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9. Church Begins – Final Journey Commences


9. Church Begins

Final Journey Commences

Acts 27:1-38

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Acts 26v19-32 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple, and tried to kill me. Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would happen, how the Christ must suffer, and how, by the resurrection of the dead, he would be first to proclaim light both to these people and to the Gentiles.” As he thus made his defence, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are crazy! Your great learning is driving you insane!” But he said, “I am not crazy, most excellent Festus, but boldly declare words of truth and reasonableness. For the king knows of these things, to whom also I speak freely. For I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa said to Paul, “With a little persuasion are you trying to make me a Christian?” Paul said, “I pray to God, that whether with little or with much, not only you, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these bonds.” The king rose up with the governor, and Bernice, and those who sat with them. When they had withdrawn, they spoke one to another, saying, “This man does nothing worthy of death or of bonds.” Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has spread throughout the Roman Empire, and Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea. The Jewish leaders wanted Paul tried and executed, and Festus was willing to go along with that idea. However, Paul, ever guided by the Holy Spirit, appealed directly to Caesar! Paul was a Roman citizen and any Roman citizen had that right! So after what we call the three missionary journeys, Paul is now on a final journey – to Rome! We jump forward now to Acts 27 to look at this final journey.

Final Journey Begins

Luke records the course of the voyage in detail, and we can feel just how people travelled back in that time. The prisoners were probably put on the boat at Caesarea. They sailed up the coast of Sidon, to the east and north of Cyprus. At Sidon the centurion in charge of Paul, “in kindness…”, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs’ (27v3). Now as far as we know, Paul had never visited Sidon although perhaps he had met Sidonese people on his travels. This was to be the last time he would have had the fellowship and family worship of a Christian home and a wider company of believers. Strengthened and encouraged by this group of Christians, Paul was ready for any trouble that lay ahead for him.

After two weeks sailing, they landed at Myra, in what is now southern Turkey. They then changed ships, for one heading towards Italy, and their next stop was Crete. The time of year was now late October, and the weather was quickly getting worse (27v10). The captain and owner of the ship thought that it was wise to seek a new place in which to stay for the winter. Paul foresaw the disaster, and said so. Paul, it must be said, did believe that God was ruler of the winds and waves and would get him to Rome come what may. He was simply stating that it was better to be safe rather than sorry, to arrive in Italy safely in spring rather than not arriving at all. Paul’s advice set the scene for the events that happen later on in the voyage in which God once again confirmed Paul’s discernment and calling by miracles and mighty works, even if it had no immediate effect on those responsible for the decision to sail on regardless.

The sailors were not fools however. They waited until the weather improved before starting to sail from Crete (27v13). Their optimism was soon blown away by a strong wind, which started to blow them towards Africa. Day after day after day, for two weeks they ran with the wind, hoping that the wind would stop, and at the same time seemingly waiting for the ship to sink. The sailors were probably starting to reflect on their life and commitments, or the lack of commitments. During this time, Paul intervened to encourage their disheartened spirits.


  • A call for faith (27v21-26) – By this time, everybody on board must have been aware that Paul was right in his warning not to sail on. He said they should keep their courage, because no-one would lose their life, even if the ship was damaged beyond repair. But why should they believe this? Because God had sent an angel to assure Paul that he would arrive in Rome, to stand trial before Caesar. Paul had faith in God that it would happen just as he had promised. They should take courage. All people, whether Christian or not, are in the same boat of life. All people share a common life of ups and downs. Godless sailors lived because of godly Paul. Yet it is up to us as Christians to share a message of hope to all those who do not believe. These sailors, even though they were blessed by God to survive this disaster, may not survive the next voyage of disaster, and then they would end up in hell. Regardless of their blessings, they stayed lost if they didn’t come to Christ in faith. For Paul, however, to live was Christ and to die was gain (Philippians 1 :21). Whatever trials we face as believers, we must hold fast to the glory of Jesus. The real issue, Paul tells his shipmates, is not whether we live or die, but what will you do with Jesus? Paul spoke of God’s promises and his faith in God. He invited them to believe in God, just as he did.
  • A call for unity – stay together (27v27-32) – Their crisis came fourteen days out of Crete. They were about to land at Malta, in conditions that were worse than awful. Some sailors were trying to sneak off in the life-boat. Paul, however, insisted that all hands were necessary if any were to be saved, and the centurion prevented them from escaping.
  • A call for effort – The promise of God, always includes the means to fulfil His promise. God doesn’t commend or give His power to the faithful, so that they may be lazy and not plan, when there is a definite reason to be careful. When God makes a promise to us, we must be responsible to receive his promise. God promises to save us, yet it is our responsibility to accept by faith His Son Jesus Christ. Paul always reminded them of God’s promise. He urged them to take food so that they would be strong when the time was needed for strength. He once again reminded them of the promise of God. He also witnessed to them, when eating, by giving thanks to God. Paul was a man of a God and a man of action, a man of the Spirit and common-sense, a man who combined spirituality with sanity, faith with works, a man who was heavenly minded and of earthly use.

