MVOPC 10 May 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: Romans 6:23
Hymn of Preparation: 111 “This is My Father’s World”
Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 19:1-14
New Covenant Reading: Romans 1:18-23
Sermon: The Heavens Declare
Hymn of Response: 321 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear!”
Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”
OT: Isaiah 34:1-17
NT: Revelation 14:6-13
A Call for Endurance
Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 76: “Repentance unto Life”
Shorter Catechism Q/A #97
Q. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper?
A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.
Monday (4/4) Read and discuss Psalm 19:1-14. How much should we hold teachers accountable for the success of their students? The extremely complex network of factors that impact student success make this a hot question for school boards, colleges, and even in our national politics. But what if God is the teacher? Is it ever God’s fault that people don’t come to know and carryout His will for their lives? Psalm 19 can reasonably be divided into three sections. In verses 1-6 David meditates upon God’s revelation through nature. The key point is that the LORD reveals His glory through nature and He reveals this glory everywhere. No one will ever be able to argue on the final day that they didn’t have enough evidence to commit themselves to God. The rejection of God isn’t due to a lack of evidence but to the fact that sinners, apart from God’s grace, don’t like the God who is there and who is revealing Himself to them. As Paul would later put it in Romans chapter 1:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
In verses 7-11 David meditates on the perfection, sweetness, purity, and enduring value of God’s special revelation that we now have collected in the Christian Bible. David is grateful for this extraordinary gift. He realizes that any failure to appropriate this gift and to walk in its light is entirely his own fault. Therefore, David asks the LORD in verses 8-14 to forgive and turn him even for where he is wandering from the path without realizing it (“cleanse thou me from secret faults” – KJV). He prays that God would protect and keep him, and that the LORD would make David’s words and thoughts pleasing in His sight. That should be the prayer of each and every one of us. Read or sing Hymn 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Prayer: We naturally pray for people who are struggling or facing particular hardships. Today would you pray for some people you know who seem to be doing well? Thank the LORD for the blessings that He is bringing into their lives and pray that they would continue to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.
Tuesday (4/5) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 15:1-28. What difference does Christ’s resurrection make in your life? What about the way you live as a husband, wife, son, or daughter; about the way you pursue your vocation in the world or interact with our neighbors only makes sense because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead? To put the matter bluntly: Christ is risen – so what? There are two key answers to this question. First, we must ask – What does it mean to Jesus that He was raised from the dead? We remember that He was put to death for blasphemy and insurrection precisely because He claimed to be the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel. The religious leaders conspired to put Jesus to death but the resurrection is nothing less than God overturning humanity’s verdict. By raising Jesus from the dead God was vindicating Jesus and declaring that He was and is everything that He had claimed to be. So, for example, in Romans 1:4 Paul tells us that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead”. Clearly this means that we should worship Jesus as our God. Second, in order to get out what Christ’s resurrection means for us we must remember why he died. As Paul tells us at the beginning of today’s passage: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures”. Yet, since He died because of His union with us He was also raised in union with us – and we have already in principle been raised with Him. Because this is so, we can have confidence that everything we ever do by faith in Jesus will be of lasting value. When we honor our parents, even when they are sinning, we know that our Lord who sits on the throne of glory is honored by our faithfulness. We can have complete confidence that He will one day wipe away all the tears from our eyes removing us not only from the power of sin but from its very presence. We know that when we pray for the expansion of His Kingdom or simply invite someone to Church that, invested with all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus is building His Church and the gates of hell cannot stand against Him. And when we pour out our hearts in prayer, we know that our High Priest in heaven listens to and answers every petition that we ever make. Prayer: Give thanks that Christ is our perfect High Priest who has opened the doors to the Holy of Holies for us to call upon God any hour of any day.
Wednesday (4/6) Read and discuss Romans 1:18-23. James Montgomery Boice writes:
No one likes to talk about the wrath of God, particularly if it is thought of in relation to ourselves. But if we have to think about it, as our study of Romans 1:18-20 obviously forces us to do, we find ourselves reacting generally in one of two ways. Either (1) we argue that wrath is unworthy of God, a blotch on His character, and therefore a mistaken notion that should be abandoned at once by all right thinking people; or (2) we reply by denying that we merit God’s wrath, that we do not deserve it.
The second reaction is the more serious of the two. So it is the one Paul tackles in the development of his argument for the need we all have of the Christian gospel.
Romans 1:18-20 contains three important concepts, which together explain why the wrath of God against men and women is justified. The first is wrath itself. It is being revealed from heaven against the ungodly, Paul says. The second is the suppression of the truth about God by human beings, a point picked up and developed more fully in verses 21-23. The third idea is God’s prior revelation of Himself to those very people who suppress the truth about Him. These concepts need to be studied in inverse order, however. For when they are considered in that order – revelation, suppression, and wrath – they teach that God has given a revelation of Himself in nature sufficient to lead any right-thinking man or woman to seek him out and worship Him, but that, instead of doing this, people suppress this revelation. They deny it so they do not have to follow where it leads them. It is because of this willful and immoral suppression of the truth about God by human beings that the wrath of God comes upon them.
