26th November 2023

The time of your visitation

Passage: Luke 19:41-44, 1 John 5:4, Jude 1:2-4, John 5:2
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

Well, this morning the Bible passage, the reading that's been read to us, has an interesting turn of phrase, and I am one who loves to learn about the language of the scriptures and to seek to find the meaning of passages, which often we read and get a general idea but don't always have time to really enjoy the full meaning of the text. And I have to confess that in my life there often come moments when I'm looking at or I'm in a home group that's discussing a Bible passage and suddenly I realise there's something that I've never fully seen, and I think it is that you've never really heard what I'm saying. Now then, at the Friday night home group, they were going through a passage in John's Gospel. We've been making really slow progress, but at a very deep level. And if you're interested in a home group that goes deeper into things, that's one good one that we'll also do, as is Friday evenings at seven o'clock in Marooka at the Coppard's Place. But they came to the place where there was a miracle done at the little place called the Pool of Bethesda. Put your hand up if you know, you've heard of the Pool of Bethesda. All right, a good number of you have. But there was a special miracle that used to occur regularly where people who were invalids had been taken along and were lying by the pool. But once a year, perhaps, the waters would get troubled by an angel. An angel would come, trouble the waters, and it was a signal that if you were the first to get into that pool, you'd be healed of whatever was your disability. And there were all these people who had varied disabilities, some very bad, who were lying there all the time, hoping, just barely hoping, that they could be the first to get down into the pool. Now, that wasn't because someone would be healed, because they were holy, or someone be healed because they displayed great faith, or because of anything, actually. But the fact that they believed God to be a God of grace and a God of help, that they could be the one who would have the miracle. And there was a man there who'd been a paralytic of a sort for 37 years. Now, think about that. If you're an older person, think back 37 years to now. Imagine every day in that period in between you're lying by this pool, hoping that you might be the one that sees the troubled water by the angel and gets in first. But Jesus came. I was very moved in the home group to have a sudden realization that a miracle's about to happen at the pool of Siloam. but it's not because an angel came or not exactly there's a very there's something I realise sitting in the home group who was the angel that came the Bible often uses the expression the angel of the Lord to represent an angel coming at the bidding of the Lord and the term is most used of the second person of the Trinity sometimes if you're not going to differentiate how it is that God is coming through his angel you'd call it a theophany an appearance of God and you think it's an angel, it's actually God himself but there's a special word used if it's the second person of the Trinity the second person of the Trinity the second person of the Trinity even if it's the pre-incarnate Christ and it's called a Christophany the appearance of Christ before his incarnation and on this occasion at the Pool of Siloam no angel comes but Jesus comes and in one moment sitting in the home group I realised he's always been Jesus who was the one that came partly why that was a realisation is that when you read through the scriptures you discover that there's two basic characteristics of God that's right from the beginning of the Old Testament right through to the end of the New there's always a necessity to be blessed by God it's one his grace it's not you the people at the Pool of Siloam didn't do anything they just were benefited by the grace of an angel coming and doing something they didn't deserve they didn't stand out they weren't necessarily better than the other invalids just totally out of grace and the second thing is that God always when he does things finds a way for it all to happen for it also to be when he seeks to draw us to him through faith and grace and faith throughout the entire scriptures is evident in story after story event after event whether it's Cain and Abel in the first family and Abel displays a certain type of faith to bring the sacrifice required that is accepted and Cain does not or other spots where Sarah is promised a child and Sarah's promised child hasn't come and she's gotten very old past the age of human normal possibility and then God makes a miracle happen now what's interesting about these times when God breaks in with grace and calls upon faith is that it has a word that's used about it a way of writing and it's in our passage that we had in the Bible reading about Jesus talking to the Jerusalemites of how they did not know their time of visitation and the word visitation is used and I've been chasing up ever since that home group about the meaning of the visitation discovering it to be quite a technical word that's used mainly the Christian church down through the years has amplified the whole lot of things about a visitation to specify the idea even more carefully some of it by the church or the what was the Catholic church that means all over church before Martin Luther and the Protestants came on the scene but the word visitation is used a lot of a storyline in Luke's Gospel where there are two women two women Mary and Elizabeth and if you look in your scriptures we'll have it put up on the screen of Luke's Gospel and it's the passage let me see Luke 1 61 to 69 I think let's try out and find out