Simon Peter’s Commitment to Christ

Towards the end of John chapter 6 we read of a very sad event. Some, who had been disciples of Jesus, went back and walked no more with Him. A sad sight indeed, when we consider that the One whom they left had just said of Himself, “I am the bread of life.” There was nothing wrong with the doctrine of the Saviour. There was nothing wrong with the moral uprightness of His character. There was of course, no fault in Him at all. Yet they left Him. It is quite solemn to think that some among them may well have partaken of the loaves and fishes, when the multitude were fed by Jesus. Perhaps they had said with others at that time, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (John 6:14). Yet they went back and walked no more with Jesus.

In commenting upon this passage, Matthew Henry notes, “When we admit into our minds hard thoughts of the word and works of Christ, and conceive insinuations tending to their reproach, we are entering into temptation.”

Instead of going after those who left Him, the Saviour turned to those that remained and asked a serious question, “Will ye also go away?” This brought forth a wonderful statement from the lips of Simon Peter. He replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter recognised that what he found in Christ – The Bread of Life, he could find nowhere else. There was no other Christ, than Jesus of Nazareth. There was no other who could save his soul and feed his soul than the Saviour, who said in John 6:37

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Is our response that of Simon Peter?

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

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New Zealand Youth Conference

In January 2019, the Asia Pacific Presbytery organised a youth conference which was held at the scenic location of Hunua Falls Camp south of Auckland. Around 20 young people from Australia and New Zealand attended. I was privileged to attend as a speaker.

 

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(Hunua Falls Camp, New Zealand – G B Macdonald)

The following is a brief summary of the papers which were presented:

The first paper was from Mr Hank Optland, on Lessons from the Life of Joseph. Mr Optland presented the information by way of a talk and some attractive slides on PowerPoint. The history of Joseph has many lessons, especially for young people. We can learn the great blessing of having been taught from our youth about the One living and true God, as Joseph was. We can also be reminded how vital it is to have the Lord with us in the trials of life, as He was with Joseph. Again and again we read of Joseph, that ‘the LORD was with Joseph’, thus he was favoured and upheld in difficult trials. One of the richest lessons from Joseph’s life is to recognise him as a wonderful type and foreshadowing of the Saviour.

The second paper was presented by the writer. This was a look at The Rev Alexander Duff – the First Church of Scotland Missionary to India. Even as a young boy, Alexander Duff was taught about the spread of the gospel. Converted at 12 years old, he knew from a young age the value of the atoning blood of Christ and the preciousness of the message of the Christian gospel. At university, Duff was influenced by Rev Thomas Chalmers and was instrumental in the St Andrews University mission society. Ultimately, in the providence of God, Duff was to labour in Calcutta, India. His work there met with a degree of success in the conversion of a number of Hindu youths. One solemn and striking providence that affected Duff was a shipwreck off South Africa, where his only possessions that were recoverable, having washed ashore were a carefully wrapped Bible and psalm book. Duff took this as a sign he should go on to India and should make especially sure in educating the young that the Bible would be the chief source of instruction.

The third paper, was a talk on the important place of Creeds and Confessions by Rev C Hembd. Whilst some may decry the need for such statements of faith, the Church has a duty to be forthright in setting forth its belief in the doctrines of the Bible. One great example of an eminently useful confession is the Westminster Confession of Faith. We are to confess the Christian Faith and confessions and creeds may serve a useful purpose in witnessing to the world and also within the visible Church. Confessional statements can serve a useful purpose in holding ministers and elders to doctrinal account.

The fourth paper was presented by Rev D Ross, a deputy of the Synod appointed Overseas Committee. His subject was Resisting Temptation. As fallen creatures, we are subject to temptation and trial in this life. Joseph when tempted fled from the place where the temptation was. Mr Ross spent some time examining the Fall of man and acknowledged the mystery of Adam sinning against God by succumbing to temptation. he also looked at different kinds of temptation that we may be faced with in this life. Self-trust is a great danger. The Saviour’s words to his disciples in the garden remain relevant to us, ‘Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.‘ (Matthew 26:41)

The final paper of the conference was given by Rev C Hembd. It was on The Covenanters: What they Teach us Today. Mr Hembd began by recounting the example of the renowned Scottish martyr Margaret Wilson, who was drowned with her friend Margaret McLachlan in the Solway Firth of South West Scotland in 1685. They had refused to acknowledge James VII as head of the Church and take the Abjuration Oath renouncing the Covenant. Mr Hembd went on to note that  personal covenanting is a long established practice. In two nations, Israel and Scotland, there have been national covenants. The Covenanters in Scotland were determined in their faith. One reason appears to be the very fact they had covenanted and were given grace to hold to these promises made to God. In the so-called ‘Killing Times’ many were put to death for their refusal to deny the Kingship and Headship of Christ in His Church. Given that persecuting times may arise again, in Scotland and elsewhere, the example of the Covenanters, which has been much studied, is to be treasured.

