16 December 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3
Opening Hymn: 311 “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”
Confession of Sin
O eternal God and merciful Father, we humble ourselves before your great majesty, against which we have frequently and grievously sinned. We acknowledge that we deserve nothing less than eternal death, that we are unclean before you and children of wrath. We continually transgress your commandments, failing to do what you have commanded, and doing that which you have expressly forbidden. We acknowledge our waywardness, and are heartily sorry for all our sins. We are not worthy to be called your children, nor to lift up our eyes heavenward to you in prayer. Nevertheless, O Lord God and gracious Father, we know that your mercy toward those who turn to you is infinite; and so we take courage to call upon you, trusting in our Mediator Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Forgive all our sins for Christ’s sake. Cover us with his innocence and righteousness, for the glory of your name. Deliver our understanding from all blindness, and our hearts from all willfulness and rebellion, we pray through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen
Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103:1-3
Hymn of Preparation: 298 “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People”
Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 36:1-12
New Covenant Reading: John 1:1-5
Sermon: God of God, Light of Light
Hymn of Response: 292 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”
Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 852)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 308 “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”
OT: Malachi 4:1-6
NT: John 1:6-13
He Lightens Our Darkness
Shorter Catechism Q/A #70
Q. Which is the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Monday (12/10) Read and discuss John 1:1-5. Leon Morris writes:
The high point is recorded in the third affirmation [of verse 2]: “the Word was God.” Nothing higher could be said: all that may be said about God may fitly be said about the Word. This statement should not be watered down. Moffat renders, “the [Word] was divine.” While the English probably means much the same as does that of the NIV, the emphasis is different, and such translations are no improvement. John is not merely saying that there is something divine about Jesus. He is affirming that he is God, and doing so emphatically as we see the word order in Greek.
If that is a staggering affirmation to us, there is no reason for thinking that it was any less so to the Jewish author of this Gospel. To the Jews of the day monotheism was more than a belief commonly held. It was a conviction to be clung to with fierce tenacity. The Jews might be ground down under the heel of the roman conquerors, but they could do more than hate their military superiors. They could despise them. The Romans were no more than ignorant idolaters, and, crass folly, believed in many gods! The Jews knew with an unshakeable certainty that there was, there could be, only one God. When John says, “the Word was God,” his words must be understood in the light of Jewish pride in monotheism. Even though this writer regarded monotheism as a central tenet in his religion he yet could not withhold from the Word the designation “God.”
He says “the Word was God,” not “God was the Word.” The latter would have meant that God and the Word were the same; it would have pointed to an identity. But John is leaving open the possibility that there may be more to “God” than the “Word” (clearly he thought of the Father as God, and his later references indicate a similar status for the Spirit). But he lays down unequivocally that nothing less than “God” will do for our understanding of the Word.
We should perhaps notice that John refers to Jesus as God again in verse 18 and in 20:28. If the present passage refers to Jesus in his pre-incarnate state as God, verse 18 takes up the thought for the incarnate Word and 20:28 for the risen Christ. John thus asserts the deity of his Lord at three very important places in his narrative.
Read or sing 311 “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in China as they face an increased government crackdown on the church.
Tuesday (12/11) Read and discuss Romans 6:15-23. When the LORD caused you to be born again, He gave you a new loyalty and a new love. And this new loyalty and new love, of necessity, result in a new way of life. These gifts from the LORD are beautiful and precious – and they should motivate us to action. The fact that sanctification is a free gift from God isn’t reason for us to be passive. Rather, it is reason for you to embrace this gift with the confidence that He who began a good work in you will surely bring it to completion. How do we do this? Today’s Scripture reasons highlight three things that we should do:
- First, since loyalty towards and love for the LORD are the key motivators for sanctification, we should apply ourselves to knowing God better. And there is no mystery about how we are to do this. We come to know God better by applying ourselves to the means of grace – and principally to His word. As Psalm 1 says of the righteous man: “His delight is in the Law of the LORD and on His law he meditates day and night.”
- Second, sanctification is powered by gratitude for what the LORD has done for us in Christ Jesus. It isn’t an accident that when Paul talks about our being liberated from sin’s bondage in verse 17 that he begins: “But thanks be to God.” Gratitude and praise are obviously the right responses to the amazing gift that the LORD has given to us in and through His Son – and it turns out that these very responses are instruments that the LORD uses in our sanctification. Think of it this way: “Nobody simultaneously engages in crass sin while truly offering up heartfelt thanks to God that Christ died in our place.” That simply isn’t possible. This means that one of the most practical things you can do in pursuing righteousness is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude towards God – where you regularly give thanks and sing His praise throughout the day. Naturally, this attitude of gratitude goes hand in glove with knowing the LORD better by diligently applying yourself to the means of grace.
- Third, as Paul directs us to do in today’s passage, let’s stop and consider the fruit that comes from offering our members up to Jesus Christ and how this contrasts with the fruit that comes from offering up our members to our old slave-master sin. As we see in Psalm 1, …
The righteous person
… is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Nobody considers this contrast and says: “I want to be like the chaff.” In order to give ourselves over to sin, we have to push this picture out of our minds. We have to forget both what Jesus has done for us and also where sin and righteousness actually lead.
And so, Paul urges us to simply remember the truth.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Read or Sing Hymn 298 “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you faithful and fruit-bearing in His Kingdom.
