27 December: Yes, God is working His purposes out

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
27 December 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

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Welcome

Well, Christmas has come and gone, and we now ‘look forward’ to a New Year, 2021. Bearing in mind the year we’ve just had, which no-one this time last year would have imagined, there will probably be more mixed reactions to the mention of the ‘New Year’ than ever before. This has been a very painful and difficult year for so many and we must continue to pray that our God, the God of all comfort, continues to comfort all those who are mourning, and still suffering, and that His Church will realise, the more, its purpose here on earth. Anxieties remain over Covid and the new strain, but hope is rising as a result of the new vaccine that is already being rolled out. And how will Brexit affect our everyday lives? In the past we have found that our faith in Jesus Christ sustained us through the difficulties and trials of life. And this will be the case going forward! (I recommend spending some time meditating on Psalm 121 and Psalm 91).  

Testimony

I went into the hospital last week [written 9 December 2020] to find there were very few face masks. Without taking my coat off I went in search of some. After being away longer than intended I went back to my table to find one of the cleaners with his trolley standing by the desk.  My first thought was “my bag”. He saw me and said he saw my bag and was watching it. I thanked him. In my concern for finding more masks I had left it in the open and not put it under the table where I usually put it.

While shopping the following day, I got to the checkout and instead of just having my card-case in my hand, I had my phone as well. I grabbed my receipt and it was while I was closing my card-case I realised there was a card missing, I turned back and found it was still in the card machine. Thankfully it was quiet so there was no one going to that checkout. Thank God for His goodness.

Dylys

Worship

(Thanks Sophie)

Word

Reading:  Acts 2:1-41

This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross.

Acts 2:23

Today, I want to look at this verse under three headings:

(1) God’s Will and Purpose

God’s will and purpose is a recurring theme in both Luke and Acts (e.g. Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:33; 17:25; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7, 26, 44; Acts 4:28; 5:29; 9:6, 16; 10:42; 19:21; 17:3, 31; 23:11; 27:24 – for those who really like looking up Scriptures!).

God’s will is always the place we must seek to be focussed rather than getting bogged down with the troubles of this world. A most significant development in my own personal walk with the Lord came after I had prayed concerning my inability to study the Scriptures. I saw, in my Christian brothers and sisters, a real desire and hunger to read the Scriptures but for me it was hard work. A simple answer was given: “Each morning read your Bible first and then the newspaper”. At the time I always read the newspaper first and then started trying to read the Scriptures. Reading the Scriptures first gives us God’s perspective on things; we get to know Him, His will, His ways, His laws and commands, and so on. Then we have the right focus to approach the things of this world.

Jesus warned His disciples:

Be careful, … Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Matt. 16:6

Yeast spreads through the dough but it becomes clear that Jesus wasn’t talking about bread but the teaching of the Pharisees which could have a destructive influence, spreading through the group. Whatever we soak in, such will marinate us! Therefore, soak in the Scriptures!

It was God’s will and purpose even before the creation of the world that His Son should die for the sin of the world:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:18-21 cf. Rev. 13:8

This subject of God’s will and Him knowing all things even from before the creation of the world can lead to people becoming critical of God: “If God knew then why did He allow it to happen?” However, we must look at these things through these spiritual lenses, if I can put it like that:

  • God is love
  • God is good – all the time
  • God is light and in Him there is no darkness
  • God is unchanging
  • God is righteous, holy and just

I could go on but whatever we think about God we need to make sure that it is true to His character, revealed especially through His Son Jesus Christ. God has no malice in Him. God never sins or does evil. So we can look at this from the divine side and then the human side to which everyone will have to give an account. The remarkable thing is that, wicked men seeking to stop God’s work through His Son, actually bring it about:

And you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross.

Acts 2:23

God’s will, plans and purposes are always good and no matter who, (even Satan himself), or what, (mighty kings and kingdoms), opposes Him, God’s will, His purposes, His plans, will always be done:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven …

Matt. 6:9-13

Putting Jesus to death on the cross was the most appalling evil this world has ever committed and yet God worked it all for good, great good: cf. “… you meant it for evil but God meant it for good, the saving of many lives …” (Gen. 50:20). The disciples always came unstuck whenever they viewed Jesus as just a human being forgetting that He was deity, Immanuel, God with us, doing His Father’s will moment by moment.