Christians, should be the most practical people in the world, because the Lord has given us the real truth about the real world and its real needs. How do you respond to the world? Are you like Paul?

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Sermon – Understanding the Kingdom


Understanding the Kingdom

John 3:1-18

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I wonder what you think the Kingdom of God is. In the Old Testament we learn of all kinds of different earthly kingdoms. Each one of these kingdoms were doomed to fail from the start, because of the promised commencement of a new and everlasting kingdom. Perhaps by having a brief overview of what Jesus in the Gospels said about the Kingdom will help us understand more about it before we focus on just a couple of aspects. From what Jesus said, we learn that:

  • The kingdom had small beginnings.
  • It advances slowly and unspectacularly.
  • It works in an unseen way, like yeast in dough.
  • It grows side by side with evil and error.
  • The members are drawn from every part, for it is a universal part.
  • When discovered, it is the source of true joy and fulfilment.
  • It requires sacrifice, submission and surrender.
  • It ends in an eternal separation of the good from the evil, of the true from the false.
  • It centres only on Jesus Christ (Luke 9:28-36).

So having seen these descriptions, mainly from Matthew 13, we can now go on to a main definition of the kingdom. We find this ultimate definition in Romans 14:17 ‘For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’ This is the experience of salvation. Every believer, all those who trust in Jesus Christ, has entered it and been accepted by Jesus when He died on the cross. So, having described it and then defined it, the next question we ask is how do we enter the Kingdom of God. Well, after such a long introduction, we are going to look at this aspect of the God’s Kingdom based on our reading of John 3:1-18. So, if you haven’t done so already please do have your bibles open at that passage – John 3:1-18.

In the passage tonight, Jesus gives three different aspects of the one entrance into the kingdom. To enter the kingdom, a person simply has to follow Jesus. For some people in Jesus’ time, such as a lot of the Pharisees and other religious Jewish groups, this was much too simple. Then Jesus has an encounter with Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee.

Nicodemus was initially attracted to Jesus because of the miracles He did. Nicodemus wanted to know more about Jesus and His teachings. Nicodemus himself was the teacher of the Jews, and he had great respect for Jesus the Teacher from Galilee. Now, Nicodemus was a Pharisee, who by definition had to live by the strictest religious rules and regulations. Nicodemus was deeply sincere in his search for truth and God. Nicodemus went to see Jesus at night, not presumably because he was afraid to be seen talking to Jesus, but more likely because he wanted to have a quiet word with Jesus away from the crowds. He wanted to have an uninterrupted word with him, where Jesus could not be distracted. He was a man of high moral standard, had a deep religious hunger and yet blind to basic spiritual truths. Do you not think that Nicodemus is or was just like we are and were today? So Jesus proceeds to give Nicodemus three different pictures of salvation.

1. Birth (vs. 1-7).

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

The Lord Jesus began with a word that is familiar with everyone, as birth is a universal concept and experience. Now the word ‘again’ means ‘from above’. So the phrase born again, means to be born from above. Though all humans have experienced a natural birth on earth, if they expect to go to heaven then they must experience a supernatural spiritual birth from God above. So we meet once more the blindness of the religious leaders of Jesus’ time. Nicodemus may indeed have been a representative of the religious leaders. Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was talking about. Jesus, we know, was speaking about a spiritual birth, but Nicodemus thought only about a physical birth. Looking at the church today, however, the situation does not appear any different.. So often “born again”, to a lot of people means a family’s church history, church membership, ceremonies and so on. Or, as my boss and family insist that it means: raving monster loonies.

