Lessons from a Dinner Party: The Sacrificial Life

TEXT: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8


In our first message, we joined Mary and Martha at a dinner party in Bethany. In that lesson, we learned the priority of worship and communion with Christ. Now we attend another dinner party in Bethany, this time at Simon the Leper’s home. The narrative includes the following characters: Jesus, Martha, Mary, Lazarus, Simon the Leper, and the disciples.

Join me as I preach the second in our two-part series today entitled: Lessons from a Dinner Party #2: The Sacrificial Life.


Most commentators believe that there exists about a 2-month gap between the end of John 11 and the start of John 12. I mention this because in John 11 Lazarus is raised from the dead, and in John 12, he is still alive and reclining at dinner with the Lord Jesus.

The apostle John tells us that this passage is only six days before Christ’s arrest and subsequent death (John 12:1).

It is the sabbath and Jesus is invited to celebrate it with His friends in Bethany before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the next day.

It is precious to observe that Martha is here serving. She had not got bitter and twisted by the Lord’s former comments which we read earlier. I know many Christians who would have simply thrown in the towel, but Martha is back doing what she loves, and it appears that she had learned the lesson Christ had taught her. Furthermore, we see that she is serving in a different household now. Not only had she responded well to the Lord’s loving rebuke, her ministry had increased to serving, cooking, and helping in other people’s homes!

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was Extravagant

“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair (John 12:3).

“A woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table” (Matthew 26:7).

“A woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head” (Matthew 14:3).

“Spikenard” or “pure nard” was a perfume derived from the very small and tender root of the Nard Plant found in India. The fact that it was pure meant it was genuine and unadulterated, which is what made it so costly.

Most commentators believe that this ointment was Mary’s dowry or inheritance. It was worth somewhere in the vicinity of a man’s annual wage.

It is important for us to note that the pure nard was housed in an alabaster flask (not mentioned in this account). This too, was of significant value. This long-necked bottle was made from a special variety of marble, a material which proved to be the best container for preserving expensive perfumes and oils. Once broken, it could not be re-sealed.

Mary had no intention of a partial sacrifice – it was everything!

Not only did Mary anoint the Lord Jesus with this precious substance, but she also broke the seal to this expensive container.

The Bible tells us that Mary poured the perfume over the head of Jesus (Mark 14:3; Matthew 26:7). Jesus explains that this anointing pointed to His death and the embalmment of His body. 

In just a few days, the Lord Himself would be broken like the alabaster flask and be poured out for the sins of His people. 

The Apostle John records for us a unique aspect to this account. We are told that Mary also “anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair” (John 12:3).

Another important principle is seen in this act. Paul tells us that the “glory of a woman is her long hair” (1 Corinthians 11:15), and Mary laid her glory at the feet of Jesus.


True worship comes at a great cost. Too many Christians today are unwilling to present themselves as a living sacrifice.

Consider the sacrifice Christ made for us. Consider what it cost.

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was Fragrant

“The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3).

Mary’s gift filled the house with a beautiful aroma. Its fragrance permeated everything. Beginning with Jesus, transferred to Mary, and then to those who observed this scene of worship.

Does this not present a glorious analogy? When Christ is worshiped, the worshipers themselves carry away something of the fragrance of that moment. No house is so filled with pleasant aroma as the house where Jesus is given His rightful place.

The fragrance of Christ is conferred to all who worship Him in spirit and in truth.


“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

God was well-pleased with the sacrifice of His Son, it was a fragrant offering. God was well-pleased with Noah’s sacrifice, it was a “soothing aroma” (Genesis 8:20).

Is God well-pleased with your life of sacrifice? Does it spread the knowledge of Him everywhere?

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was an Irritant

In all three accounts (Matthew, Mark & John), we find that Mary’s sacrificial gift was an irritant. It upset people.

Matthew tells us that the disciples were indignant (Matthew 26:8); Mark tells us that some believed the ointment had been wasted and scolded Mary (Mark 14:4,5); John points out that Judas Iscariot was upset because an opportunity had been lost to sell the perfume for personal gain (John 12:4-6).

The lesson here is that sacrificial worship irritates and infuriates those who are disinterested in living the worshipful life. They will see sacrifice as a waste and justify their foolishness by appealing to other ways the gift could be used.


I remember years ago I was in discussion with a worldly Christian who asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I explained that God had called me to the ministry and that I was eager to serve Him. The older man was disappointed. He had just attended an event where I had sung. He said to me, “there is so much more to life, don’t waste your gift on the church, you could be famous.”

Worldly Christians despise sacrifice. They loathe the thought of laying our all at His feet. They see no value to surrender and have never experienced the deeper life in Christ.

At this juncture, it is important to remember that though our sacrifice be an irritant to many, Christ commends it!

“Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me” (Matthew 26:10).

The world may despise you; some believers may mock and ridicule you; Christ commends you because true worship and sacrifice is a beautiful thing.

This is never more clearly seen than in the sacrifice of Christ. It was an irritant to all who hated Him, but for us who believe, it is the most beautiful thing in all the world!

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was Permanent

Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13).

“And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

Mary’s act was immortalised. This was not Mary’s intention, nor had she set out to make a name for herself. However, this sacrificial act, which was conducted in humility, love, and worship, had everlasting consequences.

Is there not a clear application here? Do not our genuine acts of worship and sacrifice transcend time and space? Are they not the gold, silver, and precious stones that endure?


