MVOPC 31 May 2015 – Stephen Tindall Preaching
Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5
Confession of Sin
Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done. And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us. But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent; According to Your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father; For His sake; That we may hereby live a godly, righteous, and sober life; To the glory of Your holy name. Amen
Assurance of Pardon: Deuteronomy 4:29-31
Hymn of Preparation:
Old Covenant Reading: Lamentations 3:1-66
New Covenant Reading: Matthew 18:21-35
Sermon: The Unforgiving Servant
Hymn of Response:
Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments
Doxology (Hymn 732)
PM Worship: Silas Schreyack teaching
OT: Isaiah 42:1-9
NT: Matthew 11:25-30
The Yoke of Rest
Adult Sunday School: Jason Donald teaching
Shorter Catechism Q/A #100
Q. What doth the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?
A. The preface of the Lord’s prayer, which is, Our Father which art in heaven, teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.
Monday (4/25) Read and discuss Matthew 18:21-35. Jesus begins His parable by introducing a man who owed the king a vast sum of money. How much did he owe? The amount Jesus gives is more than fifteen times the amount of taxes collected in all Judea in 4 BC! It was worth more than all the gold used in building Solomon’s Temple. His hearers couldn’t even conceive of that much money. To put the matter in modern terms it is though our Lord said: “There was a man who owed the king trillions of dollars.” Or to put it bluntly: “You can’t count that high.” The astonishing thing is that this king (representing the King) mercifully forgives this man the entire amount. Christ’s point is absolutely clear: Each of us owes God an incalculable debt that can’t be paid off in dollars or Swiss francs. It is a debt that can only be paid through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. It costs us nothing, because it cost God everything. Those who have truly received such forgiveness must respond with a forgiving spirit to all who ask for it as well. The truth is, even the vilest offenses against us are trivial in comparison to what God has completely forgiven us of. To refuse to bring about a restored relationship by freely forgiving all who ask reveals that we have never truly been grasped by the grace of God. Such pretenders, unless they repent, will in fact have to bear the weight of their sins for all eternity. Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you a peacemaker.
Tuesday (4/26) Read and discuss Proverbs 4:10-19. In verses 11-12 Solomon writes:
I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. 12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.
These verses introduce us to a key theme in Proverbs – that is the description of life as a walk on a path. Just in these two verses we have the words “way”, “paths”, “walk”, “step”, and “run.” This is such a fitting metaphor because most of our lives are not about really dramatic events. We live simply by putting one foot in front of another. Yet, walking also gets us somewhere. It just takes time. Here’s the point: It really matters in the long run which path you are on. If you start in Boston, whether you are walking to New York City or to Stowe, Vermont will not make much of a difference for the first couple of days that you are walking. Eventually the two journeys will diverge substantially and ultimately you will end up in two very different locations. That’s how it is with wisdom and foolishness too. At first, it might not seem like a big deal whether you are being kind or mean, generous or selfish, pure or flirting with the world; but over time these different journeys become more and more distinct and ultimately one ends in destruction while the other ends in eternal life with God. Prayer: Ask the LORD to keep turning you back onto the straight and narrow way that leads to life.
Wednesday (4/27) Read and discuss Jeremiah 29:1-7. We live in a fragmented and pluralistic culture. How should we engage the non-Christian culture that is all around us? Today’s passage brings us to a time when much of Israel had been dragged off to live in Babylon. How the LORD told them to live in Babylon has a great deal to teach us about how we should live in New England. (1) Wrong ways to respond: ASSIMILATION. Babylon’s basic strategy for dealing with the foreign nation’s within their empire was to encourage them to adopt Babylonian beliefs and practices. The name for this is assimilation. You will recall from reading Daniel that this included sending Israel’s best and brightest youth to Babylonian schools. Yet most of the forces that lead to assimilation are more subtle. They simply hold out the opportunity to get ahead in a new culture if you will only give up your own distinctive beliefs and practices to just fit in. Assimilation is so effective because it can be accomplished very gradually in steps that individually may seem insignificant. TRIBALISM. A second wrong way to respond was being advocated by the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day. They were telling Israel to band together and remain as separate from Babylonian society as possible. Furthermore, they were to approach Babylonian civilization as something to exploit for themselves while waiting for God to destroy the evil nation. One of the most basic choices we make in a relationship is between thinking that Other is there for YOUR benefit or YOU are there for the OTHER’s benefit. The false prophets were encouraging Israel to choose the first option and to get as much as they could from those who had brought them into captivity. Perhaps the greatest attraction of this approach to relating to hostile culture is that it can “protect” us from the very real danger of being assimilated. Yet, God tells Israel that He wants them to do something else entirely. (2) God’s approach was to tell Israel to, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” That is, God wanted His people to maintain their identity as His people while living in the midst of Babylon and by seeking to be a blessing to Babylon. Let’s face it; this is really hard to do. We need resources that are far beyond our own in order to live this way. Thankfully God has given us these resources in Jesus Christ. We have been blessed to be a blessing even to our enemies. We must be in the world and not of it. Because we are Christ’s we must seek the welfare even of those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Prayer: Please pray that you, and your brothers and sisters at Merrimack Valley Presbyterian Church, would be wise as we engage and are confronted by a culture that is increasingly hostile to Biblical Christianity.
