31 March 2019
Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3
Opening Hymn: Psalm 29A
Confession of Sin
O great and everlasting God, Who dwells in unapproachable light, Who searches and knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart; We confess that we have not loved You with all our heart, nor with all our soul, nor with all our mind, nor with all our strength; Nor our neighbors as ourselves. We have loved what we ought not to have loved; We have coveted what is not ours; We have not been content with Your provisions for us. We have complained in our hearts about our family, about our friends, about our health, about our occupations, about Your church, and about our trials. We have sought our security in those things which perish, rather than in You, the Everlasting God. Chasten, cleanse, and forgive us, through Jesus Christ, who is able for all time to save us who approach You through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for us. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: John 3:16-17
Hymn of Preparation: Psalm 121A
Old Covenant Reading: Micah 7:18-20
New Covenant Reading: Romans 9:19-29
Sermon: Sovereign Grace Our Only Hope
Hymn of Response: 533 “Have Thine Own Way, LORD!”
Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 852)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 532 “Be Still, My Soul”
OT: 1 Kings 3:1-3
NT: Jude 1-25
The Profound Peril of Pragmatism
Shorter Catechism Q/A # 84
Q. 84. What doth every sin deserve?
A. Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.
Monday (3/25) Read and discuss Romans 9:19-29. Michael Bird writes:
[Those who oppose Paul’s teaching on divine election have an objection] Paul makes God look utterly random in his mercy with no rhyme or reason why he gives it. The imaginary interlocutor digs his heals in by complaining that if God decided whom he will be merciful to and whom he will harden without recourse to foreknowledge of deservedness, then it is nonsense for God to make humans culpable for their choices. Anticipating this, Paul has his imaginary interlocutor respond: “One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?’” (v. 19).
Paul answers with a highly charged retort drawing from Isaiah 29:16 and probably from Isaiah 45:9: “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” (vv. 20-21). Through these citations Paul stresses divine freedom and the incongruity of humans trying to impugn God’s wisdom. In the case of Isaiah 29, it describes God’s right to judge Jerusalem for its wickedness, mocking the idea that David’s city can reverse the covenant relationship and make God beholden to their will, which would be like clay making demands of the potter. In Isaiah 45, the language takes place in the context of God’s selection of Cyrus to be his agent for the restoration of the exiles, and Israel has no right to complain against their maker for raising up a Gentile to achieve his purposes.
In the end, God has decided to create from one “lump of clay,” that is, from “Israel,” one group for special purposes like a wine decanter and another group for lesser ends like a chamber pot. The choice is rooted in divine purposes and in the freedom of the divine prerogative. Therefore, the clay has no right to reply to the potter for the potter’s purposes are paramount. …
The imagery of God as potter and humans as clay has annoyed quite a few commentators who think that Paul has fallen off his rocking horse in making such a comparison. To that I say, obviously analogies are just that, analogies, anecdotal images that serve to explain one particular point, but not everything. It would be irresponsible to use this analogy of the potter and the clay to account for the totality of a divine view of humanity. To haggle over that is to entirely miss the point of Paul’s allusions to the potter and clay imagery from Isaiah. That point is to declare that Israel, who sits in the dock, has no right to tell God that he is not permitted to judge them, nor to dictate to God whom he will or will not include in his saving righteousness.
Read or sing Psalm 29A Prayer: Please life up the Rev. Andrew Williams who was elevated to be the Bishop of New England for the bible-believing Anglican Church in North America http://www.ad-ne.org/andrew-williams/
Tuesday (3/26) Read and discuss Romans 9:1-18. How much does Paul love the Jewish people, his kinsmen according to the flesh? He says, in verse 2:
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
It is astonishing to think about loving people who persecute you that much … until we remember that this is precisely what Jesus did. Jesus was in fact “accursed” and “cut off” on the cross – so that His enemies – that would be us – could be saved. Paul, by God’s grace, was more and more reflecting Christ’s love for sinners in his own life. Of course, he can’t actually offer such a prayer with a clear conscience, for when Moses had done that very thing in ancient Israel – the LORD had corrected Moses by making clear that He would have mercy on whomever He chose to have mercy, and mere human beings, even Moses as God’s chosen covenant mediator, could not bargain with God into changing His plans. Furthermore, Paul had just concluded Romans chapter 8 by writing:
I am certain that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And Paul fully understood that this applied to his own life as well. Nevertheless, Paul’s profession of sacrificial love towards his fellow Jews is simply staggering. Read or Sing Psalm 121A Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Iran who live and worship under very difficult conditions.
Wednesday (3/27) Read and discuss Micah 7:18-20. Gary V. Smith writes:
The process of lamenting [that is, lamenting biblically] naturally brings a person from bitter complaints at the beginning, through petitions for help, to statements of trust and confidence, so that at the end one can refocus on the character and power of God in words of praise. This structural design helps transform the helpless person into a new creature because of a new vision of God. Instead of looking at the world through the human eyes of crisis and disappointment, the righteous are able to realign their concept o reality by perceiving the true character and glory of the sovereign King who controls the nations, their lives, and the future. As Micah ends his prayer on this high note, his audience can hardly help but be impressed with the change that overtakes the prophet.
