown Him.  Next thing is He announced to his small group of disciples that He was going to the One who sent him. But He also assured them that He would send them the Holy Spirit so that they would not go astray, or trip and fall (16:1).

Jesus Christ—the completion of his ministry

The road to the cross

The Father sent Jesus into this world to gather a church for Him.  Christ left the eternal throne of glory, was born like a human being—although not from an earthly father—walked the face of the earth like all other humans beings, yet without sin. To complete the mission of the Father, He had to perfectly obey the Law, and also take the curse of disobedience to the Law as his own to become the perfect righteousness which satisfy the holiness of God.  That’s the only way we can be saved.

Now, in the last hours of his earthly ministry, He taught his disciples what they could expect, and how they had to be his voice, hands and feet when He went back to his Father.  He had to go back to the Father to stand in perfect righteousness before the Father, and as such intercede for those whom He saved. Although they would love to have Him with them all the time, He could not remain with them; He had to finish what the Father sent Him for.

Now, what did He mean with “In a little while you will see Me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me”? (John 16:17, NIV)

In John 14 our Lord was referring to the place in heaven, the rooms in his Father’s house, which He is going to prepare for them, and then come back to take them to where He will be.  This clearly refers to the second coming of our Lord at the sound of the last trumpet.

But in 16:17 He did not point to that event.  He pointed to his death on the cross—and all which would happen before that;  He also referred to his resurrection from the dead.  In other words between the night He was arrested in Gethsemane, and the Sunday of his resurrection when He appeared to them.

His suffering, death on the cross and resurrection was the pinnacle of his ministry.  As a matter of fact, without the cross his ministry would fail.  Those mocking Him while He was dying with his hands and feet nailed to the rugged wood of the cross—“Others you could save; save yourself”—was the final attempt of Satan to avert the necessity that He paid the price for sinners to set them free.

The night Jesus spoke these words to them He was arrested.  The next morning, the morning of Good Friday, the disciples would have felt like lost sheep.  The One they came to love and worship was handed over, tried, falsely accused and forced to drag the cross on which He would be nailed to the place of execution.  On the way He would be mocked, ridiculed, spat one, beaten until He was not physically able to walk, and sank on his knees in agony.  Peter who once said that he would give his life for the Lord, followed in a distance with a heart heavy because He denied his Lord.

Then, when it was time for the lambs of Passover to be slaughtered, at about 3.00.pm on Friday, Jesus cried out, “It is finished”.  There the real Passover Lamb died and took the sin of the world on Him so that they might go free.

Jesus prepared them for those three days of confusion.

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (John 16:20, NIV)

Joy restored

So when on the Sunday of his resurrection Jesus appeared to Mary at the open grave, and she went back to tell them the good news that He had risen, they still didn’t believe.  The death cloth folded by itself in some ways helped their unbelief, but they went back to the place they were gathered and locked the doors for fear of the Jews.  Then our Lord appeared in their midst.  Luke records:

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:37, 41, NIV)

What He prepared them for in John 16 came true:

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22, NIV)

While they were grieving in unbelief, the world rejoiced (16:20): they at last got rid of Christ. Not so!  He conquered death, hell, sin and Satan. This completed his ministry of reconciliation. It is therefore no surprise that Christ adds:

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 16:23, NIV)

Unfortunately some translations do not clearly translate the “ask” of this verse.  They are two different words in Greek. The first “ask” (In that day you will no longer ask me anything) should be enquire—something someone does who is not sure about things. On “that day” Jesus Christ met them and everything was different. Yes, they still needed teaching, but his mission was then complete—after that the Holy Spirit would take over the ministry to the disciples.

The second “ask” (my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name) stands in connection with prayer.  Christ now goes back to what He taught them in 15:11 about joy:

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24, NIV)

With his mission complete, He stands at the throne of the Father interceding for his church.  In his name his church now prays and the Father listens.

Paul writes:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? 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? (Romans 8:31–32, NIV)

John continues:

The Father Himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:27, NIV)

The Holy Spirit

But all of this would not be possible without the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  With the Saviour at the throne of the Father, the Spirit continues the ministry of Christ, but not in the sense that He adds to this ministry; no, He takes what belongs to Christ and makes it known to us (16:14).  He does not reveal new things apart from Christ. It is the Spirit who does the convicting and convincing work in regard to sin, righteousness and judgement as the disciples does the preaching of the Gospel of Christ; the Spirit guides the church in truth, which is the Gospel inspired by Himself.