Thursday (4/28) Read and discuss Acts 8:14-24. Is there a Church or are there only churches? Today’s passage reminds us that unity is one of the marks of Christ’s Church. Philip had been preaching the gospel in Samaria. Because we are used to hearing about the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” we are prone to get the wrong idea. We might imagine that the Samaritans were the type of people that the typical Jew would just love to have fellowship with. Yet, this is to miss the point of Christ’s parable. Part of understanding our Lord’s use of a Samaritan as the one who actually does God’s will is to recognize that Samaritans were despised by the Jews. The Samaritans were the ones you could simply count on to be leading grossly immoral lives. In fact, many Jews would take the long way when traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee simply to avoid running into the Samaritans. Yet, Philip had preached the gospel in Samaria and some of them seemed to have come to faith (v. 16 tells us that some of them had been baptized). So the group of Apostles sent off Peter and John to investigate this situation. Recognizing that they were genuinely converted, Peter and John prayed for them and the Samaritans received the gift of the Holy Spirit. We see here the early stages of the fulfillment of the Christ’s words: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).” David Peterson observes that “this event is comparable to Acts 10:44-48, where the coming of the Holy Spirit is a sign that God wants to include believing Gentiles on the same basis as believing Jews in the benefits of the new Covenant (cf. 11:15-18). On both occasions, there is a stunning break with traditional cultural and religious barriers, as the Spirit draws Samaritans, and then Gentiles, together with Jews into the fellowship of Christ.” Regrettably, whenever God’s power is displayed there always seems to be someone who wants to use God rather than to worship Him. We should note the sharp response the Apostle gives to Simon when he offers money in exchange for the ability to give the Holy Spirit to whomever he laid hands on: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” Simon missed that the Holy Spirit is Lord. That is, the Holy Spirit is both a person who is sovereign over us. As this passage makes clear, thinking that we can use God as though He were a force that we can control is not a simple misunderstanding it is a damnable (in the literal sense of that term) heresy. Read or sing Hymn 263 “Lift High the Cross” Prayer: Please lift up our Sunday School teachers that they would be effective in teaching our children the faith which has once and for all been delivered to the saints.
Friday (4/29) Read and discuss Hosea 4:7-14. Have you ever noticed how much worse your sins look on other people? This may be part of the reason for God’s unusual statement in verse 14:
I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore,
nor your brides when they commit adultery;
for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes
and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,
and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.
Of course, the daughters and wives of these men will suffer with the nation and will be judged for their sins. Yet, the focus is upon the men. Why? The charge against these men seems to have arisen in a context in which they wanted faithful wives and daughters even though they themselves were being unfaithful. As young women today sometimes discover, young men may want to “sow their wild oats” but they generally don’t want to marry the young women they were sowing their wild oats with. God refuses to bless his double- standard. A second aspect of this charge is the realization that, like the priests, fathers and husbands functioned (and function) as covenant heads. A lack of faithfulness within a family is not always a man’s fault but it is always a man’s responsibility (assuming that there is a husband or father within the nuclear family). In fact, God has so ordered covenant relationships that truly godly and faithful husbands and fathers tends to strongly lead to godly and faithful wives, daughters, and churches. This, of course, is a generalization. Hosea himself is a godly husband with a faithless bride. Nevertheless, I suspect that you cannot think of a single church which is filled with godly and faithful men where half of their wives skip church and the children are unruly. Among other things, this passage reminds us that God has not only placed a responsibility of covenant headship upon men – He also blesses the faithfulness of His servants as they, in faith, take up this responsibility. Prayer: Ask the LORD to send revival and reformation to New England.
Saturday (4/30) Read and discuss Matthew 18:21-35. Grant Osborne writes:
God expects us to apply our experience of divine forgiveness to our relationships and to show mercy and forgiveness to others even when they don’t deserve it. After having been forgiven of at least 600,000 sins, to refuse to forgive one sin against us by another member of the community is a serious transgression. A willingness to forgive must be labeled a basic characteristic of true discipleship. Christ is unequivocal on this point.
Clearly those who are bitter and refuse to forgive a wrong they have experienced are under indictment from God and will be punished. Yet it must also be admitted that forgiveness is not an easy thing to do, especially when one has undergone serious wrongs like physical or sexual abuse. Christ is not saying that forgiveness must be instantaneous. It is a process often demanding a great deal of time and counseling. Still, mercy and forgiveness would at all times be the goal for which we strive. Moreover, this is a community and not just an individual responsibility; reconciliation must be the goal of all, and when we are deeply hurt, we need the counsel and help of our brothers and sisters in the church family.
Read or sing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.