Luke 1 and this is the moment of John the Baptist getting about to be born and being born and eventually he is when he's born his name is given as John and he's going to be a great blessing to the world if you look at verse 63 the poor old man who was his father to be couldn't speak he'd been struck dumb for not believing enough I told you that right through the scriptures there's grace but there's also faith required and John the Baptist to be his father didn't believe too fully and he was struck dumb and eventually when the baby was born and they're asking him what name and he gave the name the angel had told him to give and then he got his ability to speak again and anyway his name is John now that's actually not the Luke passage I was looking for so see whether or not John-o you're up to the grade of not only working in the drinks but also finding an unexpected passage that I might not have the numbers right but we want to find the passage where with regard to the storyline of Elizabeth and Mary that apart of John the Baptist's mother Elizabeth having a promise that she would have a son Mary also had the angel come to her and tell her that she was going to have a son so there's both the two women have been on the receiving end listen to me of a visitation taking the words technically particularly the Roman Catholic Church has led in doing this I think they're right that there is something very special when God breaks into you sometimes he does it through an angel and you don't realise it's an angel sometimes he does it with a promise in the night or a dream or whatever but it's called a visitation and it's really because it's a divine visitation it's not the angel you're concentrating on who came but the one who came through him just like it was a bit of a discovery for me that at the pool of Bethesda every year or so where the waters got troubled the angel that came to give grace to one person who didn't deserve it someone paralysed for 37 years it's always grace when God steps in and that moment of grace is properly called a visitation or a divine visitation and what happens is that when Elizabeth very big and pregnant is there and Mary goes to visit her now she actually stays with Elizabeth three months and so exactly when the event happened to her the angel coming to her and praying and promising the birth of the Saviour happened or whether it happened down while she was with Elizabeth we don't know the exact timings but Jesus will be so much younger a few months younger than John the Baptist but Mary goes to visit her and it's a place of refuge a place of a cousin there's a big age difference so there's the whole dynamic of an older woman looking after a young girl who's about to have the most difficult time in her life of becoming pregnant and everybody misunderstanding but more than that she's to become the mother of our Saviour of our Lord so she goes to a place of refuge Elizabeth and as she walks through the door talk about good reasons why the Catholic people call this the divine visitation of Elizabeth because it isn't of Mary visiting Elizabeth it's not Mary who makes it the divine visitation it's what's in her womb and the person whose ministry is going to be to be the herald of the coming of the Messiah excuse me that person is in the womb of Elizabeth and as Mary walks through the door he gives a leap and in the leap is the presence of the Holy Spirit and that unborn yet baby recognising the one about whom his ministry is going to be let's read when Elizabeth heard the greeting I'm reading verse 41 of Mary the baby leaped leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud voice blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb and why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me for behold when the sound of your greeting came to my ears the baby the baby in my womb leapt for joy and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment spoken to her from the Lord you'll find that time and time again I'm not going to go through all the incidents I don't have time where God comes to someone well I will mention Sarah promised to have a baby to Abraham she got too old for it but the spot in the Bible that says that God made it happen is worded that the Lord visited Sarah this idea of a divine visitation where God comes in the visit and presents the claim and it incorporates both the grace of God that he should so come and give the opportunity it also incorporates the call of us on the other end of a divine visitation to be believing and everywhere through the scriptures you'll find the same thing Cain and Abel were appropriate and proper and Cain's was not but Cain did not really believe and God's salvation that comes and was prophesied in the blessing to Abel and all the way through the scriptures whether it's the incident of Sarah and a visitation comes from the Lord it comes with these two characteristics of grace and faith indeed it was the lack of faith by Adam and Eve when God gave them the paradise an opportunity to be in it really was a time of testing a time of getting preparation God would have led them on to far greater blessings than just in a physical garden they would have had eternal life but they didn't ever get to that stage and in that moment their faith faltered and so my first task this morning is to bring to you a reminder that God's revelation always is one that comes with grace you don't deserve it in the first place it's his doing and decision and action and in the second place it is always calling for your faith response which you may or may not give and our first human family fell into sin and for a very brief moment let's understand exactly what faith is from the Genesis story and I won't go at any great depth in this but if you look in Genesis and right