Our Lord said:

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you.” (John 16:12-15, NIV)

The main ministry of the Holy Spirit was to constantly take the disciples—and us— back to Christ.  Like the flowers in the John Sargent’s picture when he became doubtful, the Spirit holds up the picture of the Saviour before us so that we would not stumble and fall in confusion.

Further, the Spirit connects us with the righteousness of Christ. Paul writes:

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11, NIV)

Moreover, the Spirit is also interceding for us when we pray—that “asking” from the Father:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26–27, NIV)

In another place Paul writes:

… no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (1 Corinthians 2:11–13, NIV)

Christ and the Spirit:  a reason for Joy

Jesus said:

Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24, NIV)

To this He adds:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)

Christ’s complete salvation brings joy.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit brings joy.  That our prayers in the Name of Christ are answered, brings joy. That Christ has overcome the world, brings peace.

So, when Christ, after the forty days of intensive teaching, on the glorious day of ascension, returned his his Father we read about the disciples:

While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (Luke 24:51–52, NIV)

Add to this the fruit of the Holy Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, NIV)

Conclusion

O, that we will have this vision:  the completed work of Christ, now interceding at the Father’s throne, only to return and judge the living and the dead; the ministry of the Spirit, constantly taking us back to Christ like Sargent who went back to his painting, to sustain us in our task of evangelism and mission; joy, because the Father loved the Son and He loves his church and gives them what they need; joy, because our Lord has overcome – once and for all. Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 19 March 2017

Bible Study and Prayer Groups

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5 (NKJV)

It was necessary for Christ to come, because Christ gives light to every man. This does not mean universal salvation or general revelation or even inner illumination. Instead, it means that Christ as the Light shines on each person either in salvation or in making him aware with regard to his sin and to the coming judgment.


We have two Bible study groups within our church. The responsibilities for conducting the Wednesday night group was shared between Mr Kevin Shellard and Pastor Rudi Schwartz. The Friday morning group was conducted by Pastor

Rudi Schwartz and myself. The gross overall attendance of both groups was approximately 18-20.

This year we undertook four studies. The first two were studies supplied by Maroochydore Presbyterian Church and were from the Gospel of Luke on the topic of the “Saviour King”. It focussed on the stories and teachings of Jesus in a way that consistently emphasises that the gospel is a matter of the heart, the inner person, not mere external religion.

Our third study looked at “Some questions in the Gospel of Mark”. The opening verse stands as the book’s title and theme. The word gospel does not refer to Mark’s book, known as “the Gospel of Mark.” Instead it refers to the good news about Jesus Christ.

Our final study was from the Gospel of John and was entitled “Light from eternity, life into eternity”. The purpose of the study was to understand conclusively that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in Him will have eternal life.

I thank our Lord for all those who attended these Bible Studies and may you all continue to grow in your faith as we delve deeper into the Word of the Lord during the upcoming year.

A faithful group of members also meets at 4.30pm every Sunday afternoon for a time of prayer to commit to the Lord those matters which affect the life of our church, the world at large, and the pastoral care of our members.

Bob Chopping (Elder)

Presbyterian Women’s Association

The PWA held their meetings on the first Tuesday of the months, February to November. A short meeting was held in December, prior to the AGM.

There were seventeen affiliated members with an average of ten members.
The 68th Birthday Social was held in February, and theme of the morning was “Prettiest Cake Plate”. We had visitors from other Bay churches and a morning of entertainment was enjoyed by all.

After Rudi Schwartz’s induction service we served a welcome afternoon tea for him and Heila.

In May we supported the Leprosy Mission by hosting a “Cuppa For A Cure” morning tea. From this we were able to send a cheque for $200.00 to the Mission.

Ladies catered for the annual Church Dinner which was held in July. The meal was held as a lunch and those who attended enjoyed it.

The annual Craft

Morning was held in August. We conducted workshops., the theme being “Getting Ready for Christmas”. This seemed to be popular and those attending seemed to enjoy the activities. Attendance numbers were down.

The Combine Churches

Floral Art Display was held in the John Paul Centre behind the Catholic Church. The theme was “Angels”. Proceeds of $1056.15 from the display were given to Angel Flight. Thank you Wendy and Dianne for once again preparing our church’s display.

We had a morning tea in October to farewell Ruth Learmont. We wish her well in her new surroundings.

PWA members conducted a stall at the church’s Garage Sale and for their efforts we were able to hand over a cheque of $450.00 to the church for its Mission Program.

13 March 2017

The Friendship Group

The Friendship Group met on Wednesday mornings throughout the year. We have 6-10 people attending each week. It is a wonderful morning sharing crafty ideas, learning new ones, and enjoying fellowship with each other. This year we made cards for sale to the congregation, as well as Christmas items for sale at our Craft Morning.

