MVOPC 9 August 2015 Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5 Opening Hymn: 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Confession of Sin Almighty God, Who are rich in mercy to all those who call upon You; Hear us as we humbly come to You confessing our sins; And imploring Your mercy and forgiveness. We have broken Your holy laws by our deeds and by our words; And by the sinful affections of our hearts. We confess before You our disobedience and ingratitude, our pride and willfulness; And all our failures and shortcomings toward You and toward fellow men. Have mercy upon us, Most merciful Father; And of Your great goodness grant that we may hereafter serve and please You in newness of life; Through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Assurance of Pardon: Ephesians 1:7-10 Hymn of Preparation: 184 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 9:1-12 New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 3:14-19 Sermon: No Turning Back! Hymn of Response: 248 “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended!” Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments Doxology (Hymn 732) Closing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” PM Worship OT: Isaiah 63:1-6 NT: Revelation 19:11-21 Faithful and True Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 91-93: The Moral Law – Part I Shorter Catechism Q/A #3 Q. What do the Scriptures principally teach? A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
Monday (8/3) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:14-19. Sometimes a caricature is passed off as the real thing. For example, the Christian life is sometimes presented as simply a call to “be good.” But the issue that Hebrews is challenging is far more basic than that. Hebrews is addressing the problem of people not trusting God. F.F. Bruce writes:
When the scripture already quoted says, “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,” to whom is God speaking? Who were the people who turned a deaf ear to his voice and so provoked him to anger? It was those who came out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, those who had experienced God’s redeeming power. When the writer asks, “And with whom was he vexed for forty years?” to which generation does he refer? To that generation which witnessed his mighty works, and nevertheless rebelled against him – that “evil congregation” against which sentence was passed: “As I live, says Yahweh, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness.” And who were the people to whom he swore in his wrath that “they would not enter his rest”? Those who, having covenanted to obey him, proved repeatedly disobedient, and showed themselves to be “a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness.”
It was unbelief, faithlessness, then, that kept them out of the Promised Land. They had enjoyed God’s delivering mercy in the Exodus, and had heard him speak when he gave the law at Sinai; but those initial experiences did not keep them from dying in the wilderness, or guarantee their safe arrival in Canaan. The moral must have been plain enough to the recipients of the epistle. For they too had experienced the redeeming power of God; they too had the promise of the homeland of the faithful to look forward to; but one thing could prevent them from realizing that promise, just as it had prevented the mass of the Israelites who left Egypt from entering Canaan – that one thing was unbelief.
Read or sing Hymn: 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Syria as their nation continues to be torn apart by the ravages of civil war.
Tuesday (8/4) Read and discuss Mark 11:20-25. There are three keys to investing in real estate: Location! Location! Location! This idea carries over to interpreting written documents were the three keys are: Context! Context! Context! Ignoring this rule, the “health and wealth” teachers wrench verse 24 out of its context to make it seem like you have the power within yourself to call new realities into being (e.g. to have a new BMW) simply if you can work up enough faith. Most Christians instinctively know that this is wrong – but also struggle to explain why this is not what verse 24 says. Here’s why: Context! (1) The immediate context of verse 24 is Christ’s response which takes up verses 22-25. Jesus begins by telling His disciples: “Have faith in God” and He ends by speaking of our need to be forgiven by God. Put simply, the context unequivocally tells us that we are praying to the personal Sovereign LORD and not demanding wishes from a genie in a bottle. (2) The broader context of the Bible also addresses this issue by making explicit what is implicit in verse 24: “whatever” is intended to open the disciples up to praying for things that seem difficult or impossible from a human point of view. “Whatever” is implicitly qualified by the assumption that the disciples (who have been told to “trust in God”) will want to be praying in accordance with God’s will. This is made explicit in passages like 1 John 5:14: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” The power lies neither in the greatness of our faith nor in the greatness of our prayers but in the greatness of the God to whom we are praying. “The man who bows his head before the hidden glory of God in the fullness of faith does so in the certainty that God can deal with every situation and any difficulty and that with him nothing is impossible (William Lane).” Read or sing 44 “How Great Thou Art”. Prayer: Please lift up the Session of our congregation as it meets this evening.
