MVOPC 1 March 2015
Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3
Opening Hymn: 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”
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: Zechariah 3:1-5
Hymn of Preparation: 605 “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”
Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 1:1-6
New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:16-26
Sermon: Keep in Step With the Spirit
Hymn of Response: 103 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name”
Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign”
OT: Exodus 7:14-25
NT: Revelation 8:6-13
Woe to the Earth Dwellers
Adult Sunday School: Theology and History
Shorter Catechism Q/A #86
Q. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
Monday (2/23) Today’s passage is rightly famous for what Paul says about the fruit of the Spirit. Note the singular “fruit”. Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, every Christian is intended to manifest all of the different aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. It is a wise use of our time to prayerfully consider this list while seeking the LORD to cause this fruit to grow in our lives. On the other hand, the very fame of this passage may cause us to miss the forest for the trees. That is, we can become so focused on the individual manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit that we miss the argument that Paul is actually making. One practical way to get around this is to simply replace all the details with a marker so that the argument stands out more clearly. We will use XXX for the bad stuff and SSS for those things that relate to the Holy Spirit:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: … XXX … I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is … SSS …; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Now, by marking the imperatives in bold, we can see that Paul’s basic argument is this:
Imperative: Walk/Keep in step with the Spirit.
Reason 1: Because the flesh and the Spirit are at war with one another.
Reason 2: Because those who are given over to the works of the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Reason 3: Because this is an important aspect of being a child of God and a member of His family the Church: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Once we see the underlying argument that Paul is making, we can return to read the passage with greater understanding. Read or sing Hymn 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would take the things that you are learning from His word and cause you to walk in them by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday (2/24) Read and discuss Galatians 5:6-15. There is a great deal for us in today’s passage, but perhaps the most important thing to learn is this: You were not only set free from something and for something. You were set free from something and for Someone. If you take the Holy Spirit out of the equation the only options left are legalism or licentiousness. Apart from being born again and having a personal relationship with the Father and the Son through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit – the natural way that we will try to maintain the illusion of order, beauty, and moral virtue is by building a new fence made out of either man made rules or a misapplication of the Law of God. Jesus provides a better way. Through His life, death, and resurrection Jesus has set us free from the bondage of trying to vindicate ourselves before God on the basis of our own performance. But that isn’t all that Jesus has done. You have been set free not only from something but for something. Jesus and the Father have also sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with and in us to empower us to a new life where we can genuinely love our neighbors, not to earn God’s approval, but as our response to the grace that we have already received in Jesus Christ. That is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians chapter 3:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Good theology is not enough. The purpose of good theology is so that we would not merely know more about God but that we would know and love Him. So let us cultivate our relationship with the Triune God this week through prayer, praise, and listening to Him speak to us through His word. And let us remember, that it is “For freedom [that] Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you the courage to stand for His truth and the humility to accept everything that He teaches.
Wednesday (2/25) Read and discuss Psalm 1:1-6. The first Psalm is so important to the Christian life that it is well worth memorizing so that you can meditate upon it throughout the day. Allen P. Ross explains the central message of the psalm:
By drawing a contrast between the righteous and the ungodly, the psalmist instructs believers not to live the way the world lives, not to take spiritual, moral, or ethical advice from unbelievers, and not to join them in their profane enterprises; rather, believers must study the word of God in order to live an untarnished and productive life for God, and that life will be evidence of a living faith that will see them through the judgment, when God judges the wicked. …
For believers, the application is obvious: they must spend time meditating on God’s word so that they may live a distinct and productive spiritual life for God, and in the process find assurance that God knows them and will preserved them through the judgment. To unbelievers the message is urgent: they must come to faith in the Lord, because if they live their lives without faith in him or his word, not even their good deeds will count and they will not survive the judgment to come.
Read or sing Hymn 605 “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt. There have been reports of large numbers of Egyptians converting to Christianity in an environment where converting from Islam could result in physical attacks and even death. Ask that the LORD would be a shield around these new converts and that they would be but the first-fruits of a much larger harvest.
