MVOPC 30 November 2014
Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5
Opening Hymn: 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing”
Confession of Sin
O eternal God and merciful Father, we humble ourselves before your great majesty, against which we have frequently and grievously sinned. We acknowledge that we deserve nothing less than eternal death, that we are unclean before you and children of wrath. We continually transgress your commandments, failing to do what you have commanded, and doing that which you have expressly forbidden. We acknowledge our waywardness, and are heartily sorry for all our sins. We are not worthy to be called your children, nor to lift up our eyes heavenward to you in prayer. Nevertheless, O Lord God and gracious Father, we know that your mercy toward those who turn to you is infinite; and so we take courage to call upon you, trusting in our Mediator Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Forgive all our sins for Christ’s sake. Cover us with his innocence and righteousness, for the glory of your name. Deliver our understanding from all blindness, and our hearts from all willfulness and rebellion, we pray through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 106:43-45
Hymn of Preparation: 461 “Not What My Hands Have Done”
Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 111:1-10
New Covenant Reading: Galatians 3:15-22
Sermon: The Priority of Covenant Grace
Hymn of Response: 460 “Amazing Grace!”
Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”
OT: Ezekiel 2:1-10
NT: Revelation 5:1-14
Worthy is the Lamb
Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 59-61 – Whom Does Christ Save?
CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 75
75.What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward estate.
Monday (11/24) Read and discuss Galatians 3:15-22. Paul’s argument that the Promise was given 430 years before the Law and therefore could not depend on the Law is so simply that small children can understand it and it utterly devastates the position of the Judaizers and legalists everywhere. Martin Luther writes:
God acted properly in giving the promise such a long time before the law, so no one can claim that righteousness comes through the law and not through the promise. If he had wanted us to be justified through the law he would have given it 430 years before the promise, or at least at the same time. But he was completely silent about the law for 430 years, during which time he spoke only about the promise. Therefore the blessing and the gift of righteousness came before the law, through the promise, and the promise is superior to the law. The law does not abrogate the promise but the other way around.
Read or sing Hymn: 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Pray for the people of the Ukraine as they deal with the Russian occupation of part of their nation.
Tuesday (11/25) Read and discuss Galatians 3:10-14. As Paul has made abundantly clear, salvation is entirely God’s gift to us. Our membership as full first-class members of God’s family is by grace alone, through faith alone, because it is of Christ alone.
What do we do with this? Three things:
- First, meditating on this passage ought to fill us with gratitude that Jesus has provided everything for our salvation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said: “The heart of Christian theology is grace and the heart of Christian ethics is gratitude.” Indeed, the Heidelberg Catechism is organized into three sections (1) Guilt; (2) Grace; and (3) Gratitude. If you are struggling with diminished gratitude to God in your own life don’t try to work up being more grateful. Instead, focus on your guilt and the grace of God that took it all away. Focus on Christ bearing every sin that you will ever commit so that He could call you “sister” or “brother” – and the gratitude will come.
- Second, let’s ask the LORD to examine us to see if we are highways for His grace or if we have become roadblocks to His plan to bless the world through the Seed of Abraham. We can subtly, and not so subtly, begin to communicate to our children and others that God loves them and accepts them when they are behaving but not when they are misbehaving. But what is that but to teach that their acceptance before God is dependent upon their performance rather than the finished work of Christ? Let’s pray that the LORD would continue to transform us into the likeness of Christ that we would truly serve as highways for His grace.
- Third, remember to apply the message about God’s all-sufficient grace in Jesus Christ to your own life. We can easily be robbed of the joy of the Christian life by falling into a performance trap that says “You can be happy in Jesus when you know more and obey more fully.” But, if you are in Christ, you are already as loved and accepted by God this very moment as you will be a million years from now in the New Heavens and New Earth. You neither fully know nor fully obey but you are fully known, fully accepted, fully loved in Jesus Christ. Jesus is calling you to lay down your burdens and to trust Him in the present for the cares of this day and for your future as well. Jesus is calling “Come unto Me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls.” Come … and find your joy in
Prayer: Give thanks that God both knows you fully and loves you completely in Jesus Christ.
Wednesday (11/26) Read and discuss Psalm 111:1-10. How do we build our faith? One of the ways the LORD uses to build our confidence about His faithfulness in future is our praise and thanksgiving for His faithfulness in the past and present. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving renew our faith through the very act of offering them up to the LORD. Why not slowly read through this psalm slowly pausing to make it personal to your own life? A few comments on the last verse may be helpful. John Phillips writes:
- The psalmist tells us where wisdom starts: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” That was the basic premise in the wisdom literature of the Hebrew people. To abandon the fear of the LORD is to open the door to every wicked philosophy which the mind of man is capable of devising.