However, because Jesus was patient, he further explained this new birth. To be ‘born of water’ is to be born physically” to enter a second time into his mother’s womb” but to be born again means to be born of the Spirit. Just as there are normally two parents involved in physical birth, there are two “parents” for spiritual birth: the Spirit of God (John 3:5) and the Word of God (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). The Spirit of God takes the Word of God, and when a person believes for the first time, the Word gives the life of God.

It should be noted here that Jesus is not saying that new birth comes from water baptism. In the New Testament, baptism is connected with death, not birth; and no amount of physical water makes a spiritual change in a person. Jesus’ emphasis here is on believing, because salvation comes through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The evidence of salvation is the witness of the Spirit within (Romans. 8:9), and the Spirit entered our life when we first believed (Acts 10:43-48; Ephesians 1:13-14). Now, water baptism is a vital part of our Christian life and obedience to Jesus and witness for Him, but it is not necessary for salvation. The one way of salvation and entrance into the kingdom of God, is through faith in Jesus the Son of God, with the outward evidence involving baptism.

This birth, like all births, has at least four aspects to it: pain, nature, a life and a future.

a. Pain – Human birth involves pain, both for the parents and for the baby. So does spiritual birth. At Easter we are reminded this of the pain Jesus endured on the cross so that we might become members of the Kingdom of God. Believers in their Christian life should endure the pain of persecution, suffering, and prayer and witness as we seek to win new people to Christ.

b. Nature – Children inherit the nature of the parents, and so do the people in the Kingdom of God. We take on the divine nature (2 Peter 1 :4). As believers we should naturally have an appetite for the things of God (2 Peter 2:2-3). As believers we should have no desire to go away from the Kingdom of God (2 Peter 2:20-22). As believers we are to feed on the Word of God and grow in spiritual maturity (Hebrews 5: 11-14).

c. Life – Human birth, involves life and spiritual birth into God’s kingdom involves the life of God. John uses the word ‘life’ about 36 times in his gospel. The opposite of life is death, and anybody not in the Kingdom of God, do not and cannot have God’s eternal life in His kingdom.

d. Future – Human birth involves a future, and we are born again to a living hope, both in the present and the future (1 Peter 1:3). Police cannot arrest a newborn baby because it has no past, and the future is in front of that baby. When born again into the Kingdom of God, sins are forgiven and forgotten, and the future is bright with a living hope in the Kingdom of God.

Now at this, Nicodemus must surely have had a surprised look of incredulity on his face, because Jesus says ‘You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.'” Nicodemus was a Jew, a part of God’s covenant people. His life was an example to all, as a faithful Pharisee. He obviously could not comprehend the thought that a Jew had to be born again from heaven – nothing could be so simple! His natural thinking would immediately have thought maybe a dirty Gentile dog may need to be born again, but never a faithful Jew. No wonder he was surprised!

2. The wind (vs. 8-13).

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-the Son of Man.

It is possible that the evening wind was blowing just then as Nicodemus and Jesus sat the housetop talking. The ‘wind’ in the Bible, signifies the Spirit. When Jesus used this symbol, Nicodemus should have remembered Ezekiel 37:1-14. The prophet Ezekiel saw a valley full of dead bones; but when he prophesied to the wind, the Spirit came and gave the bones’ life. Again, it was the combination of the Spirit of God and the Word of God that gave life. The nation of Israel was dead and hopeless, and in spite of the morality and religion of the people, they needed the life of the Spirit. The new birth from above is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God, but it is also a mystery. Everyone born of the Spirit is like the wind: it is impossible to explain or predict the ways of the wind or the Spirit of God.