at the beginning I don't know where we could pick it up but in the first early chapters of Genesis I didn't jot them down but you'll know the story of how God told them to eat of any tree of the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and that tree of the knowledge of good and evil they were not to eat of lest they die and the devil came along and his angle is always to talk you out of your faith to get you to sin by refusing and refusing to believe God said to Adam and Eve has God said implying oh you don't have to take that too seriously and the temptation to doubt the word of God is the temptation to ditch faith because faith by definition is linked to the word of God now there's something very big and different between us and God in terms of our word ah sometimes Michelle says to me um have you and there's something that she asked me to do when she drove out the door and ah unfortunately for Michelle um my memory works only sometimes and I got caught up on a telephone call and didn't remember to do what she'd asked and I might have forgotten that I haven't done it and I say yeah yeah yeah I think I did my word is not something that necessarily is I hear it all the time I know you could quote that back on me later to my detriment but the truth is the Bible says something similar about God being the opposite it says God is not a man that he should lie or just get confused God is not a man that he should lie but everything he says comes true you can't separate God from his word and the very nature of faith is tied up with believing God which the devil was tempting Adam and Eve has God really said? get a little chip in there about disbelieving God and one of the major things that happens in Christian churches and in Christian denominations or any organisation that's built upon Christianity is the weaselling in of the doubt of the truth that it's based on in the first place has God said? that is why we as evangelicals an evangelical is someone who believes the evangel just Greek for gospel people who believe what God has said understand that the connection of believing is very much a part of what it is to have faith now we need to understand something here that when the Bible talks about faith there are three understandings that the word can be used to mean and I apologise for the complication this may be to you but you probably need it to clarify something in your understanding but there is such a thing as a gift of faith which the Holy Spirit gives there are just some people who have Spirit given a capacity to believe very well that God will answer a prayer on beach missions I remember there was a fellow who came from upcountry very good in the country setting but looking a bit awkward in the city life with people all around him and he used to be our cook on the beach mission times we had and so he was glad of the practical work to do he didn't have to join in some of the other tasks that he wasn't ready for but he had a bigger gift than anybody realised because we'd set up I was in charge of the teenage section we'd set up the tent ready for them all to come in the evening and I'd go and tell him oh we've got some kids then I'd describe them and just tell him about it because that kept him involved not just washing the pans and what but you know what he'd do he'd come down and stand at the entrance and as he looked across all these young people he saw something that somehow God gave him a belief about and he'd go back to his kitchen and pray and sure enough whoever he caught sight of and prayed they got converted I soon discovered the fellow had a gift of faith to believe and when he believed it happened and amongst the body of Christ there are people with a whole lot of varied gifts and that's one of the gifts that's Holy Spirit given charismatic capacity God gives to some Christians to have a special ability to believe it's having to have faith now you need to keep in mind that that's given just to some but it doesn't mean that we all aren't called on to have faith because faith is a part of the basic way you respond to God's grace and without faith Hebrews chapter 11 is full of it you cannot please God no such thing as getting with God without faith and all the way through the Bible that's why as evangelicals who believe the gospel we use the whole Bible as the basis for our faith because it's so rich that when God does his miracles of grace it puts us on the spot to believe Jesus constantly was noticing whether people believed or not including his disciples he would say to them you can't get away from the call that we have a responsibility to believe not repeat the original sin to disbelieve as God said the devil whispered anyway faith is in the centre of what it is to respond to God's grace and that's everywhere in the scriptures and there is a gift of faith but because you don't have that gift it has nothing to do with being called to believe the word of God and to believe his message and being an evangelical is a certain attitude that I'm going to trust what God says in his word no matter what I can't explain to the critics no matter how it might be above my head I could tell you I won't now you've heard some of them before tell you story after story of people that God used but before he used them they went through a crisis of having to accept faith faith is necessary for grace to happen God hasn't taken away the call to have faith Jesus was often saying why has your faith failed you are you of little faith or something to that effect or commending someone like the woman who came up and touched him she didn't understand all the dynamics of whether it's a good thing to go and touch Jesus or not she just had the idea and it was because of her faith that she was aware of the goodness of God that it got out