- The psalmist tells us why wisdom stands: “A good understanding have all they that do His commandments.” The expression “a good understanding” can be rendered “good success.” “Excellent insight have all they that do those things” is Ratherham’s rendering.
- The psalmist tells us when wisdom sings: “His praise endures forever.”
O worship the King all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love.
Our shield and Defender, the Ancient of days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
Read or sing Hymn: 461 “Not What My Hands Have Done” Read or sing Hymn 286 “Worship Christ, the Risen King!” Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters at our new church plant Providence OPC in West Lebanon, NH.
Thursday (11/27) Read and discuss Ezekiel 2:1-10. At the heat of our calling simply this: the LORD calls us to be faithful. If you are looking for a saying to post on your mirror you might want to consider this: “Faithfulness is Success.” Iain Duguid writes:
What do the models of Jesus and Ezekiel tell us about our efforts in evangelism and missions? In the first place, surely they challenge the common notion in the church that “bigger is always better.” There is a lot of pressure from many quarters in our times to measure success in terms of numbers. Whether it is evangelistic crusades that speak of thousands of “decisions for Christ” or popular books that suggest that adopting certain methodologies will inevitably bring church growth, the “bigger is better” philosophy reigns in much of the contemporary church.
In support of this doctrine, the biblical image of the harvest is pressed into service. It is asserted on the one hand that the faithful Christian will inevitably be the fruitful Christian, seeing many people brought to Christ, and on the other hand that fruitlessness should determine strategy, so that the maximum number of harvesters are sent to where the fruit is ripe. On this approach, the primary goal of missions and evangelism is to see the world come to Christ.
The call of Ezekiel (and some of the other prophets) should challenge this simplistic assumption. He is specifically called and sent to a people who have been unresponsive in the past and will be unresponsive in the future. Not only that, but God tells the prophet that if he had sent him to the Gentiles, a far greater response to his preaching would have occurred. The faithfulness of this man’s ministry cannot be measured in numerical terms. The primary goal of his ministry is not to see people converted but to bring glory to God by preaching (and modeling) the message he has been given.
Read or Sing Hymn: 460 “Amazing Grace!” Prayer: Give thanks for our country and pray that her future would be one with religious freedom.
Friday (11/28) Read and discuss Revelation 5:1-14. In the first century, important legal scrolls were normally sealed with wax and stamped with an official seal that only authorized persons could open. The opening of such seals on a will was where the concept of “probate” originated. A very important scroll, such as the will of the Emperor, would be sealed with seven seals. The book of Revelation is using this imagery, which would have been well known to its original audience, to dramatically present the plans of God both to bless and to bring judgment upon the world. The only problem is that no-one is found worthy to open the scrolls. Don’t skip too quickly over John’s loud weeping in verse 4. If God’s plans to execute justice are never carried out – then the universe would be a fundamentally immoral and meaningless. As the Apostle Paul put it, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (1 Corinthians 15:32).” But the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David has conquered – and was able to open the seals. Turning to see the Lion, John meets the striking image of a Lamb as though slain. This juxtaposition of images, with the Lamb as though slain being on the throne, vividly portrays how Christ’s victory came through His own death. It is as though Jesus opens the seals of His own will and the blessings which His people inherit in Him are announced – principally that we have been made a kingdom and priests to our God. Yet, this is done in such a way that the focus is not shifted from Christ to us – but to His eternal glory. Salvation is for our good, but it is for His glory. Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.
Saturday (11/29) Read and discuss Galatians 3:15-22. Calvin writes:
Hereupon, Paul concludes that ‘if the inheritance be of the law; it is no more of promise’. The fact is that everything was granted to Abraham by faith, which brings us to the conclusion that in our endeavors to obtain favor in the eyes of God, the law has no influence. The praise for our salvation must be rendered to God alone. Paul highlights two things here by this word ‘inheritance’. One is that whatever God has promised us is a result of his bounty alone, for an inheritance is not given on the same basis as a salary. When a father grants an inheritance to his children, he may say, ‘See how I have worked for you! See the result – now you can have all my wealth!” But all this blessing is only because of the blood-tie; in this way, he labors and goes to great pains to provide for those who are committed to his care. Since even our human inheritances are free, we must ensure that we do not view eternal life as wages that we have earned by our merits. Why not? Because that too is an inheritance. This is the first point: all conception of man’s worth is excluded. For when a man makes his children his heirs, he does not expect them to have achieved some great task, or to be especially attractive, or to have this or that gift. No; it is enough that they are his children and that he desires to provide for them.
Read or Sing Hymn 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.