Nicodemus came “by night’ and he was still in the dark! He simply could not understand the concept of new birth even after Jesus had explained it to him. Jesus insisted that Nicodemus’ Old Testament knowledge should have given him the light he required (John 3:10). Yet, he still could not see how to enter the Kingdom of God. What was his problem? Religious leaders would not submit to Jesus’ authority and witness (John 3: 11). The religious leaders continued to believe Moses, yet would not believe Jesus (John 5:35-47). “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

3. The snake on the pole (vs. 14-18).

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

This story from Numbers was certainly familiar to Nicodemus. It is a story of sin, for Israel rebelled against God and had to be punished. God sent fiery snakes that bit the people, so that many died. Yet it is also a story of grace, for Moses intercede for the people and God provided a remedy. He told Moses to make a brass snake and lift it up on a pole for all to see. Any sick and dying person could look to the brass snake on the pole and be immediately healed. So, it is also a story of faith, punishment, salvation and faith. The phrase lifted up means to be crucified (John 8:28; 12:13-24) and also be glorified and exalted. John points out that our Lord’s crucifixion was actually the means for Him to be glorified (John 12:23). However the cross was not the end of His glory, it was the way He achieved His glory (Acts 2:33).

Much as the snake on the pole had to be lifted up, so the Son of God, Jesus had to be lifted on the cross. This happened to save all people from sin and death. In the camp of Israel, the solution to the “snake problem” was not in killing the snakes, or taking medicine against the poison, or pretending the snakes were not there, or passing anti-snake laws or by climbing the pole. The answer was to look in faith at the lifted snake. Now, the whole world has been bitten by sin (Romans 6:23). God sent His son to die, not only for Israel, but also for the whole world. The Kingdom of God is not just for Israel, or England or even the United States of America. How does a person enter the Kingdom of God? By being born again from above, which means believing on Jesus and looking to Him in faith.

Each of us that are believers have therefore entered into the Kingdom of God and are spiritually living. The difference between living spiritually and being dead spiritually is faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus could well have come to this world as a Judge and destroyed every rebellious sinner; but He came in love. Jesus came into the world as our Saviour, to guide us into the Kingdom of God, and He died on the cross, Jesus became the “uplifted snake”. The brass snake in Moses’ day brought physical life to dying Jews; but Jesus gives eternal life to all who asks and trusts in Him. He brings the Kingdom of God for a whole world, Nicodemus eventually entered the Kingdom of God, when he spoke up for Jesus in John 7 and came into a “sunlight of confession” when he identified with Jesus at Calvary bringing the spice to prepare the body for burial (John 19:38-42). He realized that the uplifted Jesus on the cross, was the path into the world-wide Kingdom of God

Therefore lets go over tonight’s lessons from the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus. The definition of the kingdom of God is exposed from Romans 14:17 which we also see as the experience of salvation. “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The path into the kingdom of God, was defined in the 3 distinct pictures Jesus told to Nicodemus. Firstly in the picture of new birth from above, secondly in the picture of the blowing wind or spirit and thirdly in the Old Testament picture of the snake on the pole.

As we finish, what are we to say. For those of us who are in the kingdom of God: are you growing in your faith and immersing more of yourself into the Kingdom of God. Is your story or testimony of what Jesus is doing in your life up to date, or are you living on past memories, last Easters’ prayers and past Sundays’ sermons. The testimony of how we are living in the Kingdom of God is vital for our witness in the Kingdom of God. Jesus commanded us to go and tell, so go and tell the wondrous news of an eternal kingdom – one which will never end! God has promised and He always fulfils His promises.

Now finally, what stops people from entering into the Kingdom of God? People want to continue to do things against God, and this keeps them from coming out of darkness into the light of the Kingdom of God. This is because the closer someone who loves darkness gets closer to light, the more their evil ways are exposed to the light of God. It is not any intellectual problems that keep people out of the Kingdom. It is a moral and spiritual problem. It would involve a change of lifestyle, of being ‘born again’ as it was.

What is your reason, for not being yet a believer and follower of Jesus Christ? If for some reason, you are not part of God’s kingdom yet, then your opportunity is here. You may not get another chance. You might just walk on out of here tonight, not having entered into the eternal Kingdom of God, and die. It really could be that shocking and happen. Take your opportunity now. Please do come and see one of the leaders about how you can enter the Kingdom of God this very night!

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WISE – Giving



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Every person has in differing quantities time, possessions and money. These things in and of themselves are not evil. The whole Christian community is one that is to reflect the Holy Trinity. The Church is to be a community where the strongest members support the weakest members. This applies not only to the local church, but also to the universal Church and therefore has a national and international context as well. Too often, even as Christian Disciples we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the bare necessities of life are in sparse existence. Too often we gather possessions and people, instead of giving up our time and money generously to help the poor and needy of both our world and local communities.