“Live near to God, and so all things will appear to you little in comparison with eternal realities”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne

(2) God’s Preparation

It is a most remarkable thing that Jesus did not begin to minister until He was about thirty years of age (see Luke 3:23). Surely, it would be the best plan to make the most of the presence of the Son of God here on earth all the days of Him being here. But God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Let us remember God is eternal, infinite, omniscient, who knows all things. Even Jesus had to go through a long period of thorough preparation:

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Luke 2:52

Look at videos showing how an elegant vase is prepared from a lump of clay, and then appreciate the more, the Lord’s thorough preparation of His Church, of His people, and of you and me. John the Baptist thoroughly prepared for 30 years:

And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Luke 1:80

And then he was martyred after a short time of ministry yet he completed what was required of him:

As John was completing his work, he said: “Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie”.

Acts 13:25

And look at Paul’s charge to Timothy:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:14-17

and

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15

(3) God’s Time

God’s will, God’s preparation and all in God’s time! They are all inter-linked and all of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is a poignant scene in the film: ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ of a man crying out to God on the shore of the lake to the effect: “When will you send Messiah to rescue us?” [meaning from the brutality of Rome]. Unbeknown to this man, the boy, Jesus, was standing there right next to him. Let’s say Jesus was about 10 years old at the time, then it would be another 20 years before He began His ministry. Yes, it was a film of the life of Jesus, and the film-maker here used a fair amount of poetic licence. We won’t find that incident in the Scriptures but there was something true to life about it and it brought home how we in the weakness of our humanity can be fervently crying out to God, almost in despair and not faith, for those things He has already set in motion and that have even been birthed in our midst but we in the spiritual dullness of our hearts and minds (I’m speaking more about me than you) can’t see them.

God’s time and waiting for God’s time can be difficult. There is much in the Scriptures about God’s time and on the one hand it is just that, God’s time, and it cannot be worked out, there is a mystery about it. But on the other hand, when God reveals it, when that time will be, then it is ours. It’s a bit like ‘the secret things belong to the Lord but the things revealed belong to us’ (cf. Deuteronomy 29:29). It can be agonising waiting for God’s time, for the time of fulfilment, that time when He will bring about those things He has promised; we only have to think of Abraham and Sarah and Hannah, and the agonies they went through waiting for God. Think of the long, long, wait before the Messiah eventually came.

Why did God keep them waiting? There are many reasons and all we can say is that it was in the fulness of time – only God knows fully what this means:

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.

Gal. 4:4

But maybe we can bring in also God’s thorough preparation e.g.

For the effective spread of the Gospel:

  1. The spread of the Greek language throughout the civilised world;
  2. The presence of Jewish synagogues in many places [see e.g. Acts 17:1-4];
  3. The network of Roman roads
  4. Pax Romana’ and the results of this peace (stable government, better communications systems, safer and easier travel made it easier for the spread of the gospel

(based on H. Hendriksen – Galatians).

Seize the moment

I have a concern based on what I have consistently read about Revival and it’s this: When God sends the next one, we in the church might turn out to be its greatest opponents. So let us resolve at Bethel not to rush too quickly to the conclusion: “This is not of God”. But let us examine it and especially discern what is its fruit (cf. Matt. 7:15-20). Think of how Saul of Tarsus severely opposed the new thing God was doing (Acts 9:1-2) and yet the Lord eventually used him more than any other in the spread of His Good-News. It might be that you have been prepared by God for such a time as this (Esther 4:14), Amen!

Quote for Week

“Waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what [and who] God wants us to be”

J. Ortberg

Verse of Week

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, let Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven and thoroughly prepare Your Church for all You are seeking to do in the coming years. Give grace, to each one of us, to patiently wait on You and Your perfect timing, in Jesus Christ, Amen.