Wednesday (8/5) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 9:1-12. Gordon McConville writes:
The Israelites had refused even to try to go into the land because of the great size and strength of its people, who included the gigantic Anakites. The LORD now assured the people that he would overcome even these terrible enemies (as he had defeated Sihon and Og in the Transjordan). Nevertheless, the people themselves must still act. Notice the balance between he will destroy them and you will drive them out (3b).
In ch. 8 Moses spoke of the change from poverty to wealth, and the moral dangers that change would bring. Then he turned to another change in Israel’s life, from oppressed people to conquerors. The temptation that this might bring was the idea that God had given them the land because they were better (more ‘righteous’) than other peoples. To believe this would have been another king of ingratitude for God’s goodness in blessing them. Moses showed, therefore (4-6), that they would conquer the other nations, not because of their righteousness, but for two quite different reasons: for the sake of God’s promise to the forefathers, and because of the other nations’ wickedness. And to reinforce the point, he went on to say that in fact the Israelites were far from being ‘righteous’; on the contrary their record showed that they were stiff necked, or stubbornly resistant to God’s way for them.
Read or sing Hymn 184 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” Prayer: Please pray that the LORD would send a deep and lasting revival to New England.
Thursday (8/6) Read and discuss Isaiah 63:1-6. The image of this passage is striking, and for some, unsettling. But as the Lutheran scholar R. Reed Lessing points out, we ought not to ignore what God is revealing in this portion of His word:
Isaiah’s violent images of God are unsettling. We are more accustomed to seeing Yahweh as our Shepherd (Psalm 23), Redeemer (Job 19:25), and light (Psalm 27:1). We delight in the promise of the virgin-born Immanuel, the Son bearing divine names who will reign on the throne of David forever and usher in the new creation that will be our peaceful eternal home. A loving God, some argue, would overlook the sins of all, let bygones be bygones, and indiscriminately let everyone into the new aeon (universalism).
It is tempting to create a god in our image, in our own likeness, to make a god who is soft on sin and easy on those who break his commandments. But this is not the God of the Bible. To be sure, the Suffering Servant bore the iniquity of all and is the universal guilt offering. Therefore Yahweh is gracious and merciful, “slow to anger”, but at the same time (in the same verses!) he wrathfully takes vengeance on his enemies, whom ‘he certainly cannot declare innocent” (Nah 1:3). Yahweh’s Servant justifies the many and intercedes for the transgressors. But those who are not the Servant’s “offspring”; are outside his covenant of grace and are liable to eternal judgment.
To soften the truth of God’s vengeance is to acquiesce to the present corrupt state of our world. If we accept the status quo and put up with whatever happens, then we have no hope for the demise of evil – and of evildoers – or for God’s restoration of the redeemed. But such hopelessness does not comport with Holy Scripture. Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer, wherein we ask, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Our enemies are not abstractions, but are personal, and God must vanquish them personally. All attempts to domesticate the LORD Yahweh are bound to fail. The day is coming when he will finally and fully deliver us from all perpetrators of evil (Rev 20:10-15).
Read or sing Hymn 248 “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended!” Prayer: Ask the LORD to prevent you from creating gods in your own image. Pray that He would cause you to see Him in all His glorious spender.
Friday (8/7) Read and discuss Revelation 19:11-21. Dennis Johnson writes:
As at earlier points in Revelation, a new vision cycle begins as John sees heaven opened. When John was called to enter the door opened in heaven to view the enthroned One and the Lamb, he glimpsed God’s purposes at work in providential control of the traumas and forces of history (seals, trumpets). When the temple of God in heaven was opened (11:19), it was the prelude to visions exposing the deep, cosmic conflict that lies behind the changing tides of political and social trends and events (heavenly woman and child, dragon, beasts). When the sanctuary of the tent of testimony in heaven was opened (15:5), the completion of God’s wrath destroyed earth’s deluded and defiant residents (bowls, harlot). Now in the opened heaven John sees the victorious champion of the church: Jesus the Son of Man, the faithful and true Witness, the Word of God, the messianic King, the Lamb, the Lord of lords, and King of kings.