Perhaps the greatest indicator of spiritual growth in the Christian Disciple concerns their financial giving. Paul writing to the Corinthians commands that giving be done whole-heartedly and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9v7). For the Christian Disciple, it is not so much how much is given, but how much is left after giving. God looks beyond the amount that is given to the motive behind the giving. All our money and possessions belong to God anyway, so giving is to be in response to this. Giving is to be done out of love for God. Paul offers in 1 Corinthians 16v2 a three-point system for giving: regularly, methodically and proportionately.

Failure to give back to God’s work what He has given the Christian Disciple in the first place, robs God (Malachi 3v8). The reason it robs is because the giving cannot be used to support those who are working for God. As a result of giving, the Christian Disciple will be blessed (Malachi 3v10) and have their needs satisfied (Philippians 4v19).

Remember in the Old Testament, Widows were important to God, because justice is important to God. God is a God of justice and mercy. In the Old Testament, under the Law of Moses, God commanded provision for those who were widows, oppressed or uncared for. The Apostles would have known about God caring for the widows and in Jesus teaching about justice for the poor and the oppressed. We know this because if you remember from Acts 2 and 4, people were selling and sharing possessions and ensuring that people within the Christian community were being looked after and cared for. This included making sure that everyone got fed, particularly those who had no family to care for them. And its not just for those in the church – but all in the community where you live.

The New Testament church made sure that giving was done and that the poor, the oppressed, the lonely and the widows were taken care of. People working fulltime for the Lord were given recompense by others for their efforts. People gave. How is your giving? How does your church give and care for those in need, in your community? The get out clause as it were these days, is that it would not be good stewardship to give to that person or that cause. After all, they say, “Didnt Jesus say in Matthew 7v6 ;Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you'”. Of course when they say that they are totally missing both the point and context of what Jesus actually meant.
God gave everything so that you and I may life and life in abundance. So by giving, you are reflecting that. This Christmas, give generously, just as God gave and gives generously, and gave His Son as a ransom for sin.

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ADD – Home Life


Christian Disciple and Home Life!

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Paul writing in Titus 2vv11-13 “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.”


“The road to a friend’s house is never too long.”

Photo courtesy of Jan





I wonder what you are like on a Sunday at church. I know some Christians who like to be all holy and proper on a Sunday at church, but can’t wait to get home and start living again! Have you ever wondered just why you have to live a holy life at home, work or play 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week as a Christian disciple? Well Paul writing here, explains that doctrine is learning and duty is living. We are to learn it in the Church then put it into practise at home. Why do we do this? We do this in order that the wondrous message of Jesus Grace can be dispersed.



So what does Paul expect of the different groups of people that he lists in the verses before those I read out at the beginning?



Firstly he speaks to the older men (Titus 2:2). They are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, faithful, loving and persistent. All this without drinking too much wine!!

Then for the older women, (Titus 2:3) they are to live a holy life, teaching what is good. They aren’t to speak badly of others and they are not to indulge in gossip. They also are not to drink too much wine. They are to do this so that they can be good examples and teach the younger women how to behave appropriately.



Ah the younger women! They are commanded to listen to the older women (Titus 2:4-5). They also must love their family, be self-controlled and pure. They are to be hospitable at home treating others with kindness & goodness. Why? So the Word of God is not maligned or harmed.

Younger men however are to be self-controlled and follow Titus’ example (Titus 2:6). And just what is the example to be set by Titus?? Well he is to be an example by doing good works, in a serious manner with integrity. He is to be courageous and with good speech. He is commanded to rebuke others with Paul’s authority. Why do these things? So that nobody has the chance to despise him. (Titus 2:1,7-8, 15)



Finally, slaves are to obey their master and return any items that they may have stolen! (Titus 2:9-10) Why do this? So as to make the Gospel more attractive to those outside of Christianity and to be seen as being deemed worthy of being trusted.



However the overall reason to live a holy life is because it is only due to the grace of Jesus as Saviour, that we live at all! So if He is the only reason we are living at all, then as Christian disciples, we need to live a life that is worthy of Him! In the passage I read out at the beginning, there are 3 reasons as to what Jesus grace does for us, especially those who have chosen to be His followers.