This morning we dealt with the importance of worship, and now we have considered the importance of sacrifice. On this 21st anniversary of Mt. Cathedral Community Baptist Church, it has been my intention to remind us of what matters most – worship and sacrifice. From these comes our service, but never apart from them.

May God help us to be ever found worshipping and offering ourselves as living sacrifices in His service. I close this special day with a poem by Charles Thomas Studd, the British cricketer and missionary to China.

Only One Life – By C.T. Studd

Two little lines I heard one day,

Traveling along life’s busy way;

Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,

And stand before His Judgement seat;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


Only one life, the still small voice,

Gently pleads for a better choice

Bidding me selfish aims to leave,

And to God’s holy will to cleave;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


Only one life, a few brief years,

Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;

Each with its clays I must fulfil,

living for self or in His will;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


When this bright world would tempt me sore,

When Satan would a victory score;

When self would seek to have its way,

Then help me Lord with joy to say;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


Give me Father, a purpose deep,

In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;

Faithful and true what e’er the strife,

Pleasing Thee in my daily life;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


Oh let my love with fervour burn,

And from the world now let me turn;

Living for Thee, and Thee alone,

Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


Only one life, yes only one,

Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;

And when at last I’ll hear the call,

I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


Lessons from a Dinner Party: The Priority of Worship & Communion with Christ

TEXT: Luke 10:38-42


Last week was Vision Sunday. During that service we were greatly encouraged to hear from different people in our church as they presented the areas of ministry that they will oversee this year. It is certainly an exciting time in the life of our church.

As I considered this throughout the week, I was both cheerfully optimistic and soberly contemplative. Let me explain. My heart is full of joy at the thought of people willingly entering into service for the Lord, but at the same time I am very aware that ministry can be a distraction from the most important thing – fellowship, worship, and communion with Christ.

We have spoken a lot about balance in recent days, and this message will again help us find the “centre of the see-saw” when it comes to worship and service.

Last week we deployed many people into areas of ministry and this message is timely because it will help us to understand how worship must precede service if it is to be honouring to the Lord.

Join me as I preach the first in a two-part series today entitled: Lessons from a Dinner Party #1: The Priority of Worship & Communion with Christ. Read more…

The Ministry of Reconciliation

TEXT: 2 Corinthians 5:10-20 |  VIDEO LINK

Those not acquainted with biblical theology suppose that there is a contradiction between God’s sovereign election of sinners to salvation, and the essential ministry of evangelism.

As you know, I am absolutely convinced that God in His infinite wisdom ordained/chose/elected some of His image-bearers to salvation. This is not unfair or unjust because “God is in the heavens; [and] he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

Because this doctrine is incredibly humbling, it is repudiated by those that are proud and do not want to relinquish control of their so-called “free will.”

On the flip side, believing that God is sovereign, and that all who He has chosen will eventually enter into His fold, must not be permitted to bring about laziness, disobedience and carelessness.

As with all doctrines, when the pendulum swings too far in any direction, there will always be a misinterpretation of God’s revealed truth.

When it comes to evangelism, there are basically three schools of thought:
1. ARMINIANISM (Extreme #1)
It is my responsibility to save souls. This leads to guilt, creative methods, emotional invitations etc.
2. HYPER-CALVINISM (Extreme #2)

God will rescue His elect with or without me. This leads to laziness, disobedience, and carelessness

3. EVANGELISTIC PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD (Biblical Balance)The believer sounds the outward call and God issues the inward call (2 Corinthians 5:20; 6:1) 

I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that it is God who regenerates the sinner, but that He has entrusted to us the message that has the power to bring about the new birth. In this sense, we are in a very real partnership with God which began the moment that we first trusted in Him.

We are never held responsible for the sinner’s decision, but we are commanded to preach the gospel. We are not to lose sleep over our failures in eloquence or articulation of the message, but we should be concerned with being faithful to this ministry of reconciliation.

We have talked a lot about different church ministries that are being launched today as part of our Vision Sunday. However, it is important to know that there is a ministry that EVERY believer is appointed to the moment they are saved – it is the Ministry of Reconciliation.

This is to be our primary occupation. We are to pursue souls; chase after the lost; use our resources, gifts, and time in this precious endeavour; We are to be faithful, fervent, and frequent in our evangelistic efforts.

Our Theme for 2020 is “The Ministry of Reconciliation” and being “Ambassadors for Christ”, and these are the subjects I wish to broach today. Join me as I preach a message entitled: The Ministry of Reconciliation. Read more…

Denominations, Distinctives, & “Babel Theology”

PREACHING TEXT: 1 Timothy 3:15 | READING TEXT: 1 Timothy 3:14-4:16

Let me introduce our subject today by presenting three real-life illustrations that took place this past week.


On Friday, I had occasion to meet with a lawyer in Melbourne for the purpose of updating our church constitution, something I have been promising to do for a couple of years. During this initial meeting, we discussed the “type” of church that we are, some of our distinctives, and even what the differences are between the major denominations. Throughout the conversation it became apparent that this man, like many Christians today, believed It would be so great if everyone could just get on. He expressed a desire to see (what I call) a “Babel Theology” established where all people could “build together”, and all differences set aside for the common good.


Yesterday, I read an article published on the Baptist Union of Victoria Website which was written by the Pastor of Koondrook-Barham Baptist Church.[1] My intention in reading this article is not to assassinate anybody’s character, not is it pass unnecessary or unscriptural judgement, but rather to give you an illustration for what we are going to consider today.