This hymn is made up of two parts: a celebration of God and what he has done, and praise for what God will do. The words of celebration begin with a rhetorical question: “Who is a God like you?” This comparative question draws attention to the uniqueness of Israel’s God. The obvious answer is: There is no other god who compares to Israel’s God. The proof of this claim is related to God’s unique way of dealing with sin; that is, he forgives his people. This passage juxtaposes several words for “sin” with several words for God’s reaction to sin. Sin may be iniquity, rebellion, or a fractured relationship, but it does not forever destroy all hope for having a peaceful relationship with God. Confession of sin and repentance make it possible for sins to be removed, for God’s anger at sin to be appeased, and for God’s steadfast covenant commitment to blossom again.
For the remnant who love God, past experience teaches them that only Israel’s God offers a solution to humanity’s fundamental problem with sin. The Israelites experienced this when they built the golden calf at Mount Sinai, where God did not destroy the nation (Ex. 32:9-14). Instead after confessing the nation’s sins, Moses requested that God forgive them. After this episode God proclaimed that he is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love; he is willing to forgive all kinds of sins.
Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD is a God who forgives sin that: “He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”
Thursday (3/28) Read and discuss Jude 1-25. Frank Thielman writes:
In Jude 20-21, Jude advises his readers on how they can avoid succumbing to the false teaching and suffering the fearsome fate he has just described for the false teachers. He does this in four admonitions, the last of which lays an eschatological foundation for the other three. In this last admonition, Jude tells his readers to await the mercy of their Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring them into eternal life (v. 21b). What are they to do while they wait? The first three admonitions in verses 20-21 tell them:
First, they should “build [themselves] up in [their] most holy faith” (v. 20a). This way of speaking of the faith is reminiscent of the letter’s beginning, where Jude announces that he intends to provide a strategy by which his readers can “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (v. 3). “The faith” here seems to refer to a standard body of teaching from which Jude’s opponents have deviated, and now Jude tells his readers that they must build on the foundation of this body of teaching, not on the unstable foundation that the false teachers have advocated.
Second, they should “pray in the Holy Spirit” (v. 20b). Jude’s description of the false teachers as relying on their dreams (v. 8) and “not having the Spirit” (v. 19) may reflect their own claims that their teaching included Spirit-inspired prophecy. Perhaps in this second admonition, Judge takes the emphasis off proclaiming what the Spirit teaches – a notion that the false teachers have used to their own advantage – and places it on the Spirit’s role in assisting the believers’ prayers.
Third, Jude’s readers should “keep [themselves] in God’s love.” This is probably an ethical admonition, designed to counter the unethical behavior of the false teachers. The initiative that God has taken to show us love implies that we must “keep” ourselves in that love by living the way that God requires.
Read or Sing Hymn 533 “Have Thine Own Way, LORD!” Prayer: Please lift the Supreme Court of the United States.
Friday (3/29) Read and discuss 1 Kings 3:1-3. Phil Ryken writes:
As much as he loved the LORD, there are some ominous warning signs that Solomon’s love was not wholehearted. The traditional view of 1 Kings is that the king was faithful until the last days of his life. On this interpretation, chapters 1 through 10 give an almost entirely positive view of his kingship while chapter 11 tells how Solomon turned away from the LORD at the very end. If we study his life more carefully, however, we see early signs of his eventual downfall, especially in his love for money, sex, and power.
The first warning sign in chapter 3 is Solomon’s choice of a life partner: “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem.
This union was problematic in several ways. Since we have no reason to think that Pharaoh’s daughter had faith in the God of Israel, we can only conclude that Solomon was unequally yoked. This was not an issue of ethnicity, but of spirituality. The Bible fully supports the union of two people from different ethnic backgrounds, but it condemns the marriage of a believer to an unbeliever. It is hardly surprising that marrying outside the faith eventually led Solomon into idolatry, the very king who once was said to “love the LORD” later is said to love “many foreign women” (1 Kings 11:1). His poor example is a warning for Christians not to pursue a romantic relationship with anyone who is not committed to Christ.
Read or sing Hymn 532 “Be Still, My Soul” Prayer: Pray for the young people in our congregation that the LORD would grant them the wisdom and faithfulness to only marry other committed Christians.
Saturday (3/30) Read and discuss Romans 9:19-29. R.C. Sproul writes:
God’s sovereignty in election is revealed so “that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory (v. 23).” The treasure of God’s glory is likened to riches untold, riches that can never be counted. That is what the doctrine of election is about. We must never study the doctrine of predestination in the abstract. In the final analysis, although predestination certainly involves God’s sovereignty – his omnipotence and omniscience – the doctrine is about the riches of God’s glory. Paul cannot rehearse these things without breaking out into doxology: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (11:33a). I initially struggled to embrace the doctrine of election, but contemplating the riches of God’s glory enables me to see the sweetness of this doctrine. It screams not so much sovereignty as unfathomable grace and mercy.
This doctrine more than any other reveals that grace really is amazing. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found” – we sing that hymn not because we were searching but because the hound of heaven found us with the sweetness of his mercy and grace. That is why we talk about doctrines such as justification and election as the doctrines of grace. Grace is the idea here in the text we are considering. From a corrupt mass of clay God chose to make vessels of glory. If you are in Christ Jesus, that is what God has done for you in his mercy and grace. He has made you a vessel of mercy that he prepared before the foundation of the world for glory.
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.