Week Commencing Sunday 8th November 2020

Week Commencing Sunday 8th November 2020

Dear Friends,

The new lock down means that we will not be able to meet on Sunday mornings for the foreseeable future, but the Church is open for private prayer, Wednesday afternoons 2.00-4.00pm. Devotional notes will continue in written form and broadcast on YouTube (type in Angmering Baptist Church in the YouTube App).

 

Call to worship

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. Deuteronomy 7:9

Today is Remembrance Sunday and we remember those who have served and died in war so we can enjoy peace this morning. Our order of service will reflect this theme.

Hymn

 

1 O God, our help in ages past, 
our hope for years to come, 
our shelter from the stormy blast, 
and our eternal home: 

2 Under the shadow of your throne 
your saints have dwelt secure; 
sufficient is your arm alone, 
and our defence is sure. 

3 Before the hills in order stood, 
or earth received her frame, 
from everlasting you are God, 
to endless years the same. 

4 A thousand ages in your sight 
are like an evening gone; 
short as the watch that ends the night 
before the rising sun. 

5 Time, like an ever-rolling stream, 
bears all its sons away; 
they fly forgotten, as a dream 
dies at the op'ning day. 

6 Our God, our help in ages past, 
our hope for years to come:
O be our guard while troubles last, 
and our eternal home.

 

I Watts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKP_XxCBDZY

 

Opening prayer

‘Thank you Lord for your deliverance. We think of how you rescued Israel from their numerous bondages. You freed them from Egyptian slavery and led them to the land of Canaan. You liberated them from Babylonian captivity.

David, the psalmist found you to be a Redeemer, a Rescuer and Saviour.

Lord God we thank you that ultimately you came to rescue the human race in Jesus Christ. He is our Saviour. He mounted a rescue operation to all of us held in the bondage of sin.

Lord we thank you this morning for all those who have served in war and have given up their lives for our freedom. Father, thank you for their courage. Lord we thank you that you have delivered us from a great evil through their endeavours. Lord you are a faithful God. We praise you.’ Amen

Last week we began our study of Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and we will complete our study of that parable today.

Reading. Luke 8:4-15

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

    ‘though seeing, they may not see;
    though hearing, they may not understand.’1

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.  

1 Isaiah 6:9.

 

Hymn

 

There is a Redeemer
Jesus, God's own Son
Precious Lamb of God
Messiah, Holy One

Jesus, my Redeemer
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God
Messiah, O for sinners slain

Thank You, O my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving us Your Spirit
'Til the work on earth is done

When I stand in glory
I will see His face
And there I'll serve
My King forever
In that holy place

 

 

Keith & Melody Green

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldRcFz7rK7w

 

 

Sermon. ‘The Parable of the Sower.’ Part 2.

Last week we saw how the Parable of the Sower stresses the importance of hearing God’s word correctly. Jesus tells us the seed sown is ‘the word of God’.  

So the essential question is this: ‘how do you listen?’ How do you receive the message? The seed falls on 4 different types of soil; each soil represents the state of receptivity of the listener; how willing they are to receive the message.

We looked at the first 2 types of soil last week.

The first soil represents those who have a hardened heart towards this message (5, 12)

These people have already made up your mind. They are not receptive. They will not seek what is true. They are only listening to themselves and their own desires. They show a hardness of heart that the seed of the Gospel cannot penetrate.

The second soil represents those who are rootless. (6, 13). They ‘receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.’

Spiritual rootedness comes through remaining in Christ- that is in prayer- and his words remaining in us; that is having the scriptures transform our minds and therefore our actions (See the Parable of the Vine. John 15:1-11). This makes for courage rather than cowardice in the time of testing. But these people are rootless in the sense that they are not rooted in the Lord otherwise they would be able to overcome and move forward in his strength.

We looked at both these conditions in some depth last week.

 

Today we concentrate on the last 2 soils described in this parable. So let’s look at…

The third soil. This soil represents those who are distracted by material concerns.

7 ‘Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.’

14 ‘The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.’

The question here is ‘where is our primary interest?’ If it is in any of these competing forces- the Lord lists material concerns here, ‘life’s worries, riches and pleasures’- then we become idolaters. That is the worshipping of what is created rather than worship of the Creator.

In some ways this is a difficult state to measure. The Bible is clear that every material blessing is from God himself. And ‘He has given us all things to richly enjoy’ (1 Timothy 6:17)

This includes God given pleasure. One evidence of creation is we see much that goes beyond that which aids survival. If all we see came about through cosmic chance, including our being, then why is there so much in nature that is in excess of the purely functional? (See Professor S Burgess/Bristol University ‘The Beauty of Creation’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3ruBepLH5k ).There is objective beauty in Nature which is designed to bring forth a response of pleasure in us. So there is no place for the false caricature of Christianity which denies the body or pleasure. Christianity affirms the body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Food and drink are not merely functional aids to our survival but pleasurable to taste. Similarly sexual intercourse is not only given for procreation, but also as a means of experiencing pleasure through the love expressed between a husband and wife. There are multiple pleasure sensors built into the biology of the act.

