1 July 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3
Opening Hymn: 11 “Now Blessed be the Lord Our God”
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: Leviticus 26:44-45
Hymn of Preparation: 668 “Who Trusts in God, a Strong Abode”
Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 62:1-12
New Covenant Reading: Romans 2:1-11
Sermon: Who Receives the Gift of Life?
Hymn of Response: 679 “ ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”
Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1
Doxology (Hymn 732)
Closing Hymn: 498 “Jesus What a Friend for Sinners”
OT: 2 Samuel 14:1-33
NT: Mark 12:1-12
Shorter Catechism Q/A #46
Q. 46. What is required in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.
Monday (6/25) Read and discuss Romans 2:1-11. One of the challenges of reading a letter from a distance, is answering the question: “Who is Paul talking about?” Commenting on verses 1-5 Michael Middendorf writes:
Rather than compartmentalizing 1:18-32 to Gentiles, and then applying all or part of Romans 2 to Jews, it is better to see 2:1-16 as a narrowing of the entire audience to those in either category who are condemning the failings of others without acknowledging their own. In the text, the specific human addressed as “you” is simply defined as “every person who judges.” Restricting the application to Jew or Gentile goes beyond the text and improperly removes the universal relevance. … “There is no need to be so specific about the identity of the interlocutor in 2:1-5, who, in light of the diatribal form, could be a Jew, a Gentile, or a Christ-believer of either Jewish or Gentile origin.”
Please note how this contrasts with verses 6 through 11 where believers and unbelievers are explicitly contrasted with one another. Read or sing Hymn 11 “Now Blessed be the Lord Our God” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Iran as they seek to live for Christ in a very challenging political and social environment.
Tuesday (6/26) Read and discuss Romans 1:26-32. In verses 28 through 31 we are told that the LORD gave those who rejected Him over to a debased mind. Paul then lists 21 sins that flow out of the idolatry of rejecting God. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all sins, but it is meant to be an exhausting list. Paul’s point is that exchanging the truth of God for a lie ends up with all manner of evil. Nevertheless, there is something a bit shocking in this list which unmasks one of the idolatries of modern American society. As we read through the list of sins we find ourselves saying, “I get it. Murder, strife, maliciousness, haters of God. These people even go out of there way trying to invent evil. I get it. This deserves God’s judgment.” Then we read: “disobedient to parents” and we aren’t entirely sure what to do with that particular sin.” See, in modern American life we have increasingly come to take “disobedience to parents” as if it were no big deal. But please notice that this is not how the Bible treats it. If you were going to give just 10 foundational Laws for a well-functioning society – would you use one of those 10 Laws to tell children to honor their father and their mother? You probably wouldn’t. But God did. The issue is both simple and profound. When we are young, we aren’t yet able to figure out everything on our own – so God gives us parents to guide us and to train us. By learning to honor our parents we learn to honor all other authorities in our life – including God. See, the LORD isn’t calling you to honor your parents because they are worthy. The is calling us to honor our parents as a way of honoring the LORD who put them in authority over us. It turns out that rebellion against our parents and insisting that we are going to do what we want rather than what they say is the same thing as rebelling against God and insisting that we are going to do what we want rather than what God says. Because the majority of American culture is in such open rebellion against God we don’t think this is much of a big deal at all. But please note that the Apostle Paul declares that those who do such things are worthy of death. Let me encourage all of you, especially those of you who are still young, to do one of the most courageous and radically counter-cultural things that you can do in New England today: Honor your parents as a way of honoring Jesus Christ. Read or Sing Hymn 668 “Who Trusts in God, a Strong Abode” Prayer: Ask the LORD to help you faithfully and joyfully fulfill the fifth commandment.
Wednesday (6/27) Read and discuss Psalm 62:1-12. Allen P. Ross writes:
This Psalm is a beautiful display of confidence in the LORD. The psalmist is in a life-threatening crisis, but he is not filled with fear or anxiety. Instead, he trusts in the LORD and waits silently for the LORD to deliver him. He knows that the LORD can provide the strength and security to deliver him from his destructive foes – he knows that only the LORD can do this. And he is confident that the LROD will do it because he is the savior of his people. The point this psalm is making can be stated this way: God alone is able to deliver the faithful from destructive enemies ad make them safe and secure because he alone is both savior and judge. Because he is the savior, he will save his faithful servants; and because he is the judge, he will reward everyone in accordance with what they have done – and for the malicious enemies of the people of God that means judgment, perhaps now, but certainly at the end of the age. New Testament believers also know that they cannot save themselves on any level, and so they trust in the LORD and wait for the day of deliverance. Paul in his letter to the Philippians instructs believers to rejoice in the LORD (praise), and not be anxious (calm confidence), but pray (faith), and the peace of the LORD will guard their hearts and minds (Phil. 4:4-7).
And the theme of judgment in accordance with works is most clearly presented in Jesus’ teaching on Matthew 25:31-46. Those who demonstrated their faith by their good works enter into the kingdom; but those who did not show any kindness or care about Jesus’ brethren demonstrated their rejection of him. They will be cast out. The household of faith has known from ages past that there is coming a day of judgment when the LORD will save those who have found forgiveness but condemn those who rejected him and opposed his saints.
Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at the Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod.
