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The Journal

Jesus with no added extras

Dear Friends, 
Today is our last in our series on the Reformation and the focus is on Christ alone. The writer to Hebrews helps the readers to see how the Jewish sacrificial system and all the Law is fulfilled in Jesus who is the perfect sacrifice for our sin. In our passage today Hebrews 9:11-28 we are encouraged that Jesus’ death cleanses our consciences from guilt 9:14. People can experience false guilt whereby they experience guilt for things which they have wrongly interpreted as being their fault. However, there is true guilt which we all experience. The Bible teaches that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of Christ Romans 3:23 and we experience guilt because we have not lived up to God’s standards. The good news of the Gospel is that through Christ’s death our guilt is removed. This guilt and its accompanying shame is dealt with and cleansed based on the fact that Jesus’ death has satisfied God’s just anger at our sin. God’s anger is no longer directed at us because God’s anger and judgement has fallen on Jesus instead of us. This means we can approach God with confidence and enjoy Him and serve Him. In this passage there are 3 other phrases which capture the essence of what Jesus has done and achieved for us. In 9:15 Jesus is identified as our mediator meaning that He is the one who represents us to God. As our high priest he takes up the role of the OT priest who would make a sacrifice on behalf of the people for their sin. Jesus is qualified to be our mediator because He is sinless and also willingly offers His life as a sacrifice for our sin. Secondly we learn of the power of the blood of Jesus 9:22. Theblood of Jesus refers to His life - see Leviticus 17:11. Jesus’ blood means that Jesus has given His life and takes the punishment we deserve so we could be forgiven. Jesus’ blood shed is consistent with the OT teaching that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin 9:22. Thirdly we learn that Jesus’ death is once for all 9:28. In the OT the High Priest had to repeat the sacrifices each year because these sacrifices were not an end in themselves but pointed to the need of a perfect sacrifice that Jesus would bring. The sacrifice of Jesus is powerful and effective because He sat down at the right hand side of God Hebrews 12:2. This is a very important truth because we are reminded that nothing can be added to the death of Jesus. Indeed at the cross Jesus called out It is finished John 19:30 meaning that He had completed the work of salvation. God encourages us to rest in what He has done not what we do. The death of Jesus means that you are justified before God. The reformers also taught that there is something else wonderful which the Lord does. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are joined to Christ through faith in His death. The Holy Spirit applies the work of the Cross to our lives and so we experience Jesus as the lover of our soul. This work of Christ leads to an intimate relationship and rejoicing in God’s goodness and kindness. 

God’s Blessing 
Rev David O'Mara 

 

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God’s kindness all the way

Dear Friends,
We continue our series on the reformation and this week we are looking at the topic of grace alone. Our morning passage is Ephesians 2:1-10. Paul has just prayed a prayer in Ephesians 1:15-22 that the Christians would know God better. Paul recognises that this spiritual insight only comes through the work of the Spirit and the power of the Gospel.Growing in your faith and understanding of God involves God’s power as He brings new life. In 2:1-3 Paul reminds us that before Christ came into our lives we were spiritually dead and disobedient. Recognising our hopeless situation that we can’t save ourselves Paul brings a message of hope that what we can’t do God has done in Christ. The whole reason that Jesus saves us is not based on anything we do or any merit in our lives. It is totally a work of God which is based on His love and an expression of His grace. The word grace is about God’s love and help towards us even though we don’t deserve it. Unless we understand how incredibly lost and dead we are without Christ we won’t appreciate the depth of God’s great love in Christ. In 2:8-10 Paul teaches us that whilst Christ has done everything necessary for salvation it needs to be received personally by faith. Notice that the whole basis for doing good works is a response to the grace and salvation we have already received. This is very important because many people are trapped in a belief that to get close to God they must do good works. This passage shows us that we can’t do good works without God’s grace received by faith. The great hope is that God saves us and gives us good works to do. God has a purpose for your life. The key purpose is to know Him and then this leads to serving Him within the church and within the world ! Our evening passage is Luke 18:9-14. It is the famous parable of the tax collector and the pharisee. It is also a story about God’s grace. The Pharisee seeks to justify himself by saying how he is better than other people whereas the tax collector knows that he has failed God and calls out to God for mercy. Humbling yourself and knowing you deserve nothing from God is a beautiful place to be. Jesus says that it was the tax collector who went home justified before God. He was justified , meaning that he was accepted and acquitted of judgement by God because he humbled himself and depended on God’s mercy alone. That is grace alone ! John Calvin, 16th C reformer says that faith brings a person empty to God. Depending on God’s grace alone builds confidence and security because you look to what Jesus has done not what you do yourself. 