The Pastor writes:

On Christmas Eve 2019 the Koondrook-Barham Baptist Church joined with the local Anglican, Catholic and Uniting Churches to present Carols by Candlelight at Riverside Park, Barham.

Bernard Blumel, pastor of the Baptist Church welcomed everyone. Scripture readings and prayers were presented by the Anglican and Uniting Churches and a message of hope was delivered by Father Stan from the Catholic Church. At the end of the night the Lions Club conveyed their thanks to the Churches for the great community event and invited us to join them Christmas Eve 2020.


Since my Glorious Gospel Website[2] went live, I have been the subject of enormous hostility. Now I expect that from the world, but when so-called Christians stand in active defiance to the clear teaching of Scripture, my soul is sorely vexed. A man whose name I will not mention publicly, who is a retired pastor and chaplain, started messaging me privately during the week. He was initially cordial towards me, but after a few interactions, changed into a blaspheming, swearing, antagonistic detractor. He accused me of all manner of things in some of the most colourful language I have ever heard, all in the name of Christ. His “beef” with me was my biblical standpoint on cultural issues, and my unwillingness to embrace the “modern world” with it concepts and practices.


Over the past 8 years of pastoring MCCBC, I have been given all manner of labels from other church groups in our community. I keep these in a folder in my filing cabinet. I have been called: The “fuddy duddy”, hyper-calvinist, extremist, fanatical, radical, Biblicist, misguided, heretical, exclusive, cult leader, and my favourite: old-fashioned-Bible-thumping-wingnut.

Over the years, I have been asked: Why won’t we “join” up with other churches? Why can’t we have a “united front”? Why can’t we be part of a combined church Carols event? Why don’t I get behind “Christian organisations”? Do I think that MCCBC is the only true church?

Some have told me that denominations and distinctives are the enemy because Christ called us to unity; doctrine divides, love unites. Pastors have said, only preach that which is encouraging so that people in the community would feel welcome, don’t preach about issues that divide, be culturally sensitive.

The way I see it, the pastor has three main jobs: (1) Define the Faith by means of evangelism and preaching; (2) Develop the Faith in God’s people by means of clear exegetical teaching and preaching and; (3) Defend the faith by warns of warning and exhorting the flock based upon sound biblical truths and principles.

As a pastor, I do not answer to you, but to the Lord. I am not primarily concerned with whether you like what I say or whether it makes you “feel” good. I am not worried about whether the community consider me to be a nutcase, or whether other churches would speak ill of me. If I were concerned about polls of popularity, I would not be a pastor. I am primarily concerned with the truth, and teaching you how to discern right from wrong, so that you might honour Christ with your life.

The greatest problem in the church today is a lack of discernment. This exists because the church (on the whole) has moved away from the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Scriptures. As you will see from our text, the church is not living up to its biblical identity as the pillar and buttress of the truth. In general terms, it is more like a cubby house made of cardboard which is blown about by every wind of doctrine. It moves with every cultural stir, the breeze of every new idea, and the movements it incurs, are not Holy Spirit sent, but are the devil’s breath.

Today there is a tendency to think of Christianity in the reduced terms of Christ’s death and resurrection. Whilst that is part of the gospel, it is decidedly much more than that. The true Christian life is a confession of truth and faith (1 Timothy 3:16), a proclamation of God’s Word, a seeking after the “Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

I love the church; I’ve given my life, gifts, energy, finance to the church. God has called me to pastor a local church, and it is the great joy of my life. It is because I love the church and the Word of God that I must speak out against all that seeks to stand opposed to either.

This morning I want to teach on a subject I’ve entitled: “Church Denominations & Distinctions and Babel Theology”.


I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15

BehaveVerb. “to act or conduct oneself in accord with a defined standard.”

The purpose of Paul’s writing to Timothy was to give clear direction as to the type of behaviour that God demanded from His church.

The context speaks specifically of the meeting together as a local church but can also be applied in the broader sense of individual church member’s behaviour.

Clearly, Paul sees the church behaviour as an essential truth because he writes an entire letter about it.

What we do, how we do it, and why we do it, is so important to understand.


  • How we worship?
  • Who leads and how?
  • What is included in our church activities and order of service?
  • How we dress is spoken of in the Scripture
  • Who is permitted to preach/teach and pray in the general service?

There is much room for creativity, personality, methodology, but there are also clear parameters in the Scripture when it comes to what we do, and how we do it.

Am I saying singing anything other than hymns is wrong? NO! But I am saying that obscuring the words with noise, entertainment, club-style “worship” is wrong. Singing songs which magnify the flesh, elevate the “worship leader”, or are full of theological errors is wrong.

Am I saying that wearing suits and long dresses to church is the only biblical model? NO! But I am saying that immodesty is always wrong, and appropriateness and giving honour to the Lord in what we wear is important.

Am I saying that short sermons are wrong? NO! But I am saying that little sermonettes from unchanged people who promote self esteem, self worth, driven by emotion, and without biblical truth are wrong.

Am I saying that women have no place in the church? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But I am saying that Scripture tells us that a woman is NOT to preach or teach in the general assembly of the church.

We do not seek to be yoked to unnecessary legalistic bondage, but we do seek the approval of Christ in what we do and how we do it.


I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15

Householdnot a building, chapel or cathedral, but a people, a family – the place where God dwells.

