[Did you miss last week’s Sunday Services? They can now be found at Worship Archive – February 26th 2023.]
Sunday Service from Connexion for March 5th 2023:
Sunday Service from Hillside Circuit for March 5th 2023:
Lectionary Theme: Faith in God leads to everlasting life
Occasion: 2nd Sunday in Lent
Genesis 12: 1-4a
Romans 4: 1-5, 13-17
John 3: 1-17
[Click or tap on a Bible reference above to jump down the page to the Bible reading to read it for yourself and then click or tap on Back to top to come back here.]
Here are the songs for Sunday morning service. Click or tap on a song to open it in YouTube.
For God so loved the world.
Father God I wonder.
Be lifted up.
Jesus keep me near the cross.
When we walk.
You can listen and join in with prayers from the English Methodist Service Book. They can be found at the Prayers for worship webpage.
[Note that no Children’s Address was received today.]
[Click or tap here to jump down the page to find the text version of today’s message with Mr Ivan Chigwada so that you can read it for yourself.]
1 I look to the hills! Where will I find help?
2 It will come from the LORD,
who created the heavens and the earth.
3 The LORD is your protector,
and he won’t go to sleep or let you stumble.
4 The protector of Israel doesn’t doze or ever get drowsy.
5 The LORD is your protector, there at your right side
to shade you from the sun.
6 You won’t be harmed by the sun during the day
or by the moon at night.
7 The LORD will protect you
and keep you safe from all dangers.
8 The LORD will protect you
now and always wherever you go.
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1 The LORD said to Abram:
Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you.
4-5 Abram was seventy-five years old when the LORD told him to leave the city of Haran. He obeyed and left with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions and slaves they had gotten while in Haran.
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1 Well then, what can we say about our ancestor Abraham? 2 If he became acceptable to God because of what he did, then he would have something to brag about. But he would never be able to brag about it to God. 3 The Scriptures say, “God accepted Abraham because Abraham had faith in him.”
4 Money paid to workers isn’t a gift. It is something they earn by working. 5 But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. God accepts sinners only because they have faith in him.
13 God promised Abraham and his descendants that he would give them the world. This promise wasn’t made because Abraham had obeyed a law, but because his faith in God made him acceptable. 14 If Abraham and his descendants were given this promise because they had obeyed a law, then faith would mean nothing, and the promise would be worthless.
15 God becomes angry when his Law is broken. But where there isn’t a law, it cannot be broken. 16 Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God’s promise is assured by his great kindness. This promise isn’t only for Abraham’s descendants who have the Law. It is for all who are Abraham’s descendants because they have faith, just as he did. Abraham is the ancestor of us all. 17 The Scriptures say that Abraham would become the ancestor of many nations. This promise was made to Abraham because he had faith in God, who raises the dead to life and creates new things.
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1 There was a man named Nicodemus who was a Pharisee and a Jewish leader. 2 One night he went to Jesus and said, “Sir, we know that God has sent you to teach us. You could not work these miracles, unless God were with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you for certain that you must be born from above before you can see God’s kingdom!”
4 Nicodemus asked, “How can a grown man ever be born a second time?”
5 Jesus answered:
I tell you for certain that before you can get into God’s kingdom, you must be born not only by water, but by the Spirit. 6 Humans give life to their children. Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God. 7 Don’t be surprised when I say that you must be born from above. 8 Only God’s Spirit gives new life. The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 Jesus replied:
How can you be a teacher of Israel and not know these things? 11 I tell you for certain that we know what we are talking about because we have seen it ourselves. But none of you will accept what we say. 12 If you don’t believe when I talk to you about things on earth, how can you possibly believe if I talk to you about things in heaven?
13 No one has gone up to heaven except the Son of Man, who came down from there. 14 And the Son of Man must be lifted up, just as that metal snake was lifted up by Moses in the desert. 15 Then everyone who has faith in the Son of Man will have eternal life.
16 God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. 17 God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them!
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Text version of today’s message with Mr Ivan Chigwada:
We have read from Psalm 121, Genesis 12:1-4a, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 and John 3:1-17 and are asked to talk on the theme ‘Faith in God leads to everlasting life.’ Faith and everlasting life are separate matters of belief that cannot be adequately discussed in tandem. I have chosen to focus on faith, although everlasting life will be explained. Psalm 121 contains the reflections of a man who is on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for one of the annual festivals and is worried about the dangers he may encounter on the journey. Genesis 12 narrates the call of Abraham and Romans 4 sheds more light on that call and the response of Abraham to that call. John 3 headed ‘Jesus teaches Nicodemus’ is about Nicodemus’ night visit to Jesus. Nicodemus is that man who later joined Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus. It is said he brought 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes to preserve the body of Jesus for burial as was tradition then. Do these passages of Scripture shed light on the three characters’ faith in God? Yes they do! Scripture defines faith for us in this manner ‘Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith the people in days of old earned a good reputation.’ Hebrews 11:1-2! Our theme assures us of one of the major fruits of faith in God- the everlasting life! For you and I how can it be said that we can have eternal life when we still die? John 3:16 is clear on who shall not perish and have eternal life. Incidentally the Greek word translated ‘everlasting’ means ‘perpetual, eternal, forever’. Perhaps the word perpetual explains the Biblical concept of everlasting life! Everlasting life has a beginning but has no end. Eternal life has no beginning or an end! Eternal or everlasting life is the divinely bestowed gift of blessedness in God’s presence that endures without end! This relates especially to the quality and duration of life of the believer. Key to our understanding the biblical meaning of this is the Bible’s use of the word eternal. To trust Him is to begin to realize what ‘eternal’ signifies. To live responsively before Him means to gain understanding and indeed is induction into eternal life. We believe that God is eternal! Psalm 90: 2 says ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’ Since God is eternal so are His love (1 Kings 10:9), His blessings (Psalm 21:6) and all His other attributes and benefits. They endure without end, as long as God exists, so they do! This means that anything that endures in the presence of God does not get extinguished! That is the way of God and for us to live that life we need to show that we believe in the God we say we believe in! Unless we live out our faith and are seen to be doing so we will not get that blessing of God. Everlasting life is a feature that shall be enjoyed by those who have faith in the Living God. Moses and Elijah who appeared on Mount Tabor are our examples. These two believed and had faith in God and their minds and actions were guarded by the Living God in whom they had full faith!