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Turned on

Dear Friends,
Today we welcome James and Brittany Daymond who are serving with BCA in Narromine. They are our link missionaries and we thank the Lord for the opportunity to meet them and hear what the Lord is doing. Paul is greatly encouraged that the Gospel of Jesus was powerfully received by the Thessalonian Christians.One of the signs that the message of Jesus has been truly received is that it comes with deep conviction v5. Another sign of authenticity in true believers is that they don’tgive up when persecution and opposition for the faith comes v6. They also have strength from the Holy Spirit to keep going to serve the Lord Jesus. Further in v2-3 the power to serve God comes through ongoing faith in Jesus and his word. The motivation for serving God is love. A Christian is not driven by guilt but knows that through Christ’s death for their sins they are deeply loved and accepted. This leads to endurance meaning that a genuine Christian doesn’t give up because they have the hope of eternal life now and being with Jesus forever and this is what we look forward to. We know that Gospel preaching was a priority for Paul but the truth of God needed 

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5 important letters F.a.i.t.h.

Dear Friends,
During the month of October we will be remembering the 500th anniversary of the Reformation as marked by the event of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg calling for the reformation of the church. Today Ian Cathers will be preaching on faith alone in the morning and in the evening. Separate from the sermon we will share a brief background of 4 great reformers except for Sunday 8 Oct when we will be hosting James and Brittany Daymond from BCA Narromine. The passage this morning is Galatians 3:1-14. Paul is addressing the church who are being tempted to move away from trusting Christ alone for salvation. Paul reminds them that they received the Holy Spirit by trusting in Christ rather than observing the law. In other words the Spirit is a gift received by faith.The problem is that the Christians think that their status before God is based on their works. In 3:6 he reminds them of Abraham who was credited as righteous before God because of faith. Salvation in the Old Testament was by faith and so it still is with Christ. Paul reinforces this and says that we are not declared right before God by observing the law but the key is faith. Faith is not some mystical quality but explains what we trust in. For example we can either have faith in Jesus to save us or in ourselves. Our faith is explained by what we put our trust in.The letter of Galatians was very much loved by Luther and it was from here as well as Romans that he found the teaching of salvation being a gift received by faith as powerful. When he wrote his theses against church corruption he particularly attacked the practise of indulgences whereby people thought they could be made right with God by paying money to church and not by faith alone. When urged to retract his teachings he said “If, then I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture … and if my judgement is not in this way brought into subjection to God’s Word, I neither can nor will retract anything … I stand here and can say no more.” Strong stuff ! 

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Who has your ears?

Dear Friends,
The title for the morning message is : Faithful living in a falling world. In many countries in the west Christians find themselves in the minority. This is not an opportunity for despair but to seek to be faithful to God despite the majority of people who ignore God and see Him as irrelevant. Rather than being a discouraging time to live in this can be very fruitful because our witness as Christians stands out. The passage is directly addressed to Isaiah (8:11-22) but this message to him is intended for God’s people. God’s first warning is to guard against following the way of other people. Christians are to be countercultural and to not fear what other people fear. We can do this because as we have already learnt in 6:1 our God is truly on the throne. There are many things which generate fear in people today. People are afraid of the future and they are afraid of wars and even of their lifestyles deteriorating. We begin to fear what other people fear when they become our reference point and our focus moves away from the Lord. Isaiah is reminded in v13 that God is the holy one and it is he who should consume our attention and receive our best energy and effort. We are encouraged that for those who trust the Lord. He is a sanctuary and that people will find strength and peace v14. But for those who either actively reject the Lord or passively ignore Him He is a stumbling stone for people. We know that when people ignore the Lord they don’t have the skills to manage life without Him because He is the way, the truth and the light John 14:6. We stumble when we disconnect from the one who knows what life is all about. In v16-17 we are encouraged to retain and adhere to God’s Word. This is our strength. Following God will require patience and trust because we know that vindication comes at God’s appointed time and for Christians that is when Jesus returns. Isaiah also warns against consulting mediums and spiritists v18-22. Those who consult these alternative powers are seeking a spirituality apart from God and it is likened to being in darkness and gloom. Only the Lord and His Word offer true light for the world John 8:12. In Acts 9:1-18 @ the 5pm service we are greatly encouraged that Saul is converted through the power of Jesus and His Word and the darkness in His eyes is removed and he can see again. Tonight at our 5pm service, Adam Kent is being baptised and spiritually his eyes are opened and he is enjoying the light of Christ.  