Jesus’ appearance, names, and companions call believers to rest our hope confidently and completely in his almighty power to vindicate his saints and eradicate his enemies. The presentation of his appearance begins with the white horse on which he is mounted (19:11). … White horses symbolize triumphant military achievement. Even before John’s eyes are lifted from the mount to its rider, we are assured that this Warrior will win. “His eyes are a flame of fire”, as they were when he appeared as “one like a son of man” (1:14). None can hide from his heart-piercing gaze (2:18). On his head are “many diadems”, conveying visually his infinite authority and dominion, as does his name, “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” The dragon appeared with seven diadems, pretending to universal rule (12:3), and the beast to which the dragon gave his power, throne, and authority had ten diadems (13:1). But numbers symbolize comprehensive authority, but this rider far excels them with his many diadems.
Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD God Omnipotent reigns!
Saturday (8/8) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:14-19. A good illustration can really help us fix an idea in our minds and in our imaginations. Today we will consider an illustration from N.T. Wright, which is somewhat longer than typical, precisely because it is so effective in helping us apply today’s passage to our own lives. Wright says:
Nobody wants to fall asleep while driving a car. But a remarkable number of people do it.
In the U.K. at least, there are now signs on the major roads that warn motorists of the danger of sleepy driving. ‘Tiredness can kill, they say. You’d think it would be obvious; fancy hurtling down the road at 70 miles per hour while being sound asleep. The newspapers have recently reported that the courts are going to impose much more severe penalties for people who have gone to sleep at the wheel and cause serious or fatal accidents.
But I know how it happens. Two or three times in my life I have found myself, of necessity, driving late at night after a long, tiring day. Even if you stop regularly and drink a lot of coffee, there comes a point when the whole body is sending signals to the brain, to the imagination, to the will, whispering louder and louder that it wouldn’t matter if you just shut your eyes for a moment … it would only be for a minute or two … after all, the car’s going quite merrily just now, surely it can do without you for just a couple of seconds.
And, of course if you give in at that moment you are in real danger, and so is everyone else anywhere near you on the road. But the point I’m making is that, while nobody gets into the car with the aim of falling asleep halfway to their destination, the physical effects of tiredness include the deceitful whispers that tell you it’ll be all right really, nothing bad will happen, you might as well nod off for minute. And when those whispers happen, one of the things you need is clear thinking. You need to recognize the state you’re in, and take quick and decisive action.
Recognizing the state you’re in spiritually and morally is something few Christian teachers have had anything to say about in recent years, at least in the parts of the church where I work. We have heard so much about ‘following your own spiritual path’, and ‘continuing your own journey of faith’, that we can easily get the impression that should merely do whatever feels best at the time, and hope that it’ll all work out somehow. Well, it may, but it may not. There are times in Christian living which correspond to those moments of sudden sleepiness in the car, times when for whatever reason there is a persuasive whisper in your ear telling you that you might as well take a break now, that it doesn’t really matter if you give in to this temptation, that you don’t need to make an effort in prayer or reading the Bible or taking thought and care for your neighbors or working for God’s justice in the world. It all seems so much effort. It would be much easier to slack off for a bit …
When you find yourself thinking like that, you need to do the mental and spiritual equivalent of stopping the car, getting out, having a cup of coffee and doing some brisk physical exercise, or even getting some proper rest (like going on a retreat – which is perhaps the equivalent of stopping at a wayside hotel for the night). And the point of the present passage, continuing the exposition of Psalm 95, is that we need this spiritual discipline all the way through our lives to the very end. As verse 14 insists, we need to keep a firm, tight grip on our original confidence. If we aren’t quite as wide awake as we were when we set off, we need to take steps to get ourselves back into that condition. Otherwise, in spiritual language, our hearts will become hard and bitter (verse 15) – the spiritual equivalent of nodding off to sleep while driving.
Read or sing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.