of him and she was healed I'm going to tell you there's no getting around the fact that if you want the blessing of God it all rests upon you being prepared as best you can to respond in faith it's God's grace but on the other side of the story is the need to have faith now when it comes to a visitation the visitation is the miraculous coming from God's side and the word visitation comes to mean just like with Sarah I think thank you John I know he'd found the verse now I'm asking for it back in Genesis where is it Genesis where Sarah has faith and I think that's probably Genesis either 19 or 21 let's see what happens no 19 is about Solomon and Gomorrah but while you've got that there the Lord visited Sarah as he had said and I've read that passage many times and never noticed the word visited God came somehow in a special way that he was called the divine visitation God the Lord visited Sarah as he had said and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised and Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him well God acts and keeps his promise and in the previous message I know I put a lot of things together and you might not have had opportunity to really take it in but that passage in Galatians it talks about before faith came and there's people saying like me that faith is always needed what does it mean before faith came well here's a piece of information to clarify that for you do you realise that when the Bible talks about faith people talk about there being a gift of faith given by the Holy Spirit but general faith is actually described in one or two ways different even from the gift of faith it's talking about faith and some passages say the faith and when the Bible talks about this is how you overcome the world even through your faith it's actually you're the faith I'll give you a few examples if we look in the New Testament in the book of Jude and the book of Jude where have I got it in the book of Jude we have chapter 1 verses 2 to 4 we have a discussion about the faith and often in the translation some of them won't use the word the they're tidying it up and making it easy to read but it is the faith as distinct from just faith without a the word Beloved although I was very eager to write to you about our salvation I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith if you've got a modern translation they might leave the word the out but it's there in the Greek for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints through the apostles once and for all delivered the faith it's the content of the Christian belief it's called the faith how do we overcome the world we don't overcome the world just by having nice faithy feelings some people got the wrong idea of what this verse is all about it's not talking about you just having trusting other passages talk about the need to trust I'm not knocking that idea but the thing that overcomes the world is the faith there is a place for the doctrine of the gospel which is absolutely necessary to be believed in order for the world to be overcome I was eager to write to you about our common salvation and found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith there's a place for us to point out where others have got it wrong if they've disbelieved what God says and they haven't accepted that the whole scriptures which talks about the gospel that talks about what God has done in Christ and how he came into the world for the purpose of dying on the cross for our sins how he rose from the dead and has gone back to heaven how at Christmas times we also remember his birth his matchless birth he becomes the God man and the whole of the Christmas story is about the fact it's not just God it's God taking on humanity and coming in the person of his son and the fact that Jesus is the infinite God man and the miracles that he does he does in order to exemplify how we can trust God and believe his promises and Jesus and who he is as the God man as a part of the gospel that's what Christmas is all about and that's what we need to keep in our minds it's the faith that overcomes the world let's not ditch it let's not let other people talk us out of the necessity of the nativity seen in the shopping centres let's not let our syllabi for Christian education in the schools other people say well what's important is you teach people how to be nice or you teach them how to have that general believing you've got to believe in something you know it's really about faith I really dislike I shouldn't well I will tell you a loss in Christian vocabulary that's happened across the decades the last two or three decades in my young day people ask the question have you come to Christ I liked it because it's talking about Jesus as the content of our faith and his person being at the heart of it do you know what today most they ask oh so we had six people come to faith coming to faith is not the point it's who you put your faith in there are many people who've got a faith of some sort that's so wishy-washy it's not going to do any good except psychologically you give them something to believe that's better than having nothing to believe in the one who does the miracle is the person of Jesus when Jesus comes everything changes and faith in Jesus and what he has achieved in his coming into the world in the person that he is in whom the eternal God has tabernacled amongst us by coming amongst us the wonder of Christmas is about what God did in his son coming and being here both God and man the mystery of it and the glory of it that's the faith it overcomes the world let's not let the world talk us out of it anyway the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints there's not new revelations to add to the Christian story along the way it is the faith once given