Thursday (6/28) Read and discuss Mark 12:1-12. This is an explosive encounter. Imagine if you had been there. Two days earlier Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey being hailed as the One who came in the name of the LORD. The next day He dramatically overturned the tables of the money changers and drove businessmen, customers, and animals alike out of the Court of the Gentiles. Yet, astonishingly, the authorities did nothing. Today a large delegation of the authorities comes out to confront Jesus. They basically ask: “Who do you think you are to do these things?” Yet, Jesus doesn’t back down. After rebuking the authorities for their failure to answer His direct question about John the Baptist – Jesus tells this very pointed story which we call a parable. But what sort of story is it? Is it a tragedy or a comedy? One easy way to remember the difference is to recall that a tragedy ends with a funeral while a comedy ends with a wedding. What sort of story is this? If we stop reading at verse 9 we will definitely think that this is a tragedy. The son has been killed and the tenants (= the leadership in Jerusalem) face imminent and severe judgment. Indeed, this story is a tragedy for Israel as a nation, its corrupt leadership, and all of the unbelieving Jews … but it isn’t a tragedy for God. If we keep reading, we discover that Jesus quotes from Psalm 118 to show that this was God’s plan all along. For those with ears to hear, Jesus was answering His antagonists’ question. He was the Son and rightful heir to the vineyard. Furthermore, though the wicked tenants would put Him to death, He would rise again to become the foundation stone of the new Temple (the people of God). We learn elsewhere in Scripture that Jesus would become the groom who would marry the Church. It turns out that this story is both a tragedy and a comedy … and therefore everyone fits into this story. When we step back and look at our lives as a whole every life-story will either ultimately be a tragedy or a comedy. Which will we have? The answer depends entirely on how we respond to Jesus. Read or Sing Hymn 679 “ ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD so wondrously rules over all things.
Friday (6/29) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 14:1-33. Tony Cartledge writes:
When David allowed his son to return, he refused to see him! What an amazing thing. For three years Abaslom had lived in exile. For two more years he dwelt in Jerusalem, but under virtual house arrest. David and Absalom were each the most important person in the other’s life, yet they did not speak. As a result, there was no healing. David’s heart seemed to grow more distant, while Absalom’s heart burned ever hotter with anger and a desire for revenge. The reader is left to wonder how things would have turned out if David and Absalom had simply talked and listened to each other.
There is no future for relationships that do not involve constant communication. Persons might remain related by blood or history or the ties of official ceremony, but when spouses, sisters, brothers, or friends do not communicate, their relationships cannot survive. Mutual rapport becomes twisted by misunderstanding, wrongful presumptions, needless anger, and harbored grudges. Without effective communication relationships will die.
Communication does not begin until some person takes the initiative of approaching the other. Joab took the initiative to facilitate communication between David and Absalom. If he had succeeded, perhaps Israel’s history would have been different. Instead, the story of David and his son was a tragedy from beginning to end. The reader is encouraged to review his or her own stories and relationships and ask, “Who do I need to call today?”
Read or sing Hymn 498 “Jesus What a Friend for Sinners” Prayer: Think about someone that you are not communicating well with, and then pray that the LORD would show you how to build positive communications to move your relationship forward.
Saturday (6/30) Read and discuss Romans 2:1-11. Many commentators have had difficulty with verses 6 through 11, because they don’t want to say that eternal life will be given “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality.” The fear is that this somehow entails a works righteousness. Such commentators then try fairly extreme measures to escape what Paul is clearly saying. For example, one popular suggestion is that Paul is merely speaking in hypotheticals. That is, God would give life to those who do this – but nobody actually does “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality.” Let me encourage you to be reluctant to embrace such an approach no matter how much you might admire the person giving it to you. Remember that Romans would have been read out loud to the Christians in Rome. There is simply no marker in the passage, and no reasonable way that the Roman Christians could figure out, that Paul didn’t mean what his words clearly seem to teach, that those who will receive life are “those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality.” Yet, if we simply take Paul’s words at face value, they really aren’t that difficult to understand in light of both the logic of Romans and also the rest of Scripture. Four points:
- First, please note that Paul is not saying that “patience in well-doing [or seeking] for glory and honor and immortality” are the ground for anyone being justified or saved. Paul is emphatic throughout his teaching that Christ, and Christ alone, is the sole ground for our salvation. What Paul is giving us is the external marks of a person who can be saved so that we can contrast them with the external marks of those who are heading towards destruction.
- Second, remember that the goal of Paul’s apostleship is to bring about “the obedience which comes from faith amongst the Gentiles.” True faith always produces the fruit of obedience (Romans 1:5). link NIV
- Third, please note that such individuals are not earning eternal life. Paul explicitly says about those that “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality” that they are given eternal life. It is always a gift of God’s free grace rather than something that fallen men can earn.
- Fourth, Jesus teaches the very same thing. For example, in Matthew 23:31-46, Jesus gives parable of the final judgment where the sheep and the goats are separated and judged entirely based on what they have done. Or consider the last paragraph of the Sermon on the Mount. It should be clear that Jesus isn’t teaching salvation by works. He is teaching that true faith has consequences.
Verses 6 through 11 are a helpful safeguard against the idea that faith is just checking a box that doesn’t have any impact on the rest of your life. Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.