God does not dwell in a building; He dwells in His people, and when those people congregate together, there is a manner in which worship should take place.

Church – A “called out people”, set apart, holy, sanctified.

A quick survey of “church” today demonstrates a complete identity crisis. Almost every book you read on the church today deals with the importance of being relevant, culturally applicable, and interesting (and entertaining) to society.

The Bible takes a backseat (if it is even there) because it is an old book which no longer has relevance to our changing spiritual climate; Old fashioned preaching is replaced with “feel-good sermonettes”; The prayer meeting is substituted for “little talks with Jesus”; Evangelism is nothing short of inviting people to a time of entertainment, jokes, and some catchy tunes, and; the pastor is a man (or women) who is more like a Rockstar in a tank top, ripped jeans, with blonde tips, who delivers a weak, watered-down message that is unable to save souls, and then drives off in his/her corvette. This is not church. This is nothing short of blasphemy!


 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15

The last part of verse 15 is an architectural illustration. Paul likens the church to a pillar and buttress which both signify reinforcement and strength within a structure.

Pillar: A post or column most commonly associated with a large structure. E.G. The marble pillars in the temple of Diana.

Buttress: Prop, foundation, support.

In this context, Paul explains that the church is the support mechanism that God has ordained to uphold His truth. It is not that the church is intrinsically the truth, or that whatever the church does is the truth, but that it has been established as a pillar and foundation to maintain God’s truth in the world.

Take out the pillar and the building collapses, and that is precisely what we are seeing!

Interestingly, the pillar in New Testament times was also a “noticeboard” which bore inscriptions and messages for the populace. Similarly, the church is supposed to bear the inscriptions of God and make known His message to the nations.

In other words, the church has two primary functions: uphold the truth and proclaim the truth.

The church is the pillar and support of the truth because it preaches it to the world, preserves it, and transmits it from generation to generation.”

Liberal “Christians” tell us that doctrine is divisive, and we need to focus on love and good works. They are right about the divisive nature of doctrine. However, they are wrong when they suggest that love and good works can truly exist without doctrine and truth.

Jesus made it clear that true love will submit to the commandments of God: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The Apostle of Love (John) wrote:
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).

READ 2 John – Take note of how many times the worth “truth” is used.

READ: 2 Timothy 3:10-17

We believe in the total governance, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Scripture, and this affects what we do, and how we do it.

The Word of God promises to profit the believer in four important ways:

  1. Furnishing us with the doctrine or teaching about God, His will, His Son, His work, etc.
  2. Reproving us from wrong behaviour, error, false teaching, heresy, and the subtle tricks of the evil one.
  3. Correcting us by bringing restoration to our path when we falter, stumble or go astray.
  4. Instructing us to live in a way that honours the Lord.



As the world continues in its moral decline and the “church” chases closely behind, we must be concerned with ensuring that what we do is carefully weighed against the Scriptures. Our church behaviours, identity, and doctrines need to find their source in the Word of God.

It is also important to remember that as the chasm widens between Biblical Christianity and contemporary church, we will subject to increasing hostility. This should not come as a surprise because “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Lastly, MCCBC is not the “only good church left” by any means, but it is one of the few that actively seeks to submit itself to the TOTAL governance and sufficiency of the Scriptures.

Perhaps you are visiting with us, or reading these notes online, and are looking for a good church in your area. The most important aspect of any local church is its relationship to the Scriptures. If the Word of God is not central, then that church has shifted from its primary purpose as the pillar and buttress of the truth. It may have a great youth program, skilful musicians, and lots of money in the coffers, but it is not what God intended the church to be.

May God help us to be a faithful pillar and buttress of the truth in the midst of a world that is crumbling in moral decline all about us!

The Great Adventure and Our Great Companion

SERIES TEXT: John 10:10 | READING TEXT: John 14:15-31

The Christian life was never designed to be a “walk in the park”. In fact, it is better understood as a “trek through the jungle.” The Bible never describes our Christian experience as a playground, but rather, a battleground.

Too many people have been lied to by preachers who promised that God would give them a life of abundance, health, and prosperity if they trusted Christ. This is simply not the case. The Bible uses the following words to describe the Christian life: war (Romans 7:23), warfare (2 Corinthians 10:4), wrestle (Ephesians 6:12), fight (1 Timothy 6:12), tribulation (John 16:33), and hardness (2 Timothy 2:3). This is a far cry from the peaceful, trouble-free “gospel message” peddled by prosperity preachers today.

Were we alone to fight in this raging battle, we would have good reason for discouragement and hopelessness. But this is not the case! When we were enlisted into this battle, we were also given the greatest of companions – God Himself, living within, the third person of the Godhead- the Holy Spirit.

There is one immutable reality – all humans will at one point or another fail us. Even those with the best intentions – our fellow Christians, pastors, and friends – will not always be there when we need them. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16). Our great companion in this great adventure is none other than God Himself. He will always be there because He lives within. This is a remarkable reality, and one that should fill us with hope, joy, and peace despite the terrain that lies before us.

In this message, we will consider three important aspects as it relates to our Great Companion:

  1. The Person of the Holy Spirit
  2. The Titles of the Holy Spirit
  3. The Works of the Holy Spirit
The subject before us must be addressed carefully, reverently and biblically. The study of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) is one that has been severely assaulted and misrepresented today, and we must be ever so careful that we too do no“tamper with God’s Word” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Join me as I preach a message entitled: “The Great Adventure & Our Great Companion.”