The question and answer sessions following the papers provided an opportunity for more analysis of the topics.

Thanks are especially due to Rev J D Smith who acted as Chairman and the housemothers who kindly gave of their time to attend and perform this important role. We pray that those who attended may lay to heart the lessons noted and be raised up in their own lands to be faithful witnesses on the side of the Christ.

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

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A Miracle and a Mystery

In John chapter 6 we read of a miracle that is recorded by all four gospel writers – the feeding of the five thousand. Here is a miracle that testified to the fact that Jesus was the Christ – the bread of life.

From five barley loaves and two small fishes, which was clearly that which was to be sufficient for the child whose they were, Jesus fed a multitude of hungry men. Interestingly, it is stressed in John 6 that he gave thanks. Indeed mention is made of this fact twice. We ought to do as Jesus did and give thanks for our daily bread. One fears that grace at mealtimes is not practiced by many in our day, but following the example of Christ, and out of a sense of gratitude to God for the food we receive, we should give thanks.

What a blessing followed – the five thousand were fed. Notice that the Lord gave to the disciples and they to the multitude. As Matthew Henry observes, ‘It was distributed from the hand of Christ by the hands of his disciples, Note, all our comforts come to us originally from the hand of Christ; whoever brings them, it is he that sends them, he distributes to those who distribute to us.’ Following the eating of the meal, we read that twelve baskets full of fragments were retained. There was more left over, than there was to begin with. What a testimony to the divine power of the Saviour!

Those who witnessed the the events were greatly affected. They said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” Yet when Jesus later spoke of His being the bread of life, many went back and walked no more with Him. Perhaps some of these had even eaten of the loaves and fishes. It can be one thing to say of Jesus, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” and another to believe His words.

Instead of submitting the the wish of the men to make him a king, Jesus walked away. Here is a mystery. A mystery which is of course understood only when we appreciate that Jesus had not come to usher in an earthy rule and kingdom. He had not come to save the Jews from the Romans, but to save sinners from the due reward of their deeds. He is the bread of life. The heavenly manna. But only through His being willing to suffer and die in the room and place of His people. In John 10:11 we read Him declaring “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

But have we believed in Him as our Saviour? In verse 47 of John 6 He says, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” Followed by the words that should mean so much in light of the feeding of the five thousand:

“I am that bread of life.”

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

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Creation and Praise

In the psalms we meet with many different subjects that encourage us to praise God. One of these is the fact that He is the Creator. In Psalm 8 we get the impression that David was one who was observant of God’s work of creation. In verse 3 we read David saying, ‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained…’ No doubt David often looked up at the night sky over Israel, which on a clear night would be a wonderful sight!

Notice that David in mediating upon the heavens above, called them not ‘the heavens’, but ‘Thy heavens.’ Matthew Henry makes the simple but interesting point, ‘we must always consider the heavens as God’s heavens, not only as all the world is his, even the earth and the fulness thereof, but in a more peculiar manner. The heavens, even the heavens, are the Lord’s (Ps. 115:16)…’ Indeed the sky on a clear night, free from the light pollution of our major cities, is a sight which should teach us to be in awe at the handiwork of our Creator.

Thus, a due consideration of the wonder of God’s creation should teach us that the One who made the heavens above, is a God of infinite power, glory, wisdom and majesty.

David, was affected by what he saw. He reflected on the wonder that such a Creator God should condescend to think upon man, so he writes, ‘What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitedst him?’

In Hebrews chapter 2, the apostle quotes from this psalm when referring to Christ. And what a great wonder it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, should look up to the heavens, whilst he was upon this earth! In 1 Timothy 3:16 we read, And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

So, when next we look at the moon and the stars which God has ordained, let us think, not only of the Creator, but of the Redeemer. Let us wonder that the Lord Jesus Christ, when he looked upon the moon and the stars, did look upon these as those which He, as the Son of God, had ordained. In writing to believers in Corinth, Paul notes, For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

G B Macdonald

www.sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

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A Call To Praise God

In a number of the Psalms, the Spirit-inspired Psalmist calls us to praise God. We know that we are to praise the Most High, but two questions arise – Why? and How?

