So, here we are, at the start of another New Year.
What will this year bring for you? For the world? One thing is certain, the world is increasingly becoming unstable, however you look at it.
Whether it be the climate, the economic situation, the rise and spread of killer diseases or the wars and rumors of wars, we are closer to the LORD’s return than we were a year ago! – and it my well be this year that the LORD fulfills the promise of John 14:2-3 “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”.
In John’s second Epistle he says: “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward”. 2 John 8
This tells us that over the past year (and before that), there are things – rewards – that we have been working for (whether we realised it or not); and that the way we live in this coming year (and beyond if the LORD tarries) could have a detrimental impact on the treasure we have laid up in heaven (Matthew 6:20). This, as much as any, is good reason to ‘keep on keeping on’, walking by faith and not by sight, so that we may one day soon hear “well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your LORD!” (Matthew 25:23).
So what lessons did we learn in 2015? What things should we be holding on to, to ensure our reward is not diminished?
Well, we started last year focusing on the promises of God, and in this turbulent world more than ever we need to hold on tightly to these promises – which in Christ are all ‘yes and amen’ (2 Cor 1:20). You must hold on to God’s promises for yourself, your family and the fellowship in which God has placed you. (Our mini-series on the Promises of God is available for download on this web-site: https://www.calvaryportsmouth.co.uk/sermon-series/the-promises-of-god/)
The other lesson we started 2015 with was on the great subject of Love. We broke this down into 3 studies on God’s love for us, Our love for God and Our love for each other. PowerPoint notes and audio available for download: https://www.calvaryportsmouth.co.uk/sermon-series/a-more-excellent-way/
12 months later and we ended up back where we started, learning that Love is the fulfillment of the Law (Gal 5:14/Gal 6:2), and as we learnt in our mid-week Bible studies through 1st John, our love for God is maintained through our fellowship with each other, and our fellowship with each other is only possible through the love that comes from a relationship with God.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God”. 1 John 4:7
“We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Our Journey through First and Second Kings highlighted the weakness of the flesh – we saw failure after failure from kings who were often well intentioned at the outset, yet who did not lean on the promises of God and ‘trust in the the Lord with their whole heart’ (Prov 3:5-6), but instead trusted in their own wisdom, and thus is revealed the depth human nature can sink to apart from the Grace of God. Oh and what a lesson we have learned about Grace! (review our studies through Galatians for more on that). Of course, the wonderful lesson we learn from Paul in Galatians is that we are no longer under the Law; we are now free from that bondage, but as Paul warns, we are not to use our liberty as a licence for the flesh. But it is only a deep over-riding love for God that will cause us to want to choose to ‘walk in the Spirit’ and crucify the desires of the flesh.
So, going forward, we must jealously guard our relationships with each other, and let nothing come between us. That is what we have been working for throughout the past year, and we do not want to give one inch. We want to collectively receive our reward. It is not about just making sure we ourselves (as individuals) are alright, but about making sure when we enter in through the gates of splendour, we do so hand in hand with the brothers and sisters that LORD has allowed us to grow together with, that our ‘Crown of rejoicing’ will be looking around and seeing one another in the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming! (1 Thes 2:19).
The two passages focused on in this study are 1 Corinthians 10: 1-14 and 1 Thessalonians 4: 15- 5:9.
1 Corinthians 10 is written to those ‘upon whom the ends of the world have come’, and gives us a number of warnings of deceptions that are as powerful today as they were in the days of Israel’s wanderings. In looking back we can learn how to walk forward.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-5:9 reminds us to be ready and watchful. We have a great hope in the midst of the darkness of this world, that when we begin to see ‘these things’ come to pass, we are to lift up our heads for our redemption draws near! In this study we look at 4 key reasons the Rapture has to occur and is an integral part of God’s plan.
May you be blessed and encouraged by this message as you press toward the goal of the upward call of God!
(the audio and PowerPoint slides in PDF format are available for download)