2 September 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3
Opening Hymn: 239 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven”
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: 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Hymn of Preparation: Psalm 32B
Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 15:1-6
New Covenant Reading: Romans 4:1-8
Sermon: To the One Who Does Not Work
Hymn of Response: 434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”
Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1 (p. 872)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 433 “Amazing Grace”
REMINDER: The Hymns for AM Worship are from the new Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. Why not read them over and familiarize yourself with them before morning worship this Sunday?
OT: 2 Samuel 20:1-23
NT: Luke 12:22-34
The Fragile but Indestructible Kingdom
Shorter Catechism Q/A #55
Q. What is forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.
Monday (8/27) Read and discuss Romans 4:1-8. R.C. Sproul writes:
Abraham was one hundred years old, and his wife was barren, but God said that Sarah would have a child. Eliezer of Damascus would not be Abraham’s heir; one from Abraham’s loins would be his heir (see Gen. 15:2). Abraham looked at himself and his wife and saw a hopeless situation. “How can I possibly believe that promise?” Then he looked at the One who made the promise and realized instantly that there was nothing hopeless about it. The only thing hopeless was the idea that the promise would not come to pass, because it is impossible for God to lie. It is impossible for God to break a promise.
In our sin, we project onto the character of God our own character. We break promises, and we live in the midst of people who break promises routinely. Therefore, we question how, since we are so accustomed to broken promises, we can trust this One who promises us things against all earthly evidence. How could Mary believe the announcement of the angel Gabriel, who told her that she would bring forth a child? She asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God”. The angel was not talking about the power of men here. He was talking about the author of the universe. With Him all things in this world are possible, and Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
Satan has never performed a miracle in his life. He does not have the power to perform miracles. All his attempts at miracles are counterfeits because he does not have the power that God alone possesses. The one whom Abraham believed is the God who can create ex nihilo, who can bring something out of nothing, who can bring life out of death. Satan could have gone to the tomb of Lazarus and cried, “Come forth” until he lost his voice, but not a grain of life would have stirred in that corpse because Satan does not have the power to bring life out of death. Satan could speak into the void and with all his energy say, “Let there be light,” but not a candle-watt of light would appear. He cannot bring something out of nothing.
These words make it clear that the key to a growing and vibrant faith is to focus on the One in whom our faith is rightly placed. To know Him is to trust Him. Read or sing Hymn 239 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Dover, NH.
Tuesday (8/28) Read and discuss Romans 3:27-31. Verse 31 has proven to be a real challenge to many preachers and other theologians.
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
Anyone who has taught extensively will immediately recognize that this is not a hypothetical objection being spun out of Paul’s fertile imagination. As he presented the true doctrine of Justification apart from the works of the law – Paul must have heard over and over again the objection that this was watering down or even overthrowing the Law of God which had become so precious to the Jewish people. Does Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone overthrow the Law! Paul responds with the most forceful denial that can be made with the Greek language: “By no means!” Or as I pointed out a few weeks ago, this we can best capture the force of what Paul is saying through a paraphrase: Does Justification in Christ alone apart from any merit on our part nullify the Law? Paul responds: “Don’t even entertain such an outrageous and wicked thought!” But of course, people were doing that very thing. And yet, it turns out that it was those who were opposing Paul were nullifying the law while the doctrine of free justification in Christ actually establishes the Law … in the sense that it presents the Law for what it truly is. Let’s see why this is so in three easy steps:
- Step 1: God is Holy. Nobody that Paul was writing to would deny this basic truth which is so powerfully taught throughout the Old Testament as well as in the New.
- Step 2: The moral law isn’t arbitrary. It is an expression of the LORD’s own holy character. Again, no committed Jew or Christian in the first century would deny this basic truth.
- Step 3: See which view of Justification actually fits with the fact that God is perfectly holy and that, rather than being arbitrary the Law of God perfectly conforms with God’s own holiness.
That is simple, and it is also absolutely devastating to anyone who doesn’t embrace Justification by grace alone apart from the works of the Law. For every approach that seeks to have human-law keeping as a part of the perfect righteousness which God requires of us runs into the buzz saw of what the Law actually says. Let’s just consider the Tenth Commandment – the commandment against coveting. Immediately we notice that the Tenth Commandment doesn’t say: “Work on coveting less than your neighbors do.” It says, “Thou shalt not covet.” But everyone attempting to contribute to their own justification through law keeping, has to bend the Law so that it is no longer requires perfect obedience. The Law ceases to be Law and simply becomes an aspirational guide. The irony, therefore, is that Paul’s opponents are the ones who are nullifying the Law. By contrast, once we acknowledge that Justification is entirely the free gift of God based entirely on who Jesus is and what He has done for us, then we are free to present the Law as it truly is – the perfect expression of God’s own holy character. Read or Sing Hymn Psalm 32B Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us His word to serve as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths.