Thursday (2/26) Read and discuss Exodus 7:14-25.. Doug Stuart writes:
Prominent in the structure of this first plague account is the emphasis on God’s involvement in Pharaoh’s stubbornness. Verses 14 and 22-23 … [remind] the reader that Moses knew directly from God that Pharaoh would be resistant and that he would not be moved easily, even by things supernatural. The last verse of [this section], something of a postscript, briefly answers the reader’s logical question, “How then could the Egyptians survive since their drinking water came from the Nile?” By reason of that final verse, the first plague is shown to be a severe annoyance more than a life-threatening disaster, reflecting the sort of severity level one might expect of the opening plague – a shot fired across Egypt’s bow, as it were.
The Nile is mentioned six times by name here and also referred to by terms like “water” and “river,” in addition to the description in v. 19 of “the waters of Egypt,” then delineated in that verse to be sure that the reader realizes that every surface source of water was affected by the plague in the same manner as was the Nile. Thus “blood was everywhere in Egypt”, and no Egyptian could escape the effect of this plague. No longer were the mighty acts of God confined to demonstrations for a private audience. Now all the citizens of the nation began to feel the effect of God’s wrath, and the pressure began to ratchet up on Pharaoh. It was one thing for him to ignore a display intended to convince him of God’s power but another to ignore the cries of his people for one of their most basic needs, water to drink.
In considering the story of the first plague, it is important to bear in mind that the Egyptians understood the Nile to be a god. Their pantheistic view of the universe considered all things to be partakers of the divine, and things that moved to be obviously divine in their essence. The ultimate victory of the only true God, Yahweh, over the many false gods of the Egyptians began with the humiliation of the Nile. The nation’s great waterway and source of life was turned odious and made into a source of death, demonstrating the sovereign power of the God of Israel and the subordinate impotence of the Nile.
Read or sing Hymn 103 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name” Prayer: Ask that the LORD’s name would be hallowed in your thoughts and in interactions with family, friends, and co-workers.
Friday (2/27) Read and discuss Revelation 8:6-13. It can be difficult to grapple with the LORD sending such terrible plagues upon the earth. N.T. Wright helps point us in the right direction to understanding what God is doing:
“Many people want to serve God,” said the sign outside the church, “but only in an advisory capacity.” And this is one of the moments in Revelation when some at least would give rather firm advice to the one who sits on the throne: “Don’t do it! What is the meaning of this wanton destruction?” …
[Why would we ask this?] As a wise old writer put it, “You haven’t yet considered the seriousness of sin.” Even after a century of war, terror and high-tech genocide, we are still included, in the Western world at least, to pretend to ourselves that the world has really become quite a pleasant place, with ‘evil’ merely a blip on the horizon with which we can deal easily enough. However great the contrary evidence, this modern myth of the eradication of evil through ‘enlightenment’, leaving only a few minor mopping-up operations (preferably in far-away places) before Utopia finally arrives, has taken such a hold on popular imagination that any idea of God having to do anything powerful and destructive to address the problem is regarded as far too drastic, far too dramatic. But none of the early Christians, and certainly not Jesus himself, would have colluded with this glossing over of the seriousness of evil.
Prayer: Please pray for the Church in China that our brothers and sisters would grow in theological stability and that they would continue to zealously share the good news of Jesus Christ with their neighbors.
Saturday (2/28) Read and discuss Galatians 5:16-26. Paul is entirely realistic about the struggles of the Christian life but that doesn’t mean that Christians should be pessimistic about either our effectiveness or our real growth in holiness in the present age. Tom Schreiner explains:
We must not think … that Paul’s view of the Christian life is fundamentally pessimistic. The gift of the new age, the Holy Spirit, now belongs to believers. Believers who live by the Spirit will not carry out the flesh’s desires. Those who yield to the Spit will not live under the dominion of law and sin. A new quality of life (5:22-23) is the result of the Spirit’s work. The old age no longer reigns over believers. The old Adam has been crucified with its passions and desires, so that the flesh no longer enslaves believers.
In other words, believers enjoy a substantial, significant, and observable victory in their new life in Christ. Since believers live in the interval between the already and not yet, perfection is not their portion. Yet believers now have the first fruits of the Spirit and are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and hence Paul is fundamentally optimistic about the new life that is possible for saints.
Read or sing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.