Resurrection – Matthew 27:57-28:15 – Sermon Notes

As it’s Easter Sunday, it was no surprise that the sermon was on the great news of Jesus’ resurrection.

In order to have a resurrection, there needs to be a death. Jesus really did die. Death by crucifixion was designed to be painful. Why was the tomb empty? The Jewish enemies and religious leaders didn’t challenge the apostles when they said Jesus had risen from the dead.

Why does it matter?

Jesus said he was going to rise from the dead and he did. There is no one else who has done that. He has risen, as he said. What Jesus says can be trusted. He speaks the truth because he is the truth. God so loved the world (John 3:16) even though we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and he shows his love for us (Romans 5:8). God’s judgement on our sin was dealt with. We all have a choice between wages (that we deserve) and free gift (that we don’t deserve).

The resurrection really does matter. When the apostle Paul was in Athens, he found lots of idols. He told them how God commands all people to repent as he’ll judge the world (Acts 17:30-31). One day Jesus will be the judge. He will judge with justice. We often say we want justice for our nation but what about God’s justice for us? It’s not just feeling sorry, it’s choosing to go his way.

Jesus is risen from the dead. He’s alive. What choice are you going to make?

Forgiveness – Matthew 18:21-35 – Sermon Notes

It’s good to want justice. Christians are to be forgiving because we have been forgiven much, much more. If we don’t know how much we have been forgiven, we won’t think we need to forgive others very much. Forgiveness sees that other people are the same. The specifics may be different but we all hurt each other. Being unforgiving to someone is saying they are less than you.

The Bible says that all of our relationships give us a glimpse of how we relate to the God who made us. Forgiveness of anything significant is never easy.

Forgiveness is a choice, so choose to forgive

The servant had a choice. They chose to forgive. When it’s something small, it’s easy. When it’s something bigger it can be harder to choose to forgive. The Bible gives us the perfect example to follow in Jesus. Every human being is rebellious. We live in God’s world and live as though he’s not there. God, through Jesus, chooses to offer forgiveness. If you don’t forgive others, you haven’t grasped the forgiveness Jesus has offered you. As Christians we should ask for forgiveness when we do wrong. We should take responsibility.

Forgiveness costs, but it is a price worth paying

When we are sinned against, there is a cost. When we forgive, we are taking upon ourselves the cost of that betrayal. That’s what the servant does. He has a choice. When Jesus went to the cross, it was his choice. If we won’t forgive, Jesus won’t forgive us. There is a warning.

Forgiving is ongoing, so keep working at it

When God tells his people he will remember their sins no more, he’s saying he doesn’t hold our sin against us. Jesus’ forgiveness means that he walks with us as we deal with the consequences of our sin. Both parties have to work at it.

Forgiveness comes from God, so keep your eyes fixed on Jesus

We all sin in our own ways. God tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are all offered unconditional forgiveness through Jesus on the cross. At the cross, Jesus offers forgiveness to all people.

Giving – Matthew 6:1-4 & 6:19-21 – Sermon Notes

Christians should be characterised by generosity, with their love and with their money. They’re called to imitate Jesus, who gave up his very life.

Don’t give to impress others

People often give to charities publicly so that people will think they’re generous. Jesus says we should be interested in pleasing God, not people. We should be giving in secret. Don’t we all live much of our lives trying to impress others? The temptation is to try to show off with our money. Christians should do all that we do to be seen by the Lord God. It is okay to talk to other Christians about our giving. Sometimes we like to use this as an excuse to be selfish and to not be accountable. The point that Jesus is making is that we should always do it for God, not to impress others.

Give generously to show your love for God and his church

Old Testament tithing is a good starting point, but the New Testament talks about generosity. That is the pattern we should follow – extravagant generosity. We are to have faith that the Lord will provide. Jesus says in v19 not to store up treasure on earth, but in heaven. That is the truth that shaped the widow who gave all the she had. It’s to shape all Christians in all contexts and in all situations.

Give generously to grow your love for God and his church

The very act of giving is what we grow our love for God and his church. If you give generously to your church, you will see your love grow for the people there. It might mean not having holidays you want, or the car you want. As we give generously we are depending on God, not on our savings. Do you rely on Jesus more than on money? If so, you’ll be a generous giver, because you’re living more for heaven than on earth.

Prayer – Matthew 6:5-18 – Sermon Notes

There is a chasm between us and God but the gospel is good news. Jesus bridges that gap. We can be forgiven and become friends with God.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.”

