MVOPC 28 September 2014
Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3
Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”
Confession of Sin
O You whose chosen dwelling is the heart that longs for Your presence and humbly seeks Your love: We come to You to acknowledge and confess that we have sinned in thought and word and deed; We have not loved You with all our heart and soul, with all our mind and strength; We have not even loved our neighbor as ourselves. Deepen within us our sorrow for the wrong we have done, or for the good we have left undone. But You, O Lord, are full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy; there is forgiveness with You. Restore to us the joy of Your salvation; Bind up that which is broken, give light to our minds, strength to our wills and rest to our souls. Speak to each of us the word that we need, and let Your Word abide with us until it has wrought in us Your holy will. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:16-18
Old Covenant Reading: Jeremiah 23:23-32
New Covenant Reading: Acts 9:10-31
Hymn of Preparation: 309 “Rejoice, the Lord is King”
Sermon Text: Galatians 1:11-24
Sermon: Authentic Messenger, Authentic Gospel
Hymn of Response: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”
Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”
PM Worship: Revelation 2:1-7 – Recapturing Our First Love
Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 44: Christ our High Priest
CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 66
66.What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.
Monday (9/22) Read and discuss Galatians 1:11-24. Tom Schreiner writes:
We learn from these verses that the gospel is ultimately derived not from human beings but from God himself. In other words, the gospel represents a transcendent word from God – a word from above that speaks authoritatively and infallibly to human beings. Hence, rejection of the gospel amounts to a repudiation of what God himself has communicated. Paul labors to teach here that the gospel did not originate with him, and indeed it was contrary to his own view of reality, since he was convinced that faith in Christ was a perilous delusion.
Indeed, Paul’s call and conversion function as significant evidence of the truth of the Christian faith. What can account for the radical transformation of a man who was implacably opposed to Jesus Christ and early Christians? As Paul explains here, there was no human reason for him to subscribe to the Christian faith. He thought he was like Phinehas and Elijah of old – a valiant warrior contending in God’s name for the truth. He envisioned himself as a modern manifestation of the Maccabean heroes, who resisted apostasy with zeal in their own day. More than that, he was celebrated for his zeal and prowess in Judaism. Therefore, the only explanation for his call and conversion is the miraculous intervention of God. Paul’s conversion has only one explanation: God himself. From a human standpoint, it was exceedingly unlikely.
It is important to realize that our zeal and sincerity do not mean that we are necessarily right. We can be zealous for something and yet be zealously wrong. I remember as a young boy I was one of the last to believe in Santa Claus! I was zealous for the truth of his existence, but I was wrong. Furthermore, we can become zealous for a cause and get out of balance. I know of a pro-life activist who was incredibly committed to life. But he ended up leaving his wife for another woman and moved to another state and bought an expensive house. His zeal of the cause of life was not truly rooted in the gospel, and he ignored his responsibility to his wife.
We also learn from this text that the gospel we proclaim is a divine gospel. It is a heavenly gospel in that it comes from the Father. We can be assured that a gospel that comes from God himself is true, that it cannot be dismissed as a human invention. Why should we believe in the Christian faith? We should believe in it because it is true. It reflects God’s view of reality, and God’s view is indisputably true since he is the creator of all reality.
Read or sing Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Give thanks that we can have complete confidence in God’s gospel, because it comes from the LORD who is entirely trustworthy.
Tuesday (9/23) Read and discuss Read Galatians 1:6-10. In his Apostolic astonishment Paul is grabbing a hold on the Galatians and telling them to wake up. He begins by letting them know what is at stake when the drift away from the gospel that he had preached to them. He tells them plainly that to abandon the Gospel is to abandon God. Paul doesn’t simply say: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting what I taught you.” Instead, He writes: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him.” To abandon the gospel – the good news of the victory of God in Jesus Christ over Satan, sin, and death on behalf of His people – is to defect from being Christ’s disciple. It is to desert the Living God who called you. In our doctrinally indifferent age, few Christians in North America make this connection. We easily imagine that people with all sorts of different views about what the true gospel is are still in right relationship with God. But Paul’s plain, even blunt, teaching in this passage makes clear that such a notion is entirely and dangerously false. Perhaps the problem is our tendency to think about doctrines, like the doctrine of justification, in abstract terms. If we do that, we can imagine that justification by faith alone is simply a matter of getting the wording of the formula right. But justification by faith alone is simply another way of saying justification by Christ alone. When you put your head on the pillow at night, are you trusting in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and your acceptance with God or are you trusting in Christ plus something else? If you are trusting Christ plus circumcision, or Christ plus the Virgin Mary, or Christ plus good works, or Christ plus good doctrine – then you are in perilous danger of abandoning the person of Christ. Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause the Biblical gospel to sound forth from the pulpits of New England.
Wednesday (9/24) Read and discuss Jeremiah 23:16-32. The LORD is so kind to His people that it is possible for sinners to be attracted to the temporal blessings the LORD offers without being drawn to God Himself. This is precisely what the false teachers of our day, like the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day, offer to attract a crowd. They promise people some of the benefits of following God without calling people to commit themselves to the LORD whose blessings they seek. There are two chief problems with this: (1) First, God is not a means to something other than Himself. Knowing the LORD is the end for which we have been created and the great blessing of which all the lesser blessings are merely pointers. (2) Second, the LORD will not pour out His temporal blessings upon idolaters. So, through Jeremiah, God graciously warns the people:
Do not listen to these prophets when
they prophesy to you,
Filling you with futile hopes.