So the right response is one of thanksgiving for all the material blessings and pleasures we enjoy from the Lord (1 Timothy 4:4)

So how do we know when we have passed from enjoying these gifts and pleasures to idolising them?

Well it’s when you are giving someone or something the worship that should be given to God alone. In other words your idol is something to which you give or offer your allegiance, devotion and support. It captures your heart, mind and energy. It is that which symbolises the meaning you see in life. You devote yourself, your time and so on to your idol.

Mammon (the love of money) is presented in the Bible as the idol men and women devote themselves to instead of God (Matthew 6:24). It promises security and deliverance, but do you really want to serve that Master? ‘Getting riches brings care; keeping them brings trouble; abusing them brings guilt; and losing them brings sorrow. It is a great mistake to make so much of riches as we do.’ (D L Moody).

It is possible to be a materially wealthy Christian. There are examples of these in the Bible (Acts 4:36-37, Acts 9:36). But again there is that balance. Materially wealthy Christians can enjoy their wealth but they also know that the Scriptures teach that if God is their first love, then they will be prepared to also use their wealth towards building the Kingdom of God (Luke 16:1-15). This includes giving to those in need (Proverbs 19:17, Luke 14:13-14) and in support of the work of the church in its missional, teaching and pastoral ministries. (1 Corinthians. 16: 1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:7)

Today many are concerned about ‘life’s worries’, especially since all these material blessings we took for granted are now being shaken:

Of course it is natural to have these concerns. Our missionary prayer meeting on Monday of this week included a newsletter from Alison and Paul Guinness who are missionaries to Burundi. It included this paragraph:

In our recent budget review we identified that 25% of our support comes from individuals well over the age of 80. We’ve had 6 supporters die this year (none from Covid) and we’ve been encouraged to start looking for some younger supporters so that we don’t find ourselves without sufficient support. Please pray for wisdom in doing this and for Jesus to raise up younger folk to get behind us.’

Like Alison and Paul we all currently face financial concerns of one kind or another. We naturally look to take steps to try and encourage a balancing of the books. At the moment I have sought advice from the Baptist Union about how we can best look after our church accounts when Dick steps down as treasurer at the end of this year and I am approaching commercial concerns about appropriate software programmes to help us do this. We must take practical steps. That is part of our stewardship of what God has given us.

But our faith is not in our strategies or plans alone. If it were then we would be weighed down with anxiety, because such outcomes are beyond our control. Rather we do as Paul and Alison do. We pray for the Lord’s wisdom and then for blessing on our efforts. We ‘cast all our anxieties on to the Lord because he cares for us’ (1 Peter 5:7). We pray and give him our burdens. We commit our way to him, trusting he will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6) and we trust that he will provide what we need materially as we seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). He is Jehovah Jireh- our provider.

When you were a younger Christian did you have dreams about serving the Lord? But now you shoulder adult responsibilities. The world through its advertising promotes a course you should take that prioritises material concerns; the biggest house (and mortgage!) within your limit, the best car, insurance, career progression etc. There is nothing wrong with these things. But beware of material concerns becoming your life to the point where the priorities of God’s kingdom you had earlier now seem like a distant dream.

To those distracted by material concerns the Lord says:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and        

where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where 

neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew. 6:19-20 ESV).

 

The fourth and final soil (which) represents the receptive and obedient heart (8, 12)

 

8 “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

 

12”But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”  

 

This heart receives the word of God, absorbs it and acts on it. Their life is fruitful.

A similar truth is presented in Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27). Those who receive and obey the word of God are like the wise man who built his house on rock, so when the trials and temptations of life come- represented by the winds and the rain in that Parable- the life of the receptive, obedient person stands firm.

A story is told of a missionary who was imprisoned by the Japanese in China. At this concentration camp the penalty for owning a portion of the Scriptures was death. However, a small Gospel of john was smuggled to her in a winter coat. At night when she went to bed she pulled the covers over her head and with her torch read a verse and then put herself to sleep memorising that verse. In this way, over a period of time, she memorised the entire Gospel of john.

When she went to wash her hands, she would take one page at a time, dissolve it in the soap and water, and flush it down the drain. And that is the way.’ She said, ‘that John and I parted company.’

This missionary was interviewed by a Time magazine reporter just before the prisoners were released. The reporter happened to be standing at the gates when the prisoners came out. Most of them shuffled along, eyes on the ground, little more than automatons. Then out came this missionary, bright as a button. One of the reporters was heard to ask, ‘I wonder if they managed to brainwash her?’

