MVOPC 26 October 2014 – Dr. Rev. Gregory Reynolds preaching
Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3
Opening Hymn: 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”
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: Psalm 130:7-8
Hymn of Preparation: 22 “O That I Had a Thousand Voices”
Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 126:1-6
New Covenant Reading: John 16:16-24
Sermon: Restore Us, O Lord
Hymn of Response: 360 “When in His Might the LORD”
Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 364 “Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds”
PM Worship: OT: Isaiah 29:13-24 NT: Revelation 3:1-6 Not What You Think You Are
Adult Sunday School: Chosen & Called
CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 70
70.Which is the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Monday (10/20) Read and discuss Psalm 126:1-6. John Calvin writes:
“Restore our fortunes, O LORD.” This verse contains a prayer that God would gather together the residue of the captives. All the Jews, no doubt, had a door opened to them, and perfect liberty granted to them, to come out of the land of their captivity, but the number of those who partook of this benefit was small when compared with the vast multitude of the people. Some were kept from returning by fear, and others by sloth and want of courage, on seeing such perils at hand as rather to lie torpid in their own filthiness, than to undertake the hardship of the journey. It is probable also that many of them preferred their present easy and comfort to their eternal salvation. What the prophet Isaiah had foretold was no doubt fulfilled (10:22) that although the people were in number as the sand of the sea, yet only a remnant of them should be saved. Since, then, many openly refused the benefit when it was offered them, and as there were many difficulties and impediments to be encountered by those who availed themselves of this liberty of sounder judgment and of a more intrepid heart, who dared to move a foot – and even they with reluctance – it is no wonder that the prophet requires the Church still to make supplication to God for the bringing back of the captivity. Along with this, the state of those who had already returned is also to be noted; for their land being in the possession of strangers, who were all their inveterate and sworn enemies, they were no less captives in their own country than among the Babylonians. It was therefore necessary, on a twofold account, that the church should earnestly beseech God to gather together such as were dispersed; first that he would give courage to the timid, awaken the torpid, cause the besotted to forget their pleasures, and stretch forth his hand to be a guide to all; and, secondly, that he would settle the body of the people who had returned in liberty and ease.
Read or sing Hymn: 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Please pray for the Presbytery of New York and New England which meets today.
Tuesday (10/21) Read and discuss Read Galatians 2:15-21. Paul has been arguing that, though the ceremonial law served the good purpose of guiding the Old Testament Jews to Christ, Gentiles who had already embraced the Messiah did not need to keep it. A Judaizer might object at this point: If the ceremonial law is good, shouldn’t we keep it and encourage the Gentile believers to keep it as well? Isn’t Paul, by telling the Gentiles that they don’t have to keep the law simply encouraging them to lead lawless – that is sinful – lives? Paul shows that he grasps the force of this argument when he writes:
But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
Paul’s dense rebuttal in verse 17 is a bit tricky to unpack. It seems to be working like this: Paul begins with an imaginary interlocutor who is suggesting that seeking to be justified in Christ apart from keeping the law will lead to lawless behavior. Paul then points out that he has never argued justification is by abandoning the law – that is by becoming lawless – justification is by embracing Jesus Christ. But Christ is not a servant of sin. This means that the person clinging to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, instead of living a lawless life, will actually for the very first time be leading a life that is genuinely pleasing to God. Paul will famously pick this theme up in chapter 5 where he writes:
… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
To put this in the context of verse 17, we might paraphrase Paul’s argument like this: “If you are worried that being justified by faith in alone you haven’t yet grasped who the Messiah is in whom we are trusting and how faith in Him transforms the way we live. Prayer: Please pray for the Presbytery of New York and New England should wrap up around dinner tonight.
Wednesday (10/22) Read and discuss Isaiah 29:13-24. One of the most frightening warnings in all of Scripture comes from the lips of Jesus when He declared: ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)” Two things make this text so frightening. (1) First, the expression ‘Lord, Lord” is a Semitic idiom that is a repetition of personal endearment. The people saying this are not merely addressing Jesus with a respectful title; they are addressing Jesus as though they had a close personal relationship with Him. (2), Second, Jesus tells us that many will be in this condition on the last day. How can that possibly be? Today’s passage from Isaiah gives us the answer. The profession of these individuals is hypocritical. “…this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.” Thankfully, this passage also provides some ways of discovering if we are merely hypocritical worshippers before it is too late. Verse 13 tells us that the supposed worship of the hypocrites is based on a “commandment taught by men”. Here is the first test, are we engaged in religious activity to receive the approval of other people or are we seeking God in His word – in order to know and love Him better? The second test, found in verse 15, is closely related to this. Hypocrites believe that they can keep some of their thoughts and behaviors secret from God. Therefore looking good becomes more important than being good. What a foolish way to think and live! As verse 16 puts it, “will the thing formed say of Him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” Yet, for those who truly love the Holy One of Israel, this passage brings great news. The LORD will overthrow the hypocrites who try to lord it over and oppress the meek. Indeed, the promise of this passage is developed in the Beatitudes to tells us that “the meek will inherit the earth” as God’s gift (NB: The meek inherit the earth, they do not conquer it). Read or sing Hymn: 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender”. Read or sing Hymn 22 “O That I Had a Thousand Voices” Prayer: Please pray for Al and Laurie Tricarico in Nakaale, Uganda. Pray that new believers in Karamoja will grow in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord. Pray that the gospel would spread more rapidly among the Karimoja people.