A Call to Contemplation and Commitment

TEXT: Deuteronomy 4:1-14

God is acutely aware of our tendency to forget and our need for reminders. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Lord established ceremonies, ordinances, landmarks, altars, laws, and even songs to call His people back to a place of remembrance.

Let me give you some examples:

  • Thorns, thistles, pain of childbirth, sweat on the brow (Genesis 3:16-19).
  • The rainbow (Genesis 9:11-17).
  • Circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14). Read more…

A Biblical Worldview in Disturbing Times

TEXT: Colossians 2:1-8


As a Christian, how are we to interpret and respond to devastating circumstances that take place in our community, in our nation, and on the world stage?

Illustration #1: On Friday, a man in the prime of his life, was travelling along Goulburn Valley Hwy, Thornton with a colleague from work, when their ute collided with another motor vehicle and claimed his life. He was a father, husband, and well-known member of our community. How do we interpret and respond to that situation?

Illustration #2: At the time of writing these words, at least 20 people have died in the current bushfires with at least another 28 missing. In our state alone, there are more than 50 uncontrolled fires raging. The state of disaster has been declared for the first time, the army has been deployed, helicopters have been leased from other countries, and panic is widespread. How do we interpret and respond to this situation?

Illustration #3: America’s decision to kill Iran’s notorious General Suleimani this week could spark a war. Most analysts are saying that Iran will retaliate, and to what extent, nobody knows. Iran has extensive medium-range missiles, and past experiences suggest that they are not beyond killing civilians and ignoring the Geneva Convention. How should we interpret and respond to this situation? Read more…

The Great Adventure


READING TEXT: John 10:1-18 | PREACHING TEXT: John 10:10

My favourite preacher of all time is Charles Haddon Spurgeon and on January 4, 1874, he penned the following thoughts in his journal which later formed part of his devotional book called, “Morning and Evening.”

4 JANUARY (1874)

Life More Abundant

‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.’ John 10:10

Abundance of life is often seen in the overflow of enjoyment. On a spring morning, when you walk in the field and see the lambs frisking so merrily, you have said, ‘There is life for you.’ You see a company of little children, all in excellent health—how they amuse themselves and what pranks they play! You say, ‘What life there is in those little children!’ Catch one of the little urchins and see if he does not wriggle out of your arms, and you say, ‘Why, he is all life.’ Just so and hence his mirth. In youth there is much life and overflow of spirits. When Israel came out of Egypt, she was young Israel and how merrily did she smite her timbrels and dance before Jehovah. When churches are revived, what life there is in them and then what singing! Never comes a revival of religion without a revival of singing. As soon as Luther’s Reformation comes, the Psalms are translated and sung in all languages; and when Whitefield and John Wesley are preaching, then Charles Wesley and Toplady must be making hymns for the people to sing, for they must show their joy, a joy born of life. When the Lord gives you, dear friend, more life, you also will have more joy. You will no more go moping about the house, or be thought melancholy and dull when the Lord gives you life more abundantly. I should not wonder if you get into the habit of singing at your work and humming tunes in your walks. I should not wonder if people ask, ‘What makes So-and-so so happy? What makes his eyes twinkle as with some strange delight? He is poor and sick, but how blissful he appears to be!’ This will be seen when you not only ‘have life’, but when you ‘have it more abundantly.’ Read more…

Away from the Manger

An empty manger at night under the fog.

TEXT: Galatians 3:23-4:7

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of Christmas for believers and non-believers alike is the celebration of the baby in the manger without the rest of the message.

Honestly, Santa does not worry me anymore; the decorated trees cause me no grief; Rudolph, presents, snowmen, mistletoe, and even the ridiculous songs about merriment, jingle bells, and kissing Santa Claus are of little consequence.

What upsets me greatly is when people make peripheral comments about the “little Lord Jesus” in the manger who does not cry, who is harmless, who is cute, and who really does not mean much at all. O that bothers me greatly!

What these people fail to see is that this little baby is going to ride in on a white horse one day and banish them to eternal hell because they did not believe His gospel. People love the baby but hate the man. They appreciate the manger but despise His message. The child excites them, the cross infuriates them.

Today my intention is to lead us away from the manger, not because it is unimportant, but because it is only the beginning of God’s plan of salvation. I am preaching a message I have entitled: Away from the Manger.

Before I pray, I have some important introductory comments to make about the text before us.

The Book of Galatians was written to correct some very dangerous heresies that had entered the early church. It is perhaps Paul’s “sternest letter” and also his clearest in terms of the true gospel message.

The church at Galatia (as well as others) had moved away from the truth that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. They had added the works of the law (such as circumcision, maintaining ceremonial law, etc) as prerequisites for salvation – something that we refer to as “legalism”.

The message of Galatians transcends time and is relevant to the church in every epoch of time. In our context, some “churches” demand membership, baptism, perfectionism, maintaining the sacraments, and many other legalistic practices before they believe someone can be saved.

Paul wrote, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal.2:16).

The text before us is dealing with the role of the Old Testament law before Christ came, and then the transition that took place after He instigated the New Covenant. 

Let’s take a few moments to understand the context.

Galatians 3:23 We were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

  • Speaking of the Children of Israel (Abraham’s physical descendants).
  • The law could not set anyone free, in fact, it passed sentence and judgment on all.
  • Until faith came, none could truly be saved (explain OT saints “justified by faith” Rom.4:1-12).