All relationships are costly. Following Jesus is costly. Real relationships are worth the cost. Following Jesus is about a relationship with the God of the whole earth and is always worth the cost.

Fast because you depend on Jesus

We should fast and pray. Fasting is choosing to go without something. Is it something that we don’t really do? The New Testament assumes that we fast. The Bible talks about fasting as a way of deepening your relationship with God. Jesus says “when you fast”, not “if you fast”. He says to do it in secret, and it doesn’t have to be food. Do I really depend on Jesus for all my life?

Fast to train yourself

If you can fast and resist the temptation, you are disciplining yourself to say no.

Fast so that you can pray

The point of fasting is so that instead of eating (or whatever it is), you use the time to pray. Praying is talking to God. All Christians should pray.

Pray because you love Jesus

We pray because we love Jesus. We don’t have to worry about the right words to say. There are examples of how to pray, but we can talk to God in any way we wish. If we never talk to God what does that say about our relationship with him?

Pray because you need Jesus

We think we can get through the day on our own. The way we live and the way we pray can show that we don’t need Jesus. We can pray for others, but secretly think we don’t need Jesus’ help ourselves.

Pray because you trust Jesus

Do you believe that God’s will for your life is better than yours? If we’re praying “your will be done” maybe Jesus will change you. We might begin to realise that where we are is God’s will. Jesus knows what he’s doing. He went to the hardest place to rescue us. Make praying a daily pattern, such as your routine (walking for example). Pray and fast even when you don’t want to. We need to talk to Jesus even when it’s hard. Whatever it is that stops you from talking to God, don’t let it.

The Gospel From Below – Matthew 1:18-25 – Sermon Notes

Matthew shows us how Jesus is fully human and over the course of their story, how Jesus is fully God. Christ is God’s chosen king. He’s a direct descendant of David and Abraham (see 1:1-17). God’s promises are being fulfilled in Jesus. Mary and Joseph were legally committed but not yet married. Joseph didn’t need to be quiet. He could’ve had Mary stoned to death. As far as he knows she has cheated on him with another man, yet he has compassion. Mary has probably told him but why would he believe her?

An angel visits Joseph. It’s not normal. This is an unusual thing because this is God’s plan of salvation for the world. From the beginning of the Bible, sin has always been a problem. This is a long-promised saviour. Joseph responds with amazing obedience. He responds in true faith just as Mary had done.

God is good and people are rubbish

This is a shocking story. This baby comes and God chooses him to be dependent on people. Humans can’t be trusted yet God entrusts Jesus to them. God has chosen to humble himself in human form, utterly dependent on Mary and Joseph to look after him. That is shocking. God chose this way.

The sovereign Lord trusts normal people to bring about his salvation plan for the world

God risks everything by trusting his message of salvation to normal people like us. There is not one person who can save themselves and there’s not one person who Jesus can’t save. We can all be willing to do what he asks. We can do it together as a church family. There is real joy seeing God work despite our failures. God continues to use and trust rubbish people to bring about his good and perfect plans.

Gospel, Kingdom and Mission – Church Weekend Reflections

We have just returned from our church weekend in Abererch, Wales. It was a great weekend of fellowship, teaching, and fun. It was especially encouraging seeing the whole church family enjoying each other’s company, and growing in their love for God, and for one another. Even the rain didn’t dampen our spirits!

Treasure

We had three main teaching sessions, in which we looked at the themes of gospel, kingdom and mission. One thing in particular that struck me was how we are so prone to storing up treasure here on earth. We can easily become obsessed with building security for ourselves, such as in our careers, our mortgages, or saving for the future. Yet, in Matthew 6, Jesus tells us the opposite:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The truth is that one day, the treasure that we store up on earth will be gone. Companies could go bust. Our houses won’t last forever. Retirement savings soon disappear. Why invest in something that’s temporary when we can invest in the kingdom of God that will last forever? That’s the challenge I came away with and will be dwelling on for a while.

Remembering

We also had a campfire, where we sang some songs of praise and were encouraged to remember what God has done in our lives. For example, what sequence of events led you to church, or led to you becoming a Christian? Sometimes we can get so caught up in the present that we forget to look back and reflect on what God has done in the past. Even in hardships, we have to remember that God is good, all of the time. It’s so important to remind ourselves of that and to encourage each other with the good news of the gospel.