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God Knows the Future

Dear Friends,
The passage from Isaiah 7:1-25 & 8:1-8 contains one of the most important prophecies in the Old Testament. Matthew (1:23) quotes this prophecy from v14 written about 750 BC approx. which confirms that Jesus is the promised child who would be born to a virgin and is Immanuel, God with us ! This is what we call predictive prophecy which tells the future. Within the Bible there is also prophecy which speaks to the current situation of God’s people and gives them guidance about how to cope with the present and live godly lives. God sends Isaiah to King Ahaz to encourage him to be careful and to not fear and to be calm and encouraged. Ahaz fears the might of Israel and Aram which are planning to attack Judah. Isaiah says that these threats will not materialise and Judah will be safe.  

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Christian Character Grows from Faith in Jesus

Dear Friends,

Simeon and Anna are 2 of the most beautiful people in the Bible. They have aged well as they continue to seek the Lord and His purposes in the world. Simeon is described as righteous and devout. He is righteous which means that he is well behaved towards people. True Christian faith affects the way you treat other people. But notice how this “righteous” aspect of His character is linked to his other quality - devout. To be devout is to be careful about religious duties and service to God. Simeon is not casual or lazy or neglectful of his need to seek the Lord and honour the Lord. We know that Romans 1:5 says that obedience flows from faith. Christian character grows from faith in Jesus and this faith in Jesus accesses God’s power. He is looking for the consolation of Israel  

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A Good Place to Start

Dear Friends,

We are at the beginning of a New Year. The book of Proverbs is a good place to seek the Lord for this New Year because one of the central commands and accompanying promises is to seek the Lord’s will for the way ahead confident that God will bless us. In the odd verses we see the ethical promises required by God. We must always remember that within the whole flow of the Bible that God first of all provides the promises and grace which are the springboard to obedience.  

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The Heart of Sin

Dear Friends,

At Christmas we remember the coming of the prince of peace and then wonder why the world seems such a dark place where there is war between nations and even “war” within families. We see carnage in Syria, Berlin and even in Australia where domestic violence is destroying families. The reality is that when Jesus came the first Christmas he came to deal with the heart of sin. If He had come the first time to wipe out all sin and darkness the reality is that all of us would have been wiped out because we all have sin in our hearts. The centre and cause of the darkness in this world is the sin in our hearts which leads humans to ignore God and hate and attack one another. However, Christmas also reminds us that God loves us deeply and is at work to deal with this darkness of sin. Jesus willingly accepted the vulnerability and weakness of living in this dark world as a baby and growing up experiencing hate and rejection. His willingness to embrace weakness and vulnerability was directed to dealing with the heart of sin. He came to earth so He could die on the Cross for our sinful and disobedient hearts. He suffered and was punished instead of us so our sins could be forgiven and we could have peace with God ! 

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God Provides Support

Dear Friends,

Imagine if you were told by an angel that you were going to carry the Saviour of the world in your womb. Who would you tell ? This type of news would be very isolating because it would be hard for people to believe it from a human perspective. But of course we know that nothing is impossible for God - Luke 1:37. God created the whole world and holds it together so it is not beyond Him to cause new life to grow in a woman’s womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. After Mary receives the news about becoming pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit she goes off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who has become pregnant through God’s power also - see 1:36. She goes to see Elizabeth because the angel has also informed her that Elizabeth has also had the seemingly impossible happen to her - becoming pregnant at an old age. God’s plan is operating on many levels. God provides support for Mary in the person of Elizabeth who understands that what has happened to Mary is true. This is God’s gracious provision.  

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