Wednesday (8/29) Read and discuss Genesis 15:1-6. Living by faith is hard. As Walter Bruggemann observes:
Abraham and Sarah were called out of their barrenness (11:30) by God’s powerful word (12:1). Their pilgrimage of hope had begun on no other basis than the promise of Yahweh (12:1-4a). The promise of Yahweh stood over against the barrenness. But when we arrive at chapter 15, the barrenness persists. That barrenness (which the promise has not overcome) poses the issue for this chapter. The large question is that the promise does delay, even to the point of doubt. It is part of the destiny of our common faith that those who believe in the promise and hope against barrenness nevertheless must live with the barrenness. Why and how does one continue to trust solely in the promise when the evidence against the promise is all around? It is this scandal that is faced here. It is Abraham’s embrace of this scandal that makes him the father of faith.
Since living by faith while living with barrenness is so hard, we might imagine that coming to faith is some sort of heroic achievement. Such a conclusion runs entirely contrary to both Genesis and Galatians. Once again, Walter Bruggemann helps point us in the right direction:
The new reality of faith for Abraham must be accounted as a miracle form God. The faith of Abraham should not be understood in romantic fashion as an achievement or as a moral decision. Rather, the newly ready Abraham is a creature of the word of promise. The situation of Abraham is paralleled to the confession of Peter (Matt. 16:16-17). Abruptly and without explanation of cause, Peter makes the same leap in his confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The gospel narrative also wants to ponder the question: How does such a man come to such a confession? How is faith possible in the life of unfaith? The response of Jesus indicates the miracle which faith is:
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
That is how this faith of Abraham is. He did not move from protest (vv. 2-3) to confession (v. 6) by knowledge or by persuasion but by the power of God who reveals and causes his revelation to be accepted. The new pilgrimage of Abraham is not grounded in the old flesh of Sarah nor the tired bones of Abraham, but in the disclosing word of God.
Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would build up our local church.
Thursday (8/30) Read and discuss Luke 12:22-34. David Garland writes:
The warning against anxiety and the command to store up treasure in heaven through almsgiving draws the lesson to be learned from the negative example of the rich fool. Lowery comments: “The imperative to relinquish and redistribute wealth grows out of the assurance that God provides sustenance and beauty sufficient for good life. Generosity flows from confidence in God’s willingness and ability to provide.”
A harvest is a miraculous gift from God, but the farmer did not treat his bumper crop as an opportunity for sharing with others from God’s bounty but as an occasion to keep more for himself and to hedge against future bad harvests. Such actions are rooted in fear that one may not have enough. “Fear,” as Lowery notes, “breeds obsession with survival. It is a small step then to idolatry, the vain attempt to substitute certitude for faith, to find security in that which can be controlled rather than which simply must be trusted.” By contrast, “faith sees the abundance as surplus to be shared, because God can be trusted to provide enough next year, as well.” When the world is divided up between the have-mores and the have-nothings, the love of neighbor should determine the answer to the question, “What shall I do with my surplus?”
Jesus allows that material things are necessary for life (12:16, 22-32), but a greater abundance of these things does not lead to a greater abundance of life. Nor does it lead to greater peace and security. Instead, as Bultmann notes, “the person who supposedly has the world at his disposal is [often] its victim.” That person is often confused about what is really important in life. That is why Paul advises in 1 Cor 7:31 that one should “use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.” The man in the parable learns too late that the only possessions worth having and storing up are those that death cannot snatch away. He also never gets to enjoy his “good things.” The truth is that greater happiness derives from the experience of sharing things with others than from miserly attempts to accumulate and to stash them away.
Read or sing Hymn 434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: Please lift up the young people of our congregation as they return to school.
Friday (8/31) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 20:1-23. Dale Ralph Davis gives us a sober warning as we consider how the problems in today’s passage continue throughout Church history. Writing about Sheba he asks:
By why is this scoundrel such a scoundrel? Because he is rejecting Yahweh’s chosen. He is rebelling – and calling the northern tribes to rebel – against Yahweh’s anointed king and breaking the covenant that bound the king and the northern tribes in mutual loyalty. Perhaps Sheba could whitewash his deed alleging that Judah’s nasty words had caused him emotional distress or that David’s politicking smacked of gross favoritism. All of which would not alter his crime: rebelling against covenant kingship and, in so doing, rebelling against Yahweh.
Which is somewhat tiring to the reader of 2 Samuel. We’ve been through chapters of this already with Absalom. And the same revolt in principle goes on and on in the so-called evangelical church. There people are perfectly happy to be in a church that has a ‘high view’ of the authority of the Bible. But let a married woman find another man she prefers to her husband, or a husband who has gotten close to another man she prefers to her husband, or a husband who has gotten close to another woman at work and wants to ditch his wife, and somehow the authority of the bible doesn’t matter. Or someone has been wronged by another. It has too much, the wound too deep, the offense too vicious – the one could never be reconciled to the other, even though the offender is repentant and seeks forgiveness. No – impossible. Point out to the offended that he’d better never pray the Lord’s Prayer again (Matt. 6:12) and that Jesus gives no option but to reconcile (Matt. 6:14-15; Luke 17:3-4). Too bad for the Lord’s Prayer and too bad for Jesus. His rage is too precious to him. Rightful authority can simply go down the tube. There are Shebas in the church; some of them are evangelicals of the stricter sort. They rebel against rightful authority; they are determined to go their own way, to call their own shots; they lift up their hand against the King.
Read or sing Hymn 433 “Amazing Grace” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you a tender heart that is quick to repent and which delights to walk in the ways of the LORD.