Below are some notes from the three teaching sessions. I also attended a seminar on engaging with people living with learning disabilities.

Gospel (Romans 3:19-26)

The word ‘gospel’ is mentioned many times throughout the New Testament. It grips Paul. It’s the good message, the good news. Evangelism is the sharing of that good news. In Romans 1:1-17 it’s mentioned six times. The gospel was promised beforehand and it concerns the Son. It’s the power to salvation and God’s rescue comes through it. In Ephesians it’s referred to as the truth that saves us. God has entrusted us with this message.

Adam and Eve rebelled. We reject his law and can’t live in his presence. It’s our sin that separates us from God. As it was in Adam and Eve, it is in us. At the beginning God is preparing his people for the sacrifice he was going to make. Isaiah speaks of a suffering servant. God promises a king and a sacrifice. Jesus is perfect humanity and perfect God. Jesus surrenders himself on the cross. The way is provided for forgiveness of sins. Before the throne of God how could we justify ourselves? But if our sin is atoned for, it’s not the same. The way to accept this good news is by faith. We should appreciate the gospel.

There is nothing more deep or more glorious than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where do you go to see the love of God? Go to the finished work of Jesus. Is it as central to us as it is to God? People argue over so many small things but this good news is supposed to captivate us. Never lose sight of what God has done for us. The good news of Jesus is the power of God to rescue people, no matter who they are, or where they’re from, or what their background is.

Kingdom (Daniel 7:9-14)

What’s your kingdom? What’s the thing that sets your heart in motion? What are the things that excite you? Fun, career, enjoyment.

God reveals the future before Jesus is born (Daniel 2:44). Kingdoms are coming one after another but there will be an ultimate kingdom that will never be destroyed. The kingdom is the place where the King rules (Lord’s prayer). Jesus spoke of the kingdom. He said it’s near (Mark 1), it’s in your midst and it’s here. It’s like a mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32). It will grow.

Jesus brings in the rule of the King. He establishes a kingdom that will never be shaken. It will endure for eternity (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus will reign forever (Revelation 11:15). What are you living for? Our actions probably give us away. Our thoughts definitely would. God is calling us to find an identity in an eternal kingdom. Don’t store up treasure on earth (Matthew 6:19-21), store up treasure in heaven. What we build in that kingdom will last forever. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:31-33). His kingdom is more important than anything. It’s about knowing the blessings of God now and for eternity.

Are you part of that kingdom? What are you building for? Are you investing in the kingdom of God? Why build a kingdom for something that will last for 10 years when you can build something that will last forever?

Eternity is our retirement.

Mission (Matthew 28:16-20)

Jesus asked people to follow him in this issue of kingdom building and working under his rule. It’s about reaching out to others with the gospel. If we’re following Jesus surely we’ll do the things that he does. Seek those who are lost. Paul says the love of Christ compels him to share the gospel. We know there is this good news that transforms us and there’s a kingdom that lasts forever.

How do we make disciples? Not everybody receives the gospel with joy. Sometimes we get fearful. It might not have the response we want it to. Our labour in the Lord is never in vain.

Responding Rightly – Matthew 2:1-12 – Sermon Notes

Mary and Joseph had found accommodation in Bethlehem in a house. Joseph isn’t mentioned when the wise men arrived. Jesus was about a year old (under two). They’re described as magi from the east. We don’t know how many of them there were. They had seen a star and believed it was the star of the king of the Jews.

They went to Jerusalem but couldn’t understand why there was such a fuss. They didn’t know Herod had summoned the top Jewish leaders to find out where the Messiah would be born. He told them to come straight back. They left and set off to Bethlehem and saw the star going ahead of them. God was intervening directly to get the magi to their destination and quickly away. They worshipped Jesus and then opened their gifts. The natural way to go home was to go through Jerusalem. They had to head west and through Nazareth to avoid Herod.

The magi know the title Jesus has. It was also given to him on the cross. The whole gospel story tells us that everything is different with God. It’s not just about a baby. It’s about someone coming to rescue us, to lay down his life so that we can be made right with God.

Herod ruled firmly and ruthlessly. He murdered relatives. He built many theatres and palaces and fortresses. He was disturbed when he heard the news. He knew that the king of the Jews was actually the Messiah. Psalm 2 seems to speak about what was going on behind the scenes. Herod was engaged in a conspiracy to destroy the Messiah. He keeps the wise men and the teachers of the law separate.