The sale of Christmas Cards 2015 allowed us to make a donation of $330.00 towards the Church Order Fund.

Support throughout the year was given to Words Vision of a child in Ghana, Mission without Borders, PIM, PWMU Book Fund, PWA Burning Bush appeal, Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church Committee of Management, the Evans and the Stewart families in Japan, and Angel Flight.

I would like to thank Maree for taking over secretarial duties at meetings I was unable to attend this year, and all office bearers and members for their continuing support over the past twelve months.

As a group, we enjoy the fellowship we share in continuing to support the Church and others as much as we can. We are all getting older, but praise the Lord, we are still able to work together in His Name. Many PWA’s have closed due to age and low numbers.

Thanks also to other church members who assisted the ladies at functions throughout the year.

We are grateful for the many blessings our Lord as bestowed upon us during 2016 and pray the He will watch over our members and guide our direction in 2017.

 

Shirley McCulloch

Secretary.

Report of the committee of Management

The year commenced with the anticipated arrival of our pastor Rev Rudi Schwartz and his wife Heila around Easter. In preparation, a working bee was held in March where gardens were tidied, trees trimmed, driveways cleaned for both the church and manse. The finishing touches to the new manse shed which included repositioning of the clothes line, extending the pathway and providing lighting and power to both sheds were completed. The final touch was the organisation of a food hamper, welcome gift.

During our vacancy in particular, and continuing, is the utilisation of our congregational talents in completing both the spiritual and functional aspects of our church. Much has been achieved through the generosity of
our congregation members’ time, talents and donations which is done for God’s glory.

The maintenance of the church property under the guidance of works coordinator Mr David Murray is constant as seen by the following list of tasks completed:

  • Manse hot water safety valve replaced;
  • replacement of tap washers;
  • church gates repositioned to manse;
  • two shelves added to cupboard in  men’s toilet;
  • new notice board with church times;
  • installed safety signs re skating etc.;
  • installation of manse dishwasher;
  • television mounted on church wall;water cooler installed;
  • repairs to  watering system;
  • sound system for church and hall
  • improved with new microphones,
  • cords, wiring and stands;
  • kitchen sink mixer replaced;
  • basket shelving for morning tea cups
  • stainless steel tea pots purchased; air conditioners serviced;
  • seats in front of the church and manse veranda repainted;
  • security light in rear entrance installed;
  • external security cameras installed; • two wheelie bins replaced;
  • termite and pest inspection and treatment for church and manse;
  • front pergola area water pressure cleaned;
  • roof mould and fungi treated;
  • hazard marking repainted;
  • toilet cistern repaired;
  • organ maintenance completed;
  • mowing of lawns and gardening.

The committee members have completed the training needed so that we comply with Child Safe standards. Workplace Health and Safety requirements are met through internal audits and regular testing of fire extinguishers, earth leakage units, checking of first aid kits, maintaining key registers and policy documentation, providing information on evacuation procedures and ensuring the church environment is safe. If a member of the congregation should notice anything unsafe, needing repair or are involved in an accident, a member of the committee should be notified and the WH&S officer will organise to have any documentation of repairs completed.

The committee wishes to thank those who have provided and served the delicious morning teas throughout the year.

The committee has also arranged for pew pamphlets and feedback cards, advertised our church services in the Local Sites Magazine and organised a garage sale with the proceeds being used to support missions. The committee has committed to supporting the Stewart family financially and prayerfully on an ongoing basis. We as a congregation, tithe our income to missions.

The committee of management wishes to thank all who contribute, whether in your time , use of talents, donations or regular freewill tithing, which allows us to fulfil our mission in presenting the gospel to those who have not heard, as well as the feeding of HIS sheep. Finally, we are grateful for the leadership Pastor Rudi has provided our committee with the support of Heila, but more importantly in the way the Lord has enabled him to feed us spiritually.

 We are thankful for the generous donation of a Data Projector and Table Tennis Set.

We thank the faithful cleaning team who looked after the church buildings during the last year.

Many thanks go to Mr Buddy Lachlan who served loyally at the sound desk for many years. A word of special thanks go to Miss Audrey Hanna who is standing in at the sound desk.

The Committee was made up of:

Mr David Murray,
Mr Rod Schulz (Secretary)
Mr Kevin Shellard,
Mrs Jenny Pivac
Mrs Dianne Hebblewhite
Mr Bill Moffat
Mrs Shirley McCulloch
The elders are ex officio members. Elder Bob Chopping is the Treasurer.

Rod Schulz

Secretary