through the apostles and the prophets Ephesians 2.20 says for certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation ungodly people who pervert the grace of God into sensuality there are nice feelings that's what you really need it doesn't really matter what you believe it doesn't really matter what is your behaviour no no no that's wrong sensuality and deny our only master and lord Jesus Christ the false teachers deny Jesus as their master though they would say they don't and this is talking about the faith as very important now there's other verses where you look up if you do your own homework and look through the scriptures use your little phone actually I do type in what's the difference between the faith and faith gee there's a lot it'll tell you faith is our trust and belief that's called for but the faith is the content of what God has done for us to believe in it and you'll find in the story lines of many a Christian when they've come to a place of being called to doubt caused to doubt the facts of Christianity when they get the spot where they're going to say God I can't work it all out but I'm going to believe you they've cottoned on to what is it the essence of true faith when you believe what God has said and it doesn't mean that you necessarily don't have an interest like I do in chasing down all the details and the meanings of all the words but I don't believe the gospel because of all my homework only I believe the gospel because there was a time when I was called on to simply respond out of faith I heard a message I got a communication coming from Christ and I believed that it was my conversion and I meet many people who've become biblical they've become Christian in the sense of their culture they do have beliefs you could even take on the form of the faith and you haven't had the faith that's the other one and the Bible sometimes talks about the faith and sometimes faith and one good verse where I'm not sure which one it is is John 5 and verse 2 let's all look at it together John 5 and verse 2 I think it's 1 John um no 1 John sorry I said that wrong 1 John 5 and verse 2 is um let me check up no it's 1 John 5 and verse 4 um so go down a couple of verses you're doing really well John though it's my not being specifically correct that you're having to overcome for everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world and this is the victory that has overcome the world our faith but it's actually our the faith and I had another verse and now I don't know where to turn you to but where when you read it you can see it's both the faith and also our trust in it you'll have to look that up and find it for yourself but for the moment we could go back and see about times of visitation which is really what this sermon is about if you go home and people ask you what did Jim talk about he talked about not missing or not knowing the time of your visitation I know the time of my visitations when I got converted it has Christ appearing to me as it were through the gospel Billy Graham sermon other people have different things I one of my friends in Adelaide who became a Christian told me having heard the gospel he just walked out into the backyard and put his hand up to God and I remember the little boy in school I used to teach he did exactly the same thing when I caught him out lying and told him how to get forgiven he came back inside the classroom and sat down at his desk with his arms like this and his head on and then as I went on with my lesson I'm not sure that I legally should have been doing what I was doing because I had told him the gospel out the door when I reprimanded him and he came in and sat down and then he put his hand up but he had his head in the desk and he wasn't looking and I thought he's not got his hand up to me because he wouldn't know that I'd seen him so at the break time I said tell me you put your hand up what was going on and he says I put my hand up to God I put my hand up to God and if you've never really understood what it is to have faith not the faith which is the content of the message but faith of you getting in the door with God it doesn't matter whether it's in the church and you come forward and appeal or whether it's in your bedroom and you realise this is the moment that God is getting to and you get out of your bed and you get on your knees and say okay Lord you've got me or like that man who says he walks in his own backyard and put his hand up to God or the little boy who got the message from the teacher me and he put his hand up to God but there's some moment of faith in the sense of not the faith but faith your faith and it's what you have to do to respond to your visitation and Jesus if we go back now and I'll conclude in this spot if we go back to Luke 19 verses 41 to 44 in Luke 19 where Jesus is lamenting over Jerusalem suddenly you see that the whole coming of Jesus to the nation of Israel is his living out the very fact of what a visitation is he and his incarnate person is very God he's the eternal son and he's taken on humanity in order to come and do a visitation of us corporately the whole human race and when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it saying would that you even you can you hear the pathos it is love for the Jewish people even you had known on this day the things that make for peace but now they're hidden from your eyes because they didn't respond at the right time they're hidden from your eyes for the days will come upon you when your enemies will set up barricades around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground and you and your children within you this is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem about to happen soon to them and they will not leave one stone upon another because you did not