Photo Courtesy of Petra


Firstly, Jesus’ Grace redeems us and is available to all!! We are all slaves to sin and unable to set ourselves free (Titus 3:3). Jesus Christ gave himself as the price for all the things we have done wrong – past, present and future sins. By His death on the cross, He met the just demands of God’s holy law, so that God in His grace could forgive and free all those who believe in Him as Saviour.

Secondly, His Grace reforms us. Not only is our status before God changed to that of being His child, but He reforms our lives in order to make the Christian disciple more godly! When Paul talks about temperance, self-control, prudence and restraint, this is to accentuate the Christian disciple’s relationship with their own self, whilst dealing with people in a wise and godly manner. In so doing, God purifies us and makes us His very own possession (2:15b).

Then lastly, Jesus’ Grace rewards us as we are looking for Jesus Christ to return! This is our hope, so we are to live lives worthy of the gospel of Jesus’ Grace.


For more to think about, please do read for yourself Titus 2:1-15 and ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1 – What areas of my life do I need to be changed, in order that I can live a life worthy of Jesus’ Grace that is full of wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God?

Q2 – In what ways has God purified me and made me, His child and possession?

Q3 – List the things you are thankful to Jesus for due to His grace and mercy and give Him thanks for His grace.

Thank you.

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Jesus Comes to Town


When Jesus Comes To Town!

Sermon based on Revelation 21 & 22

(Recorded at Bishopsdown Church, Salisbury)

Revelation 21v4 – “God will wipe away our tears. There will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying and no more pain, for former things have passed away.

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Today I want to do two things on our subject of heaven as given to us in Revelation 21. Firstly I want to give a big picture view of this chapter, which gives just a snapshot of heaven – the place where God radiates His glory and Jesus is the city light, the streets are made of purest gold and where we shall serve and honour Jesus in all His glory. Then secondly, I have picked out just 3 brief vignettes for this morning, as we contemplate together our eternal home.

The book of Revelation is the book where the bride of Jesus are consummated in marriage to Him. It is where, we the church, the bride of Christ are finally joined with Jesus as One. In Revelation, God’s programme of redemption, starting all the way back in Genesis, comes to fruition and God’s holy and majestic name is vindicated before all creation. Here Jesus is seen in all His glory, to judge the earth and to rule it with righteousness.

The writer is the Apostle John, now approaching 100 years of age and almost blind. John was in exile on Patmos, put there by the Romans due to his effective witness for Christ. Patmos was where the Romans banished criminals and political offenders. There was open persecution of Christians at the time. This is the same John, who was the apostle Jesus loved. John saw Jesus walk on the water. He seen and heard Jesus command a storm to cease! He saw Jesus both weeping. He saw Jesus in righteous anger clearing the Temple courts. He seen Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead. He himself had been there with Jesus when Jesus had cast out demons. He had been there when Jesus miraculously fed the 5000 with 2 loaves and 5 fish. He had his feet washed by Jesus. He saw Jesus transfigured. He saw Jesus torn and bloody on the cross as Jesus died. Three days later he ran to survey the empty tomb. He saw Christ risen again and ascend into heaven. And in verse 14, John reads his name written on the foundations of heaven. As John was taken up in the Spirit (v.10) to view this majestic image, I wonder if John looked back and remembered the sufferings he had endured for the sake of Christ. His torment at the hands of his persecutors for the sake of Christ. I wonder if he thought to himself, “it was all worth it and no matter what I endured for the sake of the gospel and for the glory of my Lord and Master.”

What is the purpose of heaven – for the eternal worship and glorification of God. We shall serve Him (22:3). Its inhabitants are saved (v3); satisfied (v6); and overcomers (v7).

Panoramic vista

(v.6-7) God’s people possess it!! They are thirsty for Jesus, and drinking from the fountain of the water of life. God’s people have overcome! Overcoming doubts, trials and persecution because of their reliance upon Jesus. God’s people inherit it. God will be their God and they will be His people. An echo back to the time when God called the nation of Israel to Himself. It is composed of people from all nations (v.24),p echoing again that promise God made to Abraham all those years ago about Abraham being a blessing to ALL nations. It is a secure and promised place (v.5-6) God has said it, it will be done!! Also nobody can enter if they don’t trust and obey Jesus. If somebody’s name isn’t written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, they wont be entering (v.27). Will your name be in there?