In Psalm 95 we have instruction that may help us to addresses these two questions. In verse 1 and 2 we read ‘O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.’ 

Here we have a call to ‘sing unto the LORD’. Thus, we have a warrant here in the Word of God for the singing of praise. Why are we to praise God? Well, are we not told to do so? In singing to His praise, we are showing forth our obedience to His revealed will. Furthermore, He is the LORD. He is a Being of infinite power and majesty. He is eminently worthy of all praise. From everlasting to everlasting He is God. We are also encouraged to praise Him as He is described as, ‘the rock of our savlation‘. He is the Saviour of His people and His redeemed are to praise Him for the glorious Saviour and salvation by which they are saved. We are also to praise Him because, as we read in verse 3, He is a ‘great God and a great King above all gods.’ He is Great above all the gods of the heathen, which are vain and of no power. He is also great above all the mighty men of this world, in whatever generation they may arise. Another reason why we are to praise God is found in verses 5 and 6 – for He is ‘our maker.‘ Ought not the responsible and rational creature to praise his or her Maker? Moreover, as we see from verse 7 of the psalm, God’s people are to praise Him for, He is their covenant God. There we read, ‘For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.’ In verses 8 -11 One more reason is that He is supremely just. We must not harden our hearts as did Israel in the wilderness. They murmured and complained against Him and His dealings with them, which was evidently, not the spirit of praise. So we see even within this psalm we have a number of reasons why we are to praise God.

The next question is – How are we to praise God? Again, we find interesting material in Psalm 95 to help us answer this question. We are to praise God by singing. Not only in our hearts but with our lips in an audible sound. Such singing should be in a language we understand. We are told to ‘make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.’ And indeed what a joy there should be in the heart when we view Him in this light! Thus heart and lip are to be engaged in praise to God. In verse 2 we read that we are to ‘come before his presence with thanksgiving…’ Does this not suggest that in praising God, there ought to be a thoughtfulness, devotion and reflection on who He is and what He has done for us? And finally, where can we find suitable material with which to praise Him? We have the answer in this psalm too – ‘make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.’

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

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A Stronghold in the Day of Trouble

In Nahum 1:7 we come across a very precious and comforting text of Scripture, it reads, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”

Here we have three truths in one verse.

Firstly, “The LORD is good…” here is a truth of the Word of God. Here is a fundamental fact. The eternal God is good and He is eternally so. He was good in Nahum’s day, and He is so in our day too. Even in the first chapter of the Bible, we read of the goodness of God reflected in the good work of Creation. On the sixth day, God surveyed the work of His own power and it was all very good. When our first parents fell from the estate in which they were created, God was good in clothing them with skins to cover their nakedness. It is one of the perfections of God that He is good. Even the Shorter Catechism notes this fact when it observes, in answer to the question, What is God? ‘God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.’ God is good in His longsuffering towards the wicked, giving space for repentance, and He is good in respect of His electing love and redeeming mercy towards His people, who by nature are no better then others. He is good in sending His own dear Son to suffer and die, the just in the room of the unjust. He is good in preparing the glories of heaven for His redeemed people. And so we might extend this list of evidences for the goodness of God.

Secondly, the LORD is a stronghold in the day of trouble. The word stronghold could be rendered, a mighty fortress or mountain stronghold. This of course conveys the idea of His being a source of comfort and safety to His afflicted people in the day of trouble. On a recent visit to Scotland, my family and I went to view Stirling Castle, one of the best known of the many castles in Scotland. It stands high upon a craggy rock and doubtless would have been a difficult place to assault. I am sure the inhabitants of Stirling might well have fled for refuge to that castle in the past, if enemies threatened them. How thankful they would be to be safely found within its walls. So the LORD is set forth in this Biblical truth as a place of refuge for His people in time of trouble. The devil might tempt them that they are weak and defenseless, and so they are in themselves, but not so when they flee to their divine refuge in Christ.