The Time magazine reporter overheard the remark and said, “God washed her brain!”

The person who receives the word of God knows the Lord with them. They therefore have faith, hope and love in their lives. An assurance of eternal life by the Holy Spirit within them. They appear to have ‘lost’ their lives by not going their own way or by not giving way to idolatry, but in reality they have ‘found’ their lives, and still a full realisation of the Kingdom lies ahead.

The fruitfulness of a life obedient to the word of God includes fruit of the Spirit such as a patience, kindness, gentleness and endurance. These qualities enrich relationships. It also speaks of a life functioning in the way it was created to be, primarily expressed in love of God (see Update 28/6), but also in love of one’s neighbour (see Update 21/6). It is a life that brings blessing to many others. Just how many will not be known until their arrival in heaven. Then they will see how their obedience to the Lord was used by Him to bless many others.

The most encouraging thing about the Parable of the Sower is that the harvest described at the end of the parable is so large.

Through unlikely beginnings the Kingdom grows and many enter into it. There is fruitfulness throughout the field. There is a fruitfulness even beyond the hoped for 1 in 4 ratio of genuine believers suggested by the parable itself.

I think this must be because hearers who listen to the word of God whose hearts are like the path, or rocky (without root) or choked by thorns, do not necessarily stay in that state throughout their lives. They may when they first hear the Gospel act in one of these ways, but many come to realise that none of these approaches bring life. Eventually their hearts are like those where the seed is planted in good soil.

In September 1991 a group of American evangelicals received an amazing letter from the Supreme Soviet in Moscow. They were invited to travel to the Soviet Union and meet its leaders, including President Gorbachev, to tell them what the Christian Faith could do to help their nation. The openness they encountered in Russia amazed them even more. For instance, in the headquarters of the KGB they met General Nikolai Stolyarov, one of the vice-chairmen of the secret police. He said to them,

‘Political questions cannot be decided until there is sincere repentance, a return to faith by the people. That is the cross I must bear. I have been a member of the Party for twenty years. In our study of scientific atheism we were taught that religion divides people. Now we see the opposite: love for God can only unite…The time has come to repent of the past. We have broken the Ten Commandments, and for this we pay today.’ (Adapted from Philip Yancey, Praying with the KGB (Multnomah, 1992), p33)

You see because of God’s grace even the most hardened of hearts can turn and find life through the seed sown into their lives.

Perhaps you have not been receptive to the word of God on past occasions. But this morning God has called you by his Spirit. Christ is here. His Kingdom is near. Repent. Turn from your sin and from going your own way. Believe the good news of God and find life- even eternal life- in Christ. One day you will be part of that great harvest seen for what it is in eternity.

…………………………………………

Prayer

Gracious God, we pray for peace in your world: for all national leaders, that they may have wisdom to know and courage to do what is right; for all men and women, that their hearts may be turned to yourself in the search for righteousness and truth; for those who are working to improve international relationships, that they may find the true way of reconciliation; for those who suffer as a result of war: the injured and disabled, the mentally distressed, the homeless and hungry, those who mourn their dead, and especially for those who are without hope or friend to sustain them in their grief. God of grace, hear our prayer, through Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace and the Saviour of the World.

(Taken from Gathering for Worship, ©Baptist Union of Great Britain)

Sentences

God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46.1

I lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121.1-2

Remembering

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.  

We will remember them.

The beginning of the two-minute silence. Silence

Prayer

Ever-living God we remember those whom you have gathered from the storm of war into the peace of your presence; may that same peace calm our fears, bring justice to all peoples and establish harmony among the nations, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

The National Anthem

 

[Verse 1:]
God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen!

[Verse 2:]
O Lord our God arise,
Scatter our* enemies,
And make them fall!
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all!

[Verse 3:]
Not in this land alone,
But be God's mercies known,
From shore to shore!
Lord make the nations see,
That men should brothers be,
And form one family,
The wide world ov'er

[Verse 4:]
From every latent foe,
From the assassins blow,
God save the Queen!
O'er her thine arm extend,
For Britain's sake defend,
Our mother, prince, and friend,
God save the Queen!

[Verse 5:]
Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign!
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen!
 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_nCNM6YMok
 

Blessing

The Lord bless and keep us. The Spirit of the Lord cleanse and purify our inmost hearts and enable us to shun all evil. The Lord enlighten our understandings and cause the light of truth to shine into our hearts. The Lord fill us with faith and love towards him. The Lord be with us day and night, in the coming and going out, in the sorrow and in our joy. And bring us at length into his eternal rest. Amen                                                                         

 

 

 

David Barnes 4/11/20