Let us now focus on the Scriptures for today. The precise message of Psalm 121 is that we can depend upon God for help and in so doing grow in our faith in Him. Pilgrims who must travel through lonely and frightening country to their destination; are protected not by anything created, but by the Creator of everything. Psalm 121 is the first of what are referred to as the psalms of the ascent, there are 14 of them. A Jewish man chanted each of these one per day (starting with Psalm 121) before his pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the annual festivals-Passover, Feast of Weeks and Feast of Tabernacles. Jerusalem was the city built on a hill and surrounded by hills habited by robbers who could pounce on the lone pilgrim. Those hills looked frightening yes, but to the one travelling to go and offer their worship to God in faith, fear would not come in because God guards the minds and actions of those who follow His commands.
In Chapter 12 of Genesis we meet with Abraham who is NOW already on the move because as we hear he had been told to leave the land of his forefathers and go to a land God would show him. Faith in action is shown in the way we obey the commands of God. Abraham moved from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan following the word of God and acting out his faith in the God who had spoken to him. He indeed was a man who believed in the God he believed in!
Believing in the God one believes in is the story picked on by the writer of the letter to the Romans. No one illustrates this more than Abraham! When told to move to a place he did not know even at the good age of 75 Abraham obliged! When told that God would give that land he was headed to, to the descendants of a childless Abraham, the wise old fellow just moved along in belief. When told that the whole world would be blessed through him, Abraham gladly took the promise of that blessing of God for himself and made it his! Faith gives us the assurance about the things we cannot see!
Let it be known that Abraham lived almost 500 years before the Law of God was given through Moses. He thus did not know the law as we know it today. The Law was a guideline to living with God and yet it did not offer salvation to those who followed it even to the dot! For Abraham to be referred to as a person who lived according to how God wished man to live-that is righteousness- Abraham had shown that he was a man who believed God and acted out his belief in God. God wants us to live in the manner that He says we should live and when we do we will live the contented life with Him-that is the beginning of everlasting life! On a light note there is the everlasting life in the sense of the long life that is led by those God blesses and there is everlasting life in the sense of the good reputation that some who are so blessed by God leave behind when they leave this miserable planet! The reputation of some of God’s children never dies! When you die what will the world say? Will some celebrate your demise since your death will signify the beginning of the end of the misery you will be causing them? I pray than none of those gathered in here will be celebrated in that awful direction.
Earlier I pointed out that John 3 is headed ‘Jesus teaches Nicodemus!’ Jesus teaches Nicodemus that everlasting life comes from believing in God and is a divine gift which starts with entering the kingdom of God! Here is the teaching meant for us. In chapter 2 we read that when men appeared to show faith in Him, Jesus could not trust Himself to men because He knew what was in men’s hearts. When Nicodemus started talking to Him Jesus knew what Nicodemus wanted and Jesus’ answer was not a comment on what he had said. Instead Jesus said ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ Before Nicodemus could say it Jesus knew it and provided the answer. Maybe Nicodemus had heard Jesus say ‘Repent for the kingdom of God is here!’ and had been wondering how that could be achieved. We are then told that the Greek word for ‘again’ in this passage is the same as ‘from above’.
In talking of being ‘born again’ Jesus is asserting that without a complete change comparable only to rebirth, the natural man could not enter the spiritual kingdom. Just as an infant, by the very occurrence of his birth is fitted for a new life in a strange realm, so men must experience spiritual rebirth preparatory to their entrance into the kingdom of God.
‘Except one be born of water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ was yet another mouthful. To a Jew the idea of baptism would be repugnant since it connoted the ceremony by which an unclean Gentile became a member of the Jewish faith. Such a step as this for Nicodemus would involve humiliation, a virtual acknowledgement that he, a Pharisee, needed to repent just as a Gentile outside the law needed repentance. The mystery and reality of the Spirit’s work were both contained in Jesus’ illustration of the wind whose origin was undiscoverable but whose presence was manifest. Nobody could deny its existence. Thus it was with those born of the Spirit. The origin of their life could not be defined, but its actuality could be seen by all.
To reinforce the point further, Jesus selected the story of the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:8) making a direct comparison between the serpent and Himself. The serpent was the emblem of sin under judgment and was prepared by the command of God. It symbolized God’s way of saving men who are under the condemnation of sin and who are suffering from its effects. It made curative power available on the basis of faith rather than of works. The sufferers did nothing but LOOK at the serpent. The serpent itself was a representation of God’s judgment on sin. The DESTINY of the individual was determined by his response to God’s invitation. In effect Jesus told Nicodemus that the new birth was a direct result of faith in His death and resurrection power! Thus we are now taught that faith in God leads to everlasting life! Believe this and you are set for life in the presence of God!
Salvation is not restricted to any race, colour, or class, but is the heritage of all who will truly believe. Why does God bother with offering His salvation? The answer is to enable those who are saved to start living with God! Today if you respond to the invitation of God His blessings shall be yours enjoy! Believe that God yearns to have you live with Him in His kingdom, now and forevermore! AMEN
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