Thirdly, the LORD knoweth them that trust in Him. Here too we have a truth, and a blessed fact. The LORD knows them that are His. He knows such as trust in Him. And furthermore, His eye is upon them for good. He will bring them through fire and water to a wealthy place. Though Elijah the prophet was at one time, when threatened by wicked Jezebel, much cast down, yet the LORD knew Him and supplied His needs, supporting and encouraging soul and body. He still knows those that trust in Him and knows how to support and encourage them in times of trial. Consider for example, the Lord Jesus and how He knew His disciples toiled in rowing in the dead of night, and came walking on the water to deliver them, saying to them, “It is I; be not afraid.” (John 6:20)

May we be refreshed by considering these three truths in one short verse, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” They are as true today as ever.

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

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Sydney Communion August/September 2018

As a congregation we were privileged to have the assistance of Rev J D Smith (Auckland) at the communion season. We were also blessed to have the help of Rev C J Hembd (Gisborne) who took the Thursday evening service.

On Thursday morning we were directed to James 4:10 ‘Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.’ Five means were set before us to the end of humbling ourselves. Firstly, to recognise the majesty of God. He is set forth in the Scriptures as exceeding glorious. Secondly, by examining ourselves we may humble ourselves. When we see ourselves as sinners, not worthy of the least blessing, this should encourage humility of mind. Thirdly, by confession of sin. By agreeing with God and His verdict concerning us in the Bible, for this is what confession of sin is, acknowledging the truth about ourselves and confessing it. Fourthly, by self-emptying, resisting temptation to being puffed up, acknowledging ourselves to be as nothing in God’s sight, and our own. Finally, by seeking a view of Christ by faith. The promise is added, He shall lift you up. As God did David, who could say “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me…” (Psalm 138:7)

On Thursday evening, we were led to consider Ezekiel 9:4 And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.’ The wickedness of idolatry and many associated sins was found even in Jerusalem. In spite of their privileges and of God’s judgments – wickedness was present. The people refused to humble themselves and seek the Lord. So in our day, many profane the Sabbath, when they could make use of it to seek God. If a man lives 70 years in this world, he has 10 years to seek the Lord, even if he did so on one day in seven. It is in and through Christ Jesus, the Great High Priest, that sinners will find peace with God.

On Friday evening, the subject of humility was again before us. The text was Acts 20:19 “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind.’ Emphasis was placed on i. Serving the Lord and ii. Doing so with humility of mind. The disciple follows and serves. So the Christian is one who obeys Christ. And, following the example of the Master, he does so with humility of mind. Paul, as a noted disciple of Jesus, speaks of himself, not as seeking to glorify himself, but to show what was his practice by the grace of God.

On Saturday morning, the subject was ‘The Prince of Peace’. Here is a glorious title given to the Messiah, and found in Isaiah 9:6. The identity of the Person whose title this is was established. The Prince of Peace is God as well as man. A child born, but also – ‘The Mighty God’ – as seen from the same verse. The rule of the Prince of Peace is characterised by authority and peace. And thus the question comes back to us, “what is my relationship to the Prince of Peace?”

On the Sabbath morning, we had the action sermon and Lord’s Table. The subject was the Person, Service and Glory of Christ and the text was from Philippians 2:5-11. Divine worship is ascribed to Christ and Divine works are done by Him. He humbled Himself by taking to Himself a true body and a reasonable soul and he was found in fashion as a man. In service to God and on behalf of His people He died upon of the Cross. His glory is fully seen in His rising from the dead and ascending up into heaven. He there intercedes for His Church and shall come again at the last day in power and great glory.

Once again the Lord’s death was remembered in the manner appointed in the simple but profound service of the Lord’s Supper.

One Sabbath evening, we were again found in Acts 20. This time our attention was drawn to verse 21 ‘Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Whether Paul testified to Jews of Greeks, his message was clear – repentance and faith. The sinner is to repent and believe the gospel. In emphasising such doctrines, Paul was of course simply following the example of the Saviour.

On the Monday evening thanksgiving service, the solemn and glorious truth in Revelation 5:11-12 was the text. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’ The Lamb slain is Christ and He is worthy, on account of all He has done as the appointed Mediator to receive ‘…power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’ It is of course most encouraging to reflect on the glory of Christ, even when the Church on earth may be under the clouds and in great darkness. John was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos as one persecuted for His faith in Christ, when he received the Revelation.

We now pray for the Lord to follow the Communion Season with his blessing and express our thanks to those who assisted in the gospel ministry for their service.

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

 

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