Cf. Romans 8:1-4

Galatians 3:24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

  • “Guardian” (school master) – In Ancient Greece, this referred to a slave who was responsible for taking care of the master’s children until adulthood. The tutor escorted them to and from school and watched over their behaviour at home. These guardians were often very strict and were not afraid of disciplining the children as they had been delegated this responsibility.
  • In this context, the law was our tutor which, by pointing out our sins and their consequences, was escorting us to Christ.
  • The purpose of the law was to ultimately free us from the law by bringing us to Christ who fulfilled the law.
  • Nobody can be justified by keeping the law which is why Christ came. Only through faith in Christ can anybody be declared righteous.

Galatians 3:25-26 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

  • The coming of Christ brought freedom from the previous administration (the law), but it also changed our status from slaves that are captive, to sons and daughters that are free!

Galatians 3:27-29 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

  • “Baptised” – (not by water) but identified with Christ (or saved).
  • To be saved is to have “put on” Christ. This speaks of an unbreakable spiritual union.
  • To be positionally “in Christ” means that race, social status, and gender are all irrelevant when it comes to justification. The door is open to all who would believe by faith: “red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight….”
  • To be “in Christ” is to be “grafted into the vine” which makes all of us the offspring of Abraham and the heirs of the promise, “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…” (Gen.22:18).

Galatians 4:1-3 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.

  • The point Paul is making here is that no matter how great the estate; no matter how wealthy his father; no matter how elevated a rank he may be raised on the moment that he enters on his inheritance, yet until that time he is in the condition of a servant. Though he be appointed by his father’s will heir of all his possessions yet till he arrive at the legal age he is master of nothing, and does not differ from one of the common domestics.
  • The “elementary principles of the world” is a Jewish phrase and simply means: the rudiments and principles of the Jewish religion.

Adam Clarke wrote: The apostle intimates that the law was not the science of salvation, it was only the elements or alphabet of it; and in the Gospel this alphabet is composed into a most glorious system of Divine knowledge: but as the alphabet is nothing of itself, unless compounded into syllables, words, sentences, and discourses; so the law, taken by itself, gives no salvation; it contains indeed the outlines of the Gospel, but it is the Gospel alone that fills up these outlines.

Now with that introduction and context, let’s pray and then we will look into the text laid out for us today.

POINT #1: God’s Punctuality

“But when the fullness of time had come…” (Galatians 4:4a).

Have you ever been tempted to wish you had been born in a different time period?
Perhaps when Jesus was on earth, or during the reformation, or when revivals were breaking out in America, England, and Scotland.

I have often imagined being on Mt. Carmel with Elijah when the fire from heaven fell or watching the Children of Israel pass through the Red Sea. Fascinating moments in history!

Let us consider a few realities about time:

  • God created space and time (Genesis 1:1).
  • Being the creator of time and space, He is also the authority over it:

Cf. Acts 1:6-7; Acts 17:26

  • God exists outside of time (from everlasting to everlasting – Psalm 90:2)
  • Jesus died at the right time:

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

  • Jesus Christ is unchanged by time (not physically, but characteristically):

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Understanding the text:

  • “The fullness of time” – This refers to God’s appointed time. The moment in redemptive history decided upon by God alone before the foundation of the world. This was the time agreed and fixed upon between God and his Son from all eternity.
  • The phrase speaks of the “right time”, the appointed time, the best time.
  • It was the appointed end of the “legal dispensation” and the introduction of a new dispensation by the Son of God Himself.


  • Whenever God does something it is ALWAYS at the right time. He may not work to our timeframe, but He makes all things beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
  • God never promised to save your loved ones, but if He does, it will be at the right time.
  • Single people in the room, God may not have called you to marriage, but if He has, the right person will appear at the right time.
  • God is never late; He has not forgotten; He does care about you; He will do all that He wills in His time.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (and whenever He pleases).

POINT #2: God’s Plan

“God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…” (Galatians 4:4b)

God’s plan is herewith set forth in three specific and profound statements:

1. God Sent Forth His Son

“Sent forth” is one word in the original and speaks of one given a mission who is then dismissed to fulfil it.

In this sense God commissioned His Son to bring about redemption and then dismissed Him from the heavenly corridors of power and glory to fulfil it.

“Sent forth His Son”

This implies that the Son of God had an existence before his incarnation; The Saviour is often represented as sent into the world, and as coming forth from God

John 16:28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.

Furthermore, this text implies that the Son of God was more than a mere concept or force because only a person could be sent on this mission.

The heaven-sent Son was the plan of the godhead forged before time began.

Alexander MacLaren: Jesus, like all other great men, is a product of His age, and the immediate result of the conditions under which He appeared. But when we look far beyond the manger of Bethlehem into the depths of Eternity and see God so loving the world as to give His Son, we cannot but recognise that He has intervened in the course of human history and that the mightiest force in the development of man is the eternal Son whom He sent to save the world.

2. Born of a Woman

On the face of it, this phrase seems a little redundant.
Why explain to us that the Son of God was born of a woman?


This text is building on the previous premise that the Son of God is eternal, and the second person of the Godhead (the Word that was with God and Word that was God).

With this in mind, Paul wants the Galatians to be assured of the fact that the Son who is truly God became truly man. Two distinct natures in one person – human and divine.

If Jesus had only been a man, it would be gratuitous to say that he was born of a woman!