The wise men were foreigners. They weren’t Jews. It’s not clear if they had followed the star all the way from where they’d come from, but they were overjoyed when they saw it. God was making it clear that this king wasn’t just to be king of the Jews.

What is our response to Jesus? We don’t need a star. We have God’s word and we have the Holy Spirit. We need to know him as our saviour.

Building – Matthew 7:24-29 – Sermon Notes

Religious people look righteous but their true heart is hidden. They look the same as true followers. Jesus is saying be careful. Look at what your morals are truly built upon.

Jesus and the teachers

Jesus was saying entering the kingdom of heaven is impossible (5:20). He must’ve known everyone listening would’ve been amazed. Jesus is teaching a deeper righteousness. It starts on the inside and it works its way out. He teaches that your actions aren’t enough to transform you on the inside. Religion only deals with the surface. All of your sin is stored up on the inside. Jesus is showing us we’re in danger. Are we religious or a true Christian saved by grace?

Wise and foolish builders

The difference is the foundations. Both religion and Christianity look the same on the surface. The house is the good works. The actions look the same. He’s talking about the ultimate storm. The final judgment. The religious person has already received their payment in full. True Christianity is working below the surface and it transforms us inside out. Make Jesus your foundation. Jesus dies the death you should’ve died. You get a righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees’.

Growing – Matthew 7:13-23 – Sermon Notes

Beware false prophets – be on your guard (v15)

A false prophet doesn’t teach what God teaches. They don’t speak truthfully. It’s a serious warning. They’re deceptive and dangerous. They’re wolves but are dressed up like sheep. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking closely. Underneath is a vicious wolf. There is a right opinion about God and a wrong one. The trees that don’t bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. There’s a narrow road (v14) that leads to life. Jesus says to be on your guard. He wants all of us to be vigilant when it comes to false prophets.

Beware false prophets – test the fruit (v16-20)

Jesus says it will be recognisable. The fruit is someone’s character and their teaching. Jesus says the two roads are a reality. The false prophets say you can fill the easy way. Jesus’ words matter. He says what someone is will become visible. Do they show poverty in spirit? Do they obey Jesus’ words? Does your life show growing conformity to the values of the kingdom?

Beware false professions – obey Jesus (v21-23)

Jesus tells his followers that on the last day people will be sent away because he doesn’t know them and they don’t know him. Jesus says it’s not enough to say the right things. It’s insufficient evidence for real spiritual life. Real life lived in real obedience to Jesus is the entry requirement. Obedience is the fruit of faith. A good tree will bear good fruit. Turn to the one who gives his spirit to enable you to live a life of fruitfulness.

Asking – Matthew 7:7-14 – Sermon Notes

This teaching of Jesus is something you can get on board with (do to others what you would have them do to you). This isn’t just a good moral rule. It’s a summary for the moral teachings of the entire OT. This is the way to the kingdom of heaven. How can we obey that?

Prayer

The picture is of persistent asking and seeking. Maybe you feel like a lot of prayers go unanswered. We live in a self sufficient culture. You may be suffering but refuse to show it, refuse to seek help. If you want to stick to the narrow road, self help isn’t the answer. Persistent dependence on God through prayer is needed. Jesus shows us the perspective of the giver. If a son asks, his father isn’t going to give him something harmful. He’s going to give him what he needs. If you’re a Christian you can approach God because he is your father. Often with unanswered prayer it means waiting or no. God knows what’s best. He does that because he’s a good father. We’re not the only ones who have unanswered prayers.

How can it be that Jesus had a prayer turned down on the cross? The answer is in the gospel. At the cross, God treated Jesus as we deserved. The door of heaven was closed so it’s open for us. Jesus made it possible for our prayers to be heard. Why is our praying so sparse and feeble? If God is our good Heavenly Father, why do we pray so little? Prayer is the resource that you need.

Wisdom

Jesus tells us why we should follow the rule in v12. It fulfils the law and the prophets. This isn’t just good advice. How could you ever follow the law perfectly? You can’t. We need to turn to the one who did. Jesus said love the person who’s opposed to you. We find ourselves in moral situations that the Bible doesn’t address. We use the resource of wisdom. It’s what leads us to obedience to God’s word. Being a Christian is going to be difficult. Pray privately. Pray in groups. Pray with your families. Ask, seek, knock. Jesus made it possible and he made it possible for God to answer us.