Read or sing Hymn 111 “This is My Father’s World” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Syria whose country is being torn apart by civil war.
Thursday (4/7) Read and discuss Isaiah 34:1-17. The opening of today’s passage is rather shocking to modern men and women in the West. As C.S. Lewis observed, modern Westerners assume that man is on the bench and God is in the dock (in the dock = the place where the accused stood during the trial). Today’s passage reminds us how utterly mistaken this modern idea is. Willem Van Gemeron comments:
Isaiah returns to the theme of God’s anger against the world. God’s judgment will effect complete destruction, leaving the world uninhabited.
In powerful language Isaiah calls upon all nations to hear the Word of God. All nations are the objects of the Lord’s anger. The judgment is likened to a great slaughter or sacrifice (vv. 1-2). On earth the slain will be everywhere; corpses will stink and blood will cover the mountains. In heaven constellations will disappear.
Isaiah focuses on Edom as representative of the nations. Yahweh’s judgment on Edom will be similar to what he will do to the whole world. Edom is under the “ban” of the LORD (v. 5c). The term ban expresses Yahweh’s decree to destroy a people for his own purposes. The sword will pierce Edom and fill the country with blood as though a great sacrifice has taken place. The day of God’s judgment is the day of vengeance on his enemies and of the vindication of his people.
After people and animals are destroyed, the land itself will become worthless and desolate forever because of the brimstone and pich that will cover it (v. 10). It will revert to a wilderness with thorns and nettles, a place fit only for animals.
All things will be subject to God’s judgment. When Yahweh comes in judgment there will be no way of escaping. Yet there is the promise that those who belong to Yahweh are heirs of the new age.
Read or sing Hymn 321 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear!” Prayer: Pray for the young people in our congregation that they would be able to finish the school year with enthusiasm and joy.
Friday (4/8) Read and discuss Revelation 14:6-13. The Book of Revelation is intended to strengthen believers in the face of persecution so that they will persevere in faith and faithfulness to the end. Today’s passage does this by contrasting the salvation of the redeemed in vv. 1-5 with the judgment of God’s enemies in vv. 6-11. Verses 12-13 provide the application. This may all seem very simple until we remember both how enticing and threatening the world can seem. James Hamilton writes:
Do you need motivation to keep the commandments of God and to keep believing in Jesus? Brand your brain with the images of the redemption of the faithful and the punishment of the wicked in 14:1-11. Do you need help fighting the temptations of the world? Ask God to bring to mind the fall of Babylon and the wine of God’s wrath that those who worship the beast will drink. When Babylon tempts you, think of how she will fare on the Day of Judgment. When the beast calls for your worship, think of the torment his worshippers will experience in the presence of the Lamb. Think of the fact that they will never rest, day or night. Think of the fact that the smoke will rise forever. Endure in keeping the commands of God and believing in Jesus by seeing the outcome of the things that would tempt you to disobedience and unbelief.
Trusting in Jesus and obeying God’s commands may get you killed by Satan. But the temporary suffering before death and death itself will be overcome by God’s resurrection power. Consider what John says in 14:13: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” The voice from Heaven blesses those who are killed because they obey God and believe in Jesus. They are blessed because they will not suffer God’s wrath. Then the Spirit chimes in and says that unlike those who worship the beast, those who are killed for obedience to God and faith in Jesus will “rest.” And the Spirit also says that “their deeds follow them, “which means that everything we do in obedience to God’s commands and out of faith in Jesus will be remembered before God on the Day of Judgment.
Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.
Saturday (4/9) Read and discuss Psalm 19:1-14. This psalm beautifully refutes one of the most common errors in our day regarding the Law of the LORD. Reformed Christians speak of three uses of the law. The first use of the law is that it serves as both a mirror for our performance and a measuring line of perfect righteousness. As such, the law drives self-righteous people away from themselves and to Jesus Christ. Regretfully, the law-gospel distinction has been distorted in many Lutheran and Reformed circles (along with others) to teach that when the law reveals how far we fall short of God’s standards; it drives us away from the law and to the gospel. If enough qualifiers are added to this assertion it turns out to be true – but without the qualifiers it can lead us to a fundamentally mistaken understanding of God’s law. Thankfully, Psalm 19 corrects this misunderstanding. Please look once again at verses 7-11 with a few key words highlighted:
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
You will see that God’s law is portrayed in the most positive light. Rather than destroying us, God uses it to revive our souls (v. 7). Instead of causing us to flee from the law to the gospel, Psalm 19 portrays God’s law as something to be desired. Indeed His laws are sweeter than honey to the believer. Is the law to be valued only in that it reveals our inability to keep them and therefore reveal our need for Christ? By no means! Verse 11 tells us that “in keeping them there is great reward”. The LORD does graciously use the law to drive people from self-sufficiency back to Christ. But when we come to Christ we discover that He has not left us to figure out everything for ourselves. He gives us His law so that we might know what loving God and our neighbor actually looks like – to the end that we would actually do so. Read or sing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.