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Virgin Birth

Although not directly mentioned, I believe that there is a sense in which His remarkable birth is here implied too. This expression witnesses to His unique Person and the unique mode of His birth.

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

In the first clause we have the word “sent” and in the second we have the word “born”. A great mystery exists between this glorious juxtaposition. We have the Son of God and now, the Son of Man (woman).

3. Born Under the Law

If it was not enough that God took on human flesh, now consider the fact that He who created all laws, is born under the law in order that He might fulfil it.

The lawmaker who existed outside of time and space was born in human form, submitted to the laws He created within time and space. It is absurd; it is beyond reason; It sounds like a fantasy; It is mysteriously glorious.

Why did the Son submit Himself to the law?

As Son of God, the Lord Jesus would never have been under the law; He was the One who gave it. But, in condescending grace, He put Himself under the law that He had made, in order that He might magnify it in His life, and bear its curse in His death.

The law demanded a price from those who failed to keep it—the price of death. Before God could bring men into the wonderful position of sonship, this price had to be paid. So the Lord Jesus, coming into the world as a member of the human race and of the Jewish nation, paid the price which the law demanded.

Because He is God, His death was infinite in value, that is, it was sufficient to pay for any number of sinners. Because He was Man, He could die as a substitute for man.

One Commentator Wrote: “Christ, by nature Son of God, became Son of man, that we, by nature sons of man, might become sons of God. O Wonderful exchange!”

POINT #3: God’s Purchase

“To redeem those who were under the law…” (Galatians 4:5).

“Redeem” – To purchase, buy back, atone for, release on receipt of ransom paid.”

Redemption necessitates payment. Since the guilty cannot ransom themselves, there must be another who, untainted by Adam’s sin nature, can offer Himself in the place of law breakers, and thereby procure salvation for those who are captive to sin.

The Son of God, born of Mary, a Jew who met all the requirements of the law completely and perfectly was sent to set free those who were bound by the law.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Although the means of redemption is not here explained, we know that it came about through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

John MacArthur: His sinlessness made Him the unblemished sacrifice for sins, who “fulfilled all righteousness,” i.e., perfectly obeyed God in everything. That perfect righteousness is what is imputed to those who believe in Him.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

POINT #4: God’s Progeny

“So that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5).

The transition from slaves of sin to sons of God is here complete.

God’s plan before the foundation of the world was to redeem those whom He elected to salvation, though children of wrath by nature (Eph 2:3), now children of God by adoption!

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Ephesians 1:5 He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.


  • To focus on a baby in a manger is to miss the message of the gospel.
  • It is essential we appreciate the entire message of redemption.

Some questions for your consideration:

  • Are you trusting in God’s timing in all things?
  • Do you understand God’s plan of redemption?
  • Have you believed by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ the Son of God?
  • Do you believe that he is truly God and truly man?
  • Do you believe that He was born of a virgin?
  • Are you a child of God?








Let me close with this poem by Walter C. Smith called: Earth was waiting, spent and restless:

Earth was waiting, spent and restless,

With a mingled hope and fear;

And the faithful few were sighing,

“Surely, Lord, the day is near;

The desire of all the nations,

It is time He should appear.”

Still the gods were in their temples,

But the ancient faith had fled;

And the priests stood by their altars

Only for a piece of bread;

And the Oracles were silent,

And the Prophets all were dead.

In the sacred courts of Zion,

Where the Lord had His abode,

There the money-changers trafficked,

And the sheep and oxen trod;

And the world, because of wisdom,

Knew not either Lord or God.


Then the spirit of the Highest

On a virgin meek came down,

And He burdened her with blessing,

And He pained her with renown;

For she bare the Lord’s Anointed

For His cross and for His crown.

Earth for Him had groaned and travailed,

Since the ages first began;

For in Him was hid the secret

That through all the ages ran—

Son of Mary, Son of David,

Son of God, and Son of Man

Grace Giving: The Greatest Gift (at Christmas)

TEXT: Ephesians 4:29-32

For many of us Christmas is not the season of cheer and merriment, it is a time marked by fear, loneliness, disagreements and conflict.

Although the notion of goodwill toward men is noble, it is often quite the opposite. We are faced with family members who hate all things religious, co-workers who mock the gospel, celebrities singing songs that they have no understanding of, finances are often strained, everything is so much busier, and the whole ordeal can appear to be more trouble than it is worth.

Emotions are high; Feelings are easily hurt; relationships are severed; songs of truth are butchered; expectations reach a new level; culture calls us to enjoy what is often a financially, relationally, physically, and mentally depleting time!

How do we as Christians approach this period of time? The same way we approach every other time – with Christlikeness and grace.

This morning I would like to preach a message entitled: “Grace-Giving: The Greatest Gift you can Give This Christmas”.

1.    Guard your Mouth: Ephesians 4:29

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths…”


  • Imperative.
  • It is possible for Christians to operate with corrupt speech.
  • Our mouths (tongues) are dangerous.
  • The Bible has zero tolerance for corrupting talk: “no corruption”


“Corrupting” – rotten or putrid. Bringing impurity and pollution.

In short, this refers to speech which injures virtue, produces vice, scoffs at truth, is reproachful or harming of another, unseasoned by gospel salt, unsavoury, and includes but is not limited to: foolish talking and jesting, filthy speech, dirty talk, unchaste words, angry communication, proud and haughty boasts, arrogant expressions, lies, perjury, blasphemy, obscene vulgarity, slander, profane oaths and curses, and any dialogue which discredits, maligns, or inadequately represents the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Cf. James 3:1-12

2. Good & Gracious Speech: Ephesians 4:29

“…but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”


  • The word “but” provides us with a contrast.
  • The word “only” speaks of exclusivity.