You may have noticed the frequent use of the number 12 by John. 12 is the symbol of the church – both in the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, hence its unifying, continuing significance here. The number 12 is God’s choice to show completeness and perfection. This can be seen in the 12 gates mentioned in our passage – 12 gates is enough for all!! And for us, this leads and gives us confidence in a God who longs for all to live with Him eternally.

  • (v.12) 12 gates and 12 angels with the 12 tribes of Israel written on them.
  • (v.16) A perfect cube – 12000 furlongs high, wide and deep. That is about the same distance as Edinburgh to Rome. It is symbolic of the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem temple, where the priest could only enter once a year. This whole city is a temple, where we encounter God face to face, not just one day a year, but all the time!
  • (v.17) each wall is 144 cubits. Twelve square is 144.
  • (v.19-20) 12 stones symbolises the 12 stones around the high priests breastplate to signify the 12 tribes of Israel.
  • (v.22-24) God’s glory radiates through the city!! His glory, radiating in purity, to make it a sacred place so that God is accessible to all. Jesus The Lamb is the light of the city. There is no sun or moon.

1. Prepared place

Jesus said (John 14:1-4)

One of the most beautiful buildings in the world is the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. It was built by a Muslim emperor in memory of his wife, of whom he had only known 19 years. It took 20,000 workers a day and 21 years to complete. In Britain today, it would cost about 2,200,000,000 pounds and made of the purest marble sitting on a red sandstone base and adorned with precious jewels. Now if a pagan Indian prince can make this beautiful building for somebody he had known for only 19 years, how much more beautiful than that, is our new home going to be. Jesus has been working on it almost 2000 years to this point in time!! Heaven is a beautiful place, prepared for you and me, to live forever and ever!

At the moment, I live in Christchurch and my wife temporary lives in our London flat. But when I get home to London, I know I am expected and loved. She has my favourite meal prepared. The heater on. Everything I like, that makes it a home is done for me, by her! The first week I was showered with balloons and all manner of things, because I was expected and she loves me!!

When we got married ten years ago, we had a wedding here in England and 3 days later she flew to her home country to prepare for our wedding there, which was to be 6 weeks later. I had no idea what was going to happen when I flew there for the wedding. But, when I landed there, every detail was prepared and ready.

Similarly, when we go home, Jesus has prepared a place for those of us who love Him, trust Him and obey Him. Jesus is waiting for us! He is expecting us, wanting to lavish His love upon us. We know He loves us now, but that is only in part. When we are with Him eternally, we shall have the full picture of Jesus. He is with us now in Spirit, but then we shall be with Him physically. Heaven is a prepared place of extraordinary beauty. John tries to portray it for us, building up layer upon layer of words, just as painters paint a picture. Laying on the colour, as they paint until finally the painting is finished.

2. Purity (v.4)

We all suffer in some way. For myself in the recent past, I have suffered with a brain haemorrhage. I went to bed on a Saturday evening and woke up in intensive care on a Tuesday afternoon. I have lost three days, I will never regain. I continue to take medication for blood pressure and hypothyroidism in the morning and in the evening I take anti-convulsants. With the medication, come all manner of side effects. I find it difficult doing certain activities. In childhood, I had to overcome the suffering of childhood asthma that almost took my life several times. Sometimes my entire body aches and groans in protest at my actions. We suffer, don’t we. My father suffered for years under a misdiagnosis when the doctors originally thought he had emphysema, before they found out too late that it was actually a hiatus hernia, where the stomach acid comes back up and enters the lungs and burns them internally. My mother suffers with arthritis and hyperthyroidism. We suffer don’t we? One day soon, we will have perfect bodies and full health. We only have to look at the news on TV or read the papers to see global suffering. There will be no more terrorism, missiles, guns, wars or bombs. No more will man’s inhumanity to man be allowed. No more torture, rapes, muggings or robberies. No more poverty or famine. No more religion, idols or icons. No more gossip, fornication, adultery, lying or debauchery. No more cowardice. No more pain. No more death. No more suffering. No more sin.