Thursday (10/23) Read and discuss John 16:16-24. N.T. Wright comments:
Jesus’ disciples are about to be plunged into a short, sharp and intensely painful period that will be like a moment of birth. Jesus will be taken away; but they will see him again. ‘Not long from now, they won’t see him; not long after that, they will see him again.’ His death and resurrection are the necessary events that will lead to his ‘going to the father’ and his ‘sending of the spirit’. These are extraordinary, cataclysmic events, the like of which the world has never seen before. The disciples can hardly prepare properly for them; but Jesus wants to warn them anyway.
It’s all happening because, with Jesus’ death and resurrection, a new world – the new world – is indeed being born. That is what John wants us to grasp. This isn’t just a matter of Jesus saying ‘there’s trouble coming, but it will be all right afterwards’. It’s a matter of seeing that when we find ourselves, a few chapters from now, at the foot of the cross, and then when we find ourselves after that with Mary Magdalene in the Easter garden, we shouldn’t miss the significance of these events. They are not merely strange, shocking and even unique. They are the visible sign that God’s new world really is coming to birth.
Read or Sing Hymn: 360 “When in His Might the LORD” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who will be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would be used to build up this local body of believers.
Friday (10/24) Read and discuss Revelation 3:1-6. One of the interesting features of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 is that those churches which appear the best are actually the worst and those which appear most miserable are actually the most faithful. The church in Sardis has a reputation for being filled with life. If you had asked people in ancient Asia Minor what a vital church looked like they would have pointed you to the church in Sardis. But Christ’s verdict is different. He bluntly declares, “but you are dead.” The lesson in this for us is clear. Will we seek to have our reputation enhanced before men or with our Savior? What was the church at Sardis to do? Jesus doesn’t call them to develop even more innovative programs He calls them to return to first things. They were to remember “what you received and heard.” That is, they are to return to trusting God for His gift and to focus on salvation being by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. Thankfully, there are still a few in Sardis who were believers but even they are warned to strengthen what little there remains of a true church. The warning of Christ coming like a thief in the night has sometimes been misunderstood to refer to His Second Coming, but is actually a warning about a specific judgment that He will come and bring on this local church. As Stephen Smalley observes:
First, the final advent of Christ cannot be said to depend on the vigilance of the church at Sardis. Second, similar commands to repent, in the face of an alternative coming of Christ, are issued to the communities at Ephesus (Rev. 2:5 and Pergamum (2:16). In both cases the reference is to an imminent and historical advent of the Lord in judgment (“I will visit and remove your lampstand from its place”).
Provocatively, Jesus doesn’t seem to be holding out hope for the church as a whole to repent. Instead He is calling individual Christians there to be an exception in the midst of a dying church. He promises them that they who go against the grain of their decaying local church will enjoy eternal life with Him. This reminds us that we do not need to run with the crowd – even when the crowd bears the name of the Christian Church. God grants us the grace to be an exception to our generation and to walk faithfully with Him if we will be trust Him and rely upon His grace. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you the courage to stand on His word no matter how unpopular that may become.
Saturday (10/25) Read and discuss Psalm 126:1-6. Verses 4-5 have been a great comfort to God’s people throughout the ages. Willem VanGemeren writes:
Suddenly the short but intensive prayer of v. 4 is answered, as though by prophetic assurance. Yes, God has promised, and he will be true to his promise (cf. Hag. 2:19)! The psalm contains a perpetual assurance to God’s people that his word is true. The LORD will turn the “tears” into “songs of joy” (v. 5). Though work may be laborious and the results uncertain, the LORD will be with his people in their various endeavors so as to bless them.
The assurance of God’s blessing is also an encouragement to be responsible. The people were not to sit idly by, waiting for God to come through. They had to go out and sow, praying that the LORD would be faithful. The phrase “seed to sow” (v. 6) is reminiscent of Haggai’s encouragement to the people to sow whatever little they had left, for the LORD would bless them. Today, with our abundance of seed companies and supplies, we forget that an ancient Israelite had to “lose” his seed before he could gain crops. He had to sink his fortune into the soil and hope for an increase, but the outcome was uncertain. If his sowing did not pay off, he might not have enough seed to sow in the next season, he might suffer great financial loss, and he and his family might go hungry.
Read or Sing Hymn 364 “Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.