They are making up everything they say.
They do not speak for the LORD!
How should we deal with such false teachers? First, we can normally recognize them by the fact that they focus almost exclusively on YOU and the benefits that God is promising to YOU rather than on the glory of God. Consider the book titles of one contemporary bestselling author: Your Best Life Now; Become a Better You; and It’s Your Time. One does not need to earn a Ph.D. in Theology to realize that such a teacher is not primarily seeking the glory of God. Spiritual discernment is normally not a particularly complex matter. If we are growing in our love for Jesus, and seeking to walk in a manner that brings glory to God, such false teaching will normally be glaringly obvious. Second, we must remember that God’s word is a fire and a mighty hammer that smashes the rocks to pieces (v. 29). We don’t need to be particularly clever. We need simply to cling to God’s word. As verse 28 says:
Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord.
Read or sing Hymn 309 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant discernment to the young people in our congregation that they would not be turned away to follow false teachers.
Thursday (9/25) Read and discuss Acts 9:10-31. Everyone wants to be accepted and valued by at least one group of people. We find this truth in the famous theme song to the hit T.V. show Cheers:
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
This song touches a chord in us precisely because we don’t always feel this sense of acceptance and belonging that each of us longs for. Well if you think that you have it bad, consider the Apostle Paul. After he was converted:
- The Jews in Damascus turn against Paul and want to kill him. They are so committed to Paul’s death that he has to escape the city by being let down from the city’s walls in a large basket.
- No need to fear! Surely Paul will be able to find comfort from his fellow believers in Jerusalem, right? Actually, they were too terrified of Paul at first to let him join with them. They thought it was all a trick and that Paul hadn’t truly been converted.
- Thankfully Barnabas has the courage to embrace Paul and to introduce him to the Apostles. Paul then uses his skill in Greek and in the Scriptures to proclaim Christ to the Greek speaking Jews (“Hellenists”) in Jerusalem. The result? Now the Greek speaking Jews want Paul dead as well. I wonder if Paul didn’t start wanting to go to a place where no-one knew his name!
There is a very important lesson for us in these events. Being chosen by God and set apart for His service does NOT mean that life will be easy or that you will be universally appreciated. Yet, it is also important to realize that these hardships did not hinder in the least the LORD’s plans to make Paul into a fit instrument. It is true that God crushed Saul’s pride when Jesus struck him blind on the road to Damascus. It is true that the LORD continued to crush the Apostle Paul through much suffering throughout his ministry. It is also true, as John MacArthur reminds us, that “From the ashes of Saul’s old life would arise the noblest and most useful man of God that the world has ever known.” If that isn’t enough for you in the face of your own personal sufferings, then remember this: There is a place, an eternal home, where everyone will know your name and always be glad that you came. There is a place where you will be completely accepted and loved. You just aren’t there yet. Read or Sing Hymn: 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Lift up those who are lonely and ask that the LORD would grant them meaningful friendships.
Friday (9/26) Read and discuss Revelation 2:1-7. David Chilton writes:
Ephesus was a hotbed of Jewish occultism and magical arts (Acts 19:13-15, 18-19). Throughout the world of the first century, apostate Judaism was accommodating itself to numerous pagan ideologies and heathen practices, developing early strains of what later came to be known as Gnosticism – various hybrids of occult wisdom, rabbinical lore, mystery religion, and either asceticism or licentiousness (or both), all stirred up together with a few bits and pieces of Christian doctrine. …
Yet, despite all the multiform depravity within Ephesus (cf. Eph. 4:17-19; 5:3-12) the Lord Jesus Christ had established His Church there (Acts 19); and in this message He assures the angel of the congregation that He holds the seven stars in His right hand, upholding and protecting the rulers whom He has ordained: “He fills them with light and influence,” says Matthew Henry’s Commentary; “He supports them, or else they would soon be falling stars.” He also walks in the middle of the lampstands, the churches, guarding and examining them, and connecting them to one another through their unity in Him. “I will put My dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people (Lev. 26:11-12).”
Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are living with such great turmoil and hardship.
Saturday (9/27) Read and discuss Galatians 1:11-24. Paul is in the very awkward position of having to defend himself, that is his Apostolic authority, in order to defend the gospel. Paul therefore defends himself not by making much of himself but by making little. Paul makes it absolutely clear that he didn’t ascend to that Apostolic office but, while he was fiercely fighting against the Church of God, Jesus came down and changed his life. John Calvin comments:
Here Paul is not speaking about the subject of his preaching but the purpose of his own mind. Of course, the teaching corresponds to the disposition of the teacher. In his previous life, Paul had received great praise, but those who are determined to serve Christ faithfully must despise the favor of people. The church will always contain wicked hypocrites and wicked people who prefer their own desires to the Word of God. Even good people are sometimes tempted by the Devil to be angry at the faithful warnings of their pastor. We must therefore not be alarmed at any kind of offense, as long as we do not drive weak minds away from Christ.
Read or Sing Hymn 689 “Be Still, My Soul” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.