“Good” – Morally upright, virtuous, agreeable with all things holy, of the character of God.

“Building Up” – from an architectural term referring to promoting sound structure. This concept is sometimes referred to as edification.

The speech of the believer is to encourage, instruct, and uplift.

“As fits the occasion” – These words do not appear in the KJV text, but they are very important. This is the concept of modesty. To speak the right things at the right time.

God is not just calling us to “say good things”, but to say good things at the appropriate time.

Solomon said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

In other words, modest speech is like luscious, well-picked fruit presented to you on an ornate basket or vessel of silver. Both the fruit and the vessel are presentable and fitting for the occasion.

“that it may give grace to those who hear.” – To “give” or “administer” grace to those who hear is to impose divine influence on them.

Gracious speech is godly speech. It does not mean that every conversation has God as the subject of it, but rather that every conversation springs from a heart that has God at the centre of it.

As God’s people, we are instruments of His grace. The primary way that this will be realised is through our speech.

One of the greatest gifts you can give to those around you this Christmas is good, edifying, modest, and gracious speech.

3. Grieving the Holy Spirit of God: Ephesians 4:30

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”


  • Imperative.
  • The Holy Spirit of God is referred to as a person, “whom”
  • The Holy Spirit was responsible for “sealing”.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” To afflict with sorrow, to hurt.

In the context, this grieving is a direct result of polluting words, but also covers all aspects of sin in the life of a believer.

The Holy Spirit is grieved by our spiritual inconsistencies. In other words, as redeemed people with a new heart, He is hurt by our fleshly responses, words and deeds which are not in accord with our redemption.

“By whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”

A seal speaks of ownership and security. He is the seal that guarantees our preservation until Christ returns for us and our salvation is complete. Interestingly enough, Paul here uses the eternal security of the believer as one of the strongest reasons why we should not sin.

The seal cannot be broken by sin, but the relationship is strained.

It grieves the Spirit of God to see the believer’s progress interrupted by sin.

4. Putting Away Evil: Ephesians 4:31

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Paul now lists six specific sins which need to be removed from the lives of believers. Each of these grieve the Spirit of God and are at odds with our new life in Christ.

  • Bitterness: The picture of one cutting open a lemon and licking its centre. It is a coldness fused with poison. It is the opposite of sweetness and kindness.

Bitterness begins in the heart, spreads to the mind, and produces poisonous speech. The writer of Hebrews warns against the “root of bitterness” and its effects (Hebrews 12:15)

  • Wrath: Although wrath and anger are similar, the word used here speaks of the commencement of anger’s passion. That initial frustration, annoyance which sparks the fully-fledged anger spoken of next.
  • Anger: This is the passion carried to its highest pitch. This leads to violence, rage, indignation, the desire to exact vengeance, and reaches its climax at murder.

Cf. James 4:1-3

  • Clamour: This word is used on only three occasions in the Bible. It carries the idea of: loud outcries of anger, noise, shouting down opponents, violent assertions of perceived rights and wrongs, railing boisterous talk.

All of these outbursts are highly unbecoming the meek, loving, quiet, sedate mind of Christ and his followers.

  • Slander: Sometimes translated “evil speaking”. This is speech which blasphemes the name of another. It is said with the purpose of bringing disrepute to the character of another. It is tale-bearing, backbiting, mockery, ridicule, defamation, character assassination.

John MacArthur: “Bitterness reflects a smouldering resentment.”

  • Malice: This is a basic and general term for all forms of evil. It is the root of all vices.

Some have suggested this list is a progression: beginning with bitterness within, which breeds internal anger and rage, which then produces violent and hurtful outbursts, which then gives birth to slanderous words intended to hurt deeply those who we oppose, and then finally culminating in all manner of evil.

What started as an internal root of bitterness within the heart of the believer (seemingly harmless) finds its final destination in all manner of sin, both internal and external.

5.    Grace-Giving Defined: Ephesians 4:32

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

What does grace look like practically? Here it is.

“Be kind to one another” – be polite, courteous, not rough, abrasive or sour. Be useful, helpful, actively easing the burden of others.

John Gill: “looking pleasantly on each other, speaking kindly to one another, and mutually doing every good office that lies in their way, and in their power.”

“Tenderhearted” – Compassionate, merciful, full of pity.

Cf. Mark 6:34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

Cf. Matthew 14:14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Cf. 1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

“Forgiving one another” – To pardon, rescue, graciously restore one who has offended or violated us, to exercise kindness in the place of vengeance.

It is the highest Christian virtue to forgive, and it is the essence of the gospel. An unwillingness to forgive is the proof that God’s gospel is not fully understood.

Cf. Colossians 3:13 Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Cf. Luke 23:24 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“As God in Christ forgave you.”

Here lies the heart of gospel truth.

You have been forgiven; therefore, you must forgive.

READ: Matthew 18:21-35


For many of us Christmas means opportunities to catch up with unsaved relatives. Let me encourage you to be a grace-giver this Christmas, and look for opportunities to build up, to demonstrate Christ in word and deed, and when things are difficult, operate with compassion, and always be forgiving remembering that Christ forgave you.