7 April 2019
Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3
Opening Hymn: 212 “Come, Thou Almighty King”
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: Psalm 103:11-13
Hymn of Preparation: 330 “Who Is This, So Weak and Helpless”
Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 118:1-29
New Covenant Reading: Romans 9:30-10:4
Sermon: Christ our Righteousness
Hymn of Response: 447 “Christ, of All My Hopes the Ground”
Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 852)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 446 “Be Thou My Vision”
OT: Psalm 42:1-11
NT: 1 Peter 1:13-25
Hope in God
Shorter Catechism Q/A # 85
Q. What doth God require of us that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?
A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.
Monday (4/1) Read and discuss Romans 9:30-10:4. George Eldon Ladd writes:
To understand Paul’s thought on the role of the Law, we must interpret it against the threefold background of Old Testament religion, Judaism, and his own experiences. The heart of Old Testament religion cannot be characterized as legalism, nor was the Law given as the means of achieving a right relationship with God by obedience. On the contrary, the context of the Law was the covenant that preceded and underlay the Law; and the covenant was initiated by the gracious act of God. Israel was constituted God’s people not because of merit gained by obedience to the Law, but because of God’s free election. Israel belongs to God because he has revealed himself by delivering his people out of Egypt. … “Life was not a reward earned by good works; it was itself God’s gift. … Only by faith, i.e., by cleaving to the God of salvation, will the righteous have life. It is obvious that life is here understood as gift (Von Rad).” Furthermore, the obedience demanded by the Law could not be satisfied by mere legalism, for the Law itself demanded love for God (Deut. 6:5; 10:12) and for neighbor (Lev. 19:18). Obedience to the Law of God was an expression of trust in God; and only those who offered God such trust were really his people.
Read or sing Hymn 212 “Come, Thou Almighty King” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in China as they face increased persecution.
Tuesday (4/2) Read and discuss Romans 9:19-29. Paul makes clear that those who render judgment against God’s sovereign grace, are badly misunderstanding what the LORD was saying to Moses in the Old Testament. They are objecting to God hardening the sinner’s heart, but they are forgetting that this takes place in history with nothing but sinners. Remember that pottery is made in two stages. First, the soft clay is formed into the object that the craftsmen is creating. Second, only after it is formed is it placed into the furnace and hardened. When the LORD hardens Pharaoh’s heart, that corresponds to the second stage when the potter glazes and fires the clay. By hardening Pharaoh’s heart, the LORD is simply fixing it in the way that it was already aligned. This is key: The LORD wasn’t turning Pharaoh’s good heart into a bad one. Here is why this is so important: Those who object to the LORD judging those whom He passes over, and those whose hearts He hardens, have a fundamentally wrong understanding of human nature. They are assuming that the LORD is starting either with a neutral material, or something precious like gold – and then the LORD is arbitrarily crafting some of that gold into beautiful vessels and transforming some of that gold into dross. But as Paul makes clear with four quotations from the Old Testament, that isn’t what is going on at all. The Potter is working with corrupted clay and defiled dirt. As John Murray points out:
Paul is not dealing [here] with God’s sovereign rights over men as men but over men as sinners.
Think about this in terms of the analogy of God as the potter or artistic craftsmen. We ought not to imagine that the LORD goes around selecting only the finest materials for His masterpiece. Instead, we ought to be thinking of an artist who is picking out the materials for his project from the town dump. If we see ourselves in this light, we will cease to marvel that the LORD would pass some over and stand in awe of the fact that the LORD chose us from the trash heap to be His own treasured possession and collectively the bride for His eternally beloved Son. That’s what Paul is straining for us to see. Paul not only wants to shut the mouths of those who would blasphemously attack the justice of the Living God. Paul wants to open our mouths that they would shew forth wonderous praise! And so we sing: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” Read or Sing Hymn 330 “Who Is This, So Weak and Helpless” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Amoskeag Presbyterian Church, in Manchester, NH as they seek a new pastor.
Wednesday (4/3) Read and discuss Psalm 118:1-29. James Mays writes:
Through the centuries of Scripture interpretation in the church, two points in the psalm have received repeated emphasis. The first is the grateful cry in verse 17, “I shall not die, but live.” That is just the reverse of the natural human condition. The normal human predicament is that, because we must die, the expectation of our final negation infects our living in all kinds of conscious and subliminal ways. The church has found in verse 17 the expression of the transformation worked by the resurrection in one’s fundamental stance in life. The way in which believers face every threat and crisis and need is colored by the knowledge that God has not given us over to death. “We whose life is hid with Christ in God ought to meditate on this psalm all the days of our lives (Calvin).”
The second point of repeated emphasis has been verses 22-24, which portray Easter as the day for celebrating God’s deed in making the rejected stone the chief cornerstone. These verses teach the church that the risen Christ is the crucified Jesus and warn us against separating Easter from its context in the passion of our Lord. It was not the free choice and approval of the human community that established the Crucified as foundation and keystone of God’s coming kingdom but God’s raising Him from the dead (Acts 4:11). He is present in the world as the One contradicted and rejected by every way that human beings go about building their world. The risen Christ is not the acceptable Christ; rather, it is in all the ways that He differs from us that He calls us to the transformations of repentance that answer God’s deed in Him. Luther, in commenting on verse 22, observed that in the Gospel story, people became angry and condemned Jesus because they did not know how to use Him, and then wrote: “It is no different today. The stone is rejected and stays rejected.” … The marvelous thing is that the One whom our human instincts and wisdom reject, God has nevertheless, in spite of us and for our salvation, made the chief cornerstone.
Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by joining our church family.
Thursday (4/4) Read and discuss 1 Peter 1:13-25. Suffering for your faith is hard. We have all been inspired by our brothers and sisters who have been willing suffer greatly, or even to lay down their lives, for the cause of Christ and His gospel. Yet, perhaps we have allowed slogans such as “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” to roll too easily off of our tongues. Often such sentiments are expressed most easily by those who have never spent a night in jail or been beaten for their faith. The truth is, suffering for your faith is hard. Today’s passage draws our attention to a rarely contemplated truth: Jesus gave us a pattern to show us how we are to suffer for the faith. While Christ’s pattern of suffering would repay detailed study, there are four main points of application from His example for modern Christians:
- Jesus didn’t seek to suffer. In the early Church, and occasionally throughout history, there have been those who have actually pursued suffering in Christ’s name. Perhaps they did this simply out of bad theology or perhaps they did so out of the hope that their willingness to suffer would mark them out as particularly devoted followers of Jesus. In either case, such actions are unbiblical. Christ Himself did not seek to suffer.
- Jesus sought to avoid suffering. We often focus on the end of Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane where He prayed “nevertheless, not My will but Thy will be done.” We should focus on this. Yet, we shouldn’t miss the fact that Jesus, who was the only perfect man, also prayed “If it is possible, remove this cup from me.” Rather than reflecting cowardice, this is precisely what the Law requires. Q/A 135 of the Larger Catechism begins: “The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others …” For some reason, many Christians miss this and think there is something selfish about looking out for your own well-being when in fact it is your duty to do so.
- Jesus chose pleasing His Father over avoiding suffering. While avoiding harm to ourselves is a duty it is not our ultimate duty. If we seek to fulfill the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors this will inevitably involve at least some suffering. Yet, suffering should only be the necessary side effect of trying to please our Father in a fallen and sin filled world. Suffering should never be pursued for its own sake.
- Jesus endured suffering by entrusting Himself to His Father. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” If we must suffer for the gospel, it is a wonderful encouragement to remember that we are in God’s hands and that He will ultimately vindicate us completely while using our suffering for His glory and for the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Read or Sing Hymn 447 “Christ, of All My Hopes the Ground” Prayer: Pray for our brothers and sisters in China that they would grow in grace and in doctrinal knowledge. Ask the LORD to keep them from being drawn away from the gospel by, on the one hand, the increasing desire to get rich which is spreading through the Chinese culture, and, on the other hand, the increased persecution that the Church in China is facing from government authorities.
Friday (4/5) Read and discuss Psalm 42:1-11. Cultures are different. It is often said that the French think every solution has a problem while Americans think that every problem has a solution. This has led to Americans being more prosperous than the French. It has also led to us being more stressed. Regretfully, the American “can do” attitude can sometimes cause spiritual problems. For example, if you tell your friends that you are spiritually dry you are likely to receive a list of things to do: Are you reading your Bible regularly? Do you have any sins you need to repent of (A good answer is: “Yes, all of them!”)? Are you maintaining a disciplined quiet time? Etc. … Now, sometimes, these are the right questions to ask ourselves. In fact, some of the psalms give examples of people experiencing spiritual depression precisely because they have unrelieved guilt. Yet, that is not the only time when believers can experience spiritual dryness. You will notice that there is no indication in this psalm that the psalmist is doing anything but walking faithfully with God. Nor is there a lack of faith on the psalmist’s part. He is simply expressing the emotionally reality of not feeling the presence of God during a time of great suffering. This is a powerful emotion which the psalm compares to a parched deer longing to have its thirst quenched. He declares that his tears have been his food day and night. All the while the psalmist is being mocked for putting his faith in the living God. The central thrust of this psalm is that there is no sense in seeking to have that thirst quenched or that pain relieved anywhere else. For Christ alone will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Living in a radically fallen world we ought to expect such times of pain and struggle. Don’t add to that trouble the guilt of feeling that if you were truly spiritual you would always walk around with a Wal-Mart smiley face. Instead we should face reality and remind ourselves, as does the psalmist, to hope in the LORD. Read or sing Hymn 446 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Please lift up those seminary students, who are in their last year of study, as they seek internships, calls, or further education.
Saturday (4/6) Read and discuss Romans 9:30-10:4. Greg Beale writes:
Paul understands the tragedy of Israel in light of his own conversion. What he says of Israel had formerly been true of himself and corresponds with his autobiographical statement in Phil. 3:4-9.
Both the pre-Christian Paul and unbelieving Israel had a “zeal” for God’s law, but “not in accordance with knowledge” of the Messiah and the righteousness that comes only through him by faith and not works. When Christ appeared to Paul, he received a true “knowledge of the Messiah Jesus” (Phil. 3:8) as “the end of the law” (Rom. 10:4). Israel was in the condition that Paul was in before he became a Christian.
This is helpful, because it reminds us that Paul was not attacking the Jewish people. Paul was himself a Jew and he knew exactly what it was like to be consumed by zeal without knowledge. So, he profoundly longed that the LORD would give his kinsmen according to the flesh a saving knowledge of Jesus. Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.
 John Murray, Romans, Vol. II, p. 32.