Suffering of any kind leaves some sort of scar or mark. Do you have scars? Physical, emotional or mental scars due to sickness, somebody else sinning against you or as a result of your own sins? Scars come as a result of human life. Much like a house that has been lived in. Scratches in the paintwork. Dents and knocks in the wood. Our human bodies are the same, yet… Yet, one day they will be gone!! Vanished!! A pure body you will have!! And I will have! No need for annoying spectacles. There will be no Specsavers or Stannah stair-lifts in heaven!! No more wheelchairs. No more walking sticks or frames. No more hearing-aids. No more braces. No more doctors or dentists!! Perfection attained and it is to the glory of God and His majestic doing, that this will occur. Do you believe it? Do you live it?

Are you suffering today from sickness? Are you suffering today because of somebody else?? Well one day, one glorious day, all suffering will be banished for those of us who love Him. Read with me verse 4, “God will wipe away our tears. There will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying and no more pain, for former things have passed away.” Take that verse to heart. What a glorious day it will be for those of us who love Him now. God Himself, wiping away our tears… It will be a place where we will live the fruit of the spirit for eternity. A place where “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are permanent and universal.” (Gal.5:22-23). What a day, that will be!! We will enter those gates, thanking Jesus, looking back at how we suffered. Not only medically, but also for His sake and saying with John “It was worth it all. The sufferings I endured and overcame for the sake of Jesus, was all worth it, so as to be here eternally.”

3. Pearly gates (v.21)

Heaven is prepared and pure. Do you know how a pearl is formed? When an oyster gets an irritating grain of sand within its shell, it covers it over with layers of mother-of-pearl until the irritation and the suffering is no longer felt. Now what could the suffering have been with these giant pearls that are the gates (v21)? I think they are to remind us of the cross and the suffering and pain that Jesus endured. People denigrate the cross. I have had people say that “the cross doesn’t matter and your religion is as good as my religion thank you very much. Because all religions lead to heaven, don’t they?”. However the very gates of heaven tells us that is wrong. It tells us that it is only through the cross, that we get to pass through the gates to enjoy heaven in worship and service of God. Only through the pain, the agony and the suffering that Jesus endured, culminating in His crying “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?” God Himself has suffered for us, so that we may enjoy His company forever and ever, if we only trust and obey Him now and placed our faith in Him while we are here. We know in part now, but then we will know in full.

This makes the sins that we commit while we are here on earth trying to follow Him, even more serious. Sometimes we take a rather blasé attitude to sin. We excuse it as only a little sin and it doesn’t really matter. Each time we sin as believers, it is as if we are spitting in the very face of Jesus. Our desire should be, to be Jesus and to be like Him. I long to be perfect. When I make a mistake and sin, I cry out in frustration to be perfect now! However, I also know that God is taking off my rough edges to continue making me purer, more like His Son Jesus, each day under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit.

I won’t be entering heaven because I am Australian. Although I consider that a very close second. You won’t even be able to claim your entry into heaven by showing your passport that shows you are a British citizen, let alone a member of the European community. Even more surprising to some across the Atlantic I am sure, is that if you are American, your passport wont even let you in!! No, we can only enter heaven, our new home, through the cross. When we first decided for Jesus and turned over our lives to him, that is when our eternal life with Him commenced.


Be encouraged, heaven is for you if you are trusting and obeying Jesus and have him as Lord of your life! Are you suffering? Suffering will soon be gone. When you sin against God, keep a short account and ask for forgiveness as soon as you recognise that you have sinned and the Holy Spirit has convicted you of it. We long to be with Him for ever and ever. We are to keep one part of our mind on Heaven and the other on the responsible work we have been set to do, here on earth. We are not to be so heavenly minded, that we are of no earthly use. Conversely, we are not to be so earth bound that we are not tied to Jesus in our eternal home. Go tell somebody. Won’t you go tell somebody this week, this message. Heaven is a great big place, and there will be room for everybody in this town, this county, this nation and this world to enter through one of those twelve gates! Go and share this good news with somebody this very week.

What now can we say? Chapter 22. (v.14, 17) – Trust Him! (v.8-9, 15) Live a life worthy of Him! (v.7, 12, 16, 20) Look for his coming! He is coming back for us soon!

I conclude with this quote from CS Lewis’ last book of the Narnia Tales – “The Last Battle” : “But the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story ….which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

To which we unite with John, and say “Come Lord Jesus. Come…” (22:20)

The sermon as a audio MP3 file, you can download by right mouse clicking here.

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