know the time of your visitation do you know that when people hear the gospel message the content of the faith it puts on them an understanding of the grace of God that he should even come and knock at their door it puts on them an understanding of the grace of God as the message of the faith is rehearsed that Jesus came and bore our sins on the cross that we should not be condemned it puts on them the opportunity to respond when we hear of his resurrection that he's alive and that how we are to have faith is to come into relationship with the risen person the risen Christ and to let him be our Lord and Saviour when that comes on you you are having a visitation that happens sometimes in personal moments with people when they've got a friend who's a Christian and they keep talking about it and they know there's something different about the Christian but then there comes a moment when suddenly they perceive who it is that makes the difference it's not your background it's not your church it's not anything but there's a person called Jesus and he's alive today and by his spirit he comes and confronts people and at that moment of confrontation they are having a visitation and I know it's also true in church services where people who come along for a spectacle sometimes like in one church in Perth where a fella came he's actually in a wheelchair and his daughter was a Christian a lovely Christian and so he was always asked to come and he sat up the back in his wheelchair it was my first Sunday at that church and we gave a call I say we because the whole church were behind it happening the people who needed to come to Christ to come down the front so we could counsel them we didn't expect what happened but he came wheeling his wheelchair down now they had a church it didn't have an easy get up part like we have it was a bit like this would be the stage just an abrupt thing and I'd ask them to come down the front not being very sensitive or aware of someone in a wheelchair and we were going to take them to a room back there to counsel I gave a call for people that needed to come to Christ and he wheeled his wheelchair down and came with a bang against this sort of part and luckily there were some of the men of the church who had stepped up and were helping and they reached out a hand and he reached up with a hand they pulled him up and took him in there and helped him stumble in and he came to Christ that day he became a straight forward Christian no issues it had been his day of visitation for all I know that across the years or maybe across the weeks or even across this week God has coming knocking at the door of someone here and that day of visitation could very well be right now for you and it does not mean it's you working your way in the door no it's totally God's grace Jesus has done all that's needed for you his death was sufficient for the worst of sinners so you get in the door somewhere there you're probably not the worst of sinners but Jesus died for everybody and there's no sins left out I want to tell you that this is your moment to come to Christ any time it is that time where Jesus comes and makes it a divine visitation I can't always specify to make it so I can't decide it will happen when I preach so totally out of my hands I just leave that to God but it comes and this morning there may be someone here for whom this is the time of your visitation and Jesus says to you I wish that you'd know the time of your own visitation and the Jerusalemites didn't they headed off into the AD 70 destruction of the city under the Roman armies what you should do this morning if indeed Christ is calling you don't care what it looks like don't worry about other people don't worry about if you're not sure just where you're at and whether you've gotten in the door before but if God is speaking to you today as we come to the final piece of music and sing and our musicians will be here singing I'm going to come and stand down here I'm going to ask you to come and stand next to me because this is your time of visitation let's have a word of prayer Father I praise you for the pool of Bethesda where the angel used to come and I wonder whether that angel every time was actually the pre-incarnate Christ certainly I can't know for sure exactly whether you've seen an angel or was actually Jesus pre-incarnate but I do know in the storyline of this poor man who'd been there 37 years that it was Jesus there was no extra angel coming he didn't need one, it was Jesus who came and when he told his story of how he had no one to help him get down into the pool when the water was troubled someone always got there first and Jesus simply bypassed the whole scene of that and says take up your bed and walk and at the word of Christ at the word of Christ the man believed he got up and took up his bed and walked out the door Lord there's someone here who can resolve the question of their assurance of belonging to Christ and eventually walk out the door with it resolved if they'll just believe Jesus and respond at the moment of their visitation would you give courage to whoever that person or people that in this moment of call that they respond we ask you give them the help of God just like you did that man I imagine him saying I'm gonna I'm gonna try he just decided and when he put his legs out Lord what a wonderful thing to feel the weight suddenly come on them the ability to hold him up and Lord you gave him the strength and you'll give the strength to live the Christian life no matter who is the one that needs to take this step and we praise you Father that you put yourself into these situations and it's really you that's making it a divine visitation let that happen now we ask in Jesus name Amen.

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