Wednesday (12/12) Read and discuss Psalm 36:1-12. James Montgomery Boice writes:
The conclusion of the psalm is a prayer in which David prays for others who know God and are upright (v. 10) and for himself that he may be preserved from evildoers (v. 11). So confident is he of this final deliverance that the psalm closes with a prophetic glimpse of the wicked who, in his vision, “lie fallen –thrown down, not able to rise” (v. 12).
What is the final application of the psalm? It is what we have already seen in verse 7. What distinguishes the righteous from the wicked are not the good deeds of the godly (though they inevitably express their right relationship to God by good deeds), but rather that they, in distinction from the wicked, have taken refuge under the shadow of God’s wings. The words “find refuge” mean to flee for refuge, like a man guilty of manslaughter fleeing from the avenger of blood. They mean to flee with haste and intensity, stopping for nothing, until by the full thrust of our entire natures we find safety and deliverance beneath the wings and in the unfailing mercy of Almighty God.
That mercy is to be found in Jesus Christ. He said of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). The masses of Jesus’ day missed that great blessing and perished. The masses miss them today. Do not be one of them. Come to Jesus now.
Prayer: Give thanks that you are eternal secure under the Almighty wings of your LORD and Savior.
Thursday (12/13) Read and discuss Malachi 4:1-6. O. Palmer Robertson writes:
Does Malachi’s reference to Elijah’s return demand an actual reincarnation of the ancient prophet? Will the old Elijah who ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot return to earth as the consummate forerunner of the coming of the LORD? Nothing in the historical experience of the old covenant scriptures anticipates such a development. At other points the prophets predict a day in which David will return as king in Israel (Hos. 3:5; Ezek. 34:23, 37:24). Yet the expectation is not that a reincarnate David will return to rule over Israel, thereby superseding the dominion of the promised Messiah who was to be greater than David. Instead, these prophecies anticipate the coming of a king with the mind and the spirit of David who will reign over God’s universal people.
It is in this framework that the new covenant identification of John the Baptist as “Elijah” is to be understood. The disciples ask Jesus why their teachers of the law say that Elijah must come before the Messiah appears. The point of reference is clearly Malachi’s prophecy concerning god’s sending of his servant Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6). Jesus replies that the teachers of the law are correct: “Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished.” As a result of Jesus’ explanation, the disciples understood that he was referring to John the Baptist. By his ministry, John fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy concerning the return of Elijah.
Read or sing 292 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Prayer: Lift up an unbeliever whom you know and pray that the LORD would open his or her heart to embrace Jesus as Savior.
Friday (12/14) Read and discuss John 1:6-13. In verse 11 we are told that “His own people did not receive Him.” John Calvin comments:
Here is displayed the absolutely desperate wickedness and malice of human beings; here is displayed their execrable impiety, that when the Son of God was manifested in the flesh to the Jews, whom God had separated to himself from the other nations to be his own heritage, he was not acknowledged or received. This passage also has received various explanations. For some think that the Evangelist speaks of the whole world indiscriminately; and certainly there is no part of the world which the Son of God may not lawfully claim as his own property. According to them the meaning is “When Christ came down into the world, he did not enter into another person’s territories, for the whole human race was his own inheritance.” But I approve more highly of the opinion of those who refer it to the Jews alone; for there is an implied comparison, by which the Evangelist represents the heinous ingratitude of people. The Son of God had solicited an abode for himself in one nation; when he appeared there, he was rejected; and this shows clearly the awfully wicked blindness of people.
Read or sing Hymn 308 “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” Prayer: Give thanks that where sin abounded, in Christ Jesus – grace did abound all the more.
Saturday (12/15) Read and discuss John 1:1-5. William Weinrich writes:
According to Augustine, Life and Light refer to the creative knowledge of God and the illumination of human reason that allow man to perceive divine wisdom in the created order. Luther rightly objected that “this interpretation is not appropriate in connection with this Gospel passage, since only the light of grace is being preached here.” Luther related this passage to the preaching of the Light “to the descendants of Abraham and generations that followed.” Our analysis suggests that 1:4b specifically has the ministry of Jesus in mind. Throughout the Gospel narrative, the incarnated Word is the source of Life and Light because he himself is the Life and the Light (Jn 14:6; 8:12). Yet, Luther’s insight is correct. Christ is Life and Light as the Teacher/Rabbi whose teaching has himself as its sole object. He is the Way and the Life (Jn 14:6; 1 Jn 5:20). Indeed, to be a disciple of Jesus is to walk the way of Him who is the Way. The OT understanding of life involves movement and act; life is that which is lived. Therefore, life, even “eternal life,” is not merely contrasted to physical life. Life is that existence that acts in accordance with the will and purpose of God.
In the Gospel of John …, “life,” is “the life by which God Himself lives.” The son possesses this life from the Father and has come into the world to give life to humankind (Jn 10:10). This life is given when those who believe receive the Spirit and become children of God. Therefore, Jesus, as the Life, is also the Way that is to be lived. Thus we can see the importance of the incarnation, which is already indicated in these verses. By becoming flesh, the Word becomes himself the human form of the divine life. The Word Incarnate is the living will of God who speaks as His Father speaks and who works as His Father wills (Jn 12:49) and therefore reveals eternal life.
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.