28 April 2019
Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3
Opening Hymn: Psalm 8A
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 103:17-18
Hymn of Preparation: 330 “Who Is This, So Weak and Helpless”
Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 30:11-20
New Covenant Reading: Romans 10:5-13
Hymn of Response: 338 “When I Survey the Wonderous Cross”
Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 851)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: Psalm 1A
OT: 1 Kings 4:1-34
NT: Matthew 12:38-42
The Grandeur of Solomon’s Kingdom
Shorter Catechism Q/A # 88
Q. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.
Monday (4/22) Read and discuss Romans 10:5-13. Commenting on verse 9, Michael Bird writes:
A Christian is someone who professes to live under submission of King Jesus and believes that God has acted in Jesus to usher in the age to come. Not only that, what is provocative is that Paul writes these words to a cluster of house churches in the heart of the Roman Empire, living right under the emperor’s nose and boldly declaring the lordship of a Jewish man executed by the Romans as a common criminal. It’s provocative because the Roman emperor was the one hailed as Kyrios [“lord”] by supplicants and clients across the empire. At the time that Paul was writing, one can find inscriptions, papyri, and ostraca all attesting that “Nero is Lord,” even the grandiose claim that “Nero [is] the Lord of the entire world.” Whether Paul intends the statement “Jesus is Lord” to be heard as a deliberated sociopolitical protest against the propaganda of the imperial cult is debatable. But at least we should acknowledge that the claim was potentially incendiary and could be perceived as politically disloyal. To claim that “Jesus is Lord” on Lord Nero’s own turf was not going to endear the Christians to imperial authorities.
Read or sing Psalm 8A Prayer: Please pray for the people of Sri Lanka who have been rocked by a series of bombings this weekend.
Tuesday (4/23) Read and discuss Matthew 28:1-10. In verse 7
Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.
The command is simple, but in one way it is also surprising. Why Galilee? From the other Gospel accounts we know that over the next eight days that Jesus will appear separately to these women, to Peter, to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, and twice to the disciples in the upper room – and yet the Angel commands the women to go “and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.” Doesn’t that seem strange? Perhaps, but it is only a problem if we are trying to make every account of the resurrection make exactly the same point. Matthew knows all about those other appearances of the risen Christ, but he draws our attention to the Angel’s words about Galilee. So, we ought to ask ourselves the simple question: “What is his point?” To answer that question, all we really need to do is read Matthew again, or at least read through to the end of this chapter. Matthew is very much focused on Christ’s mission to spread the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. We remember that Matthew has focused on our Lord’s ministry in Galilee – Galilee of the Gentiles. It is there that Jesus will meet with more than five hundred of His disciples at one time – and it is there that He will give the Great Commission to the Church. That we are to disciple the nations. This means that the women can never simply go back to the way things were before. Indeed, because Christ is risen – the surprising mission of the Church must go forward. The women had come and seen. Now they must go and tell. And so must we. Read or Sing Hymn 330 “Who Is This, So Weak and Helpless” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make us a church that both sends missionaries and that engages in the Great Commission right here in New England.
Wednesday (4/24) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 30:11-20. Sometimes it is nice to receive simple clarity on an issue. Today’s passage gives us precisely this. Having summed up the instruction of the LORD, Moses puts the matter squarely before God’s people: If you choose to believe and walk in the LORD’s word you will have life. If you reject the instruction of the LORD you will be destroyed. Therefore, choose life! What could be clearer than that? Ironically, many modern Christians instinctively react to this passage by saying: “But it is too hard to obey the LORD”. Moses seems to be anticipating this objection for he repeatedly emphasizes that “this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you.” Here are two key reasons why this is true:
- First, we don’t have to ascend to God or undertake some extraordinary ordeal in order to know what He what’s us to believe and how He wants us to live our lives. Other religions require men to ascend but Biblical religion is based upon the grace of God who has come down to where we are. God has given us His revelation and His revelation is understandable. Admittedly, there are parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand. This difficulty flows from the thousands of years that separates us from the original revelation (a problem Moses’ original audience did not have) and only impacts a relatively small portion of the Bible as a whole. Anyone who loves God enough to meditate regularly upon His revelation will understand who He is, what He has done, and what He requires of us.
- Second, walking according to God’s will in Deuteronomy 30 does not mean that we need to achieve sinless perfection. After all, a meaningful portion of the instruction in the Pentateuch involves the sacrificial system. Rather than requiring perfection, walking with God means that when we realize that we have sinned against Him we repent of that sin and seek reconciliation with God on the basis of what Christ has done for us. As verse 17 makes clear, the contrast to keeping the LORD’s commandments is not falling short of His perfection in any way up but idolatry.
So, there it is in black and white. The way of faith and obedience leads to blessing and everlasting life. The way of rebellion and idolatry leads to cursing and eternal destruction. Do you see this choice as clearly as Moses did? If not, why not? Prayer: Ask the LORD make you increasingly faithful to His call upon your life.
Thursday (4/25) Read and discuss Matthew 12:38-42. Michael Wilkins writes:
Opposition to the work of the kingdom of God is real. Jesus was opposed by the religious leaders of his time. In our obedience to the Father’s will for our lives, we too can expect opposition. As he sent the Twelve out on their first mission, Jesus gave a grim prediction: “It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!” The harsh treatment that Jesus received from the religious leaders will be the lot of his disciples until the end of this age.
The opposition that we encounter will be of a variety of different types in the increasingly secular society of the twenty-first century, we will encounter opposition from popular culture. … As with Jesus, we may encounter opposition from our own family if they do not understand the way in which we want to serve God. I remember a young man who announced to his family that he was going to leave the state university that he as attending on full scholarship in order to go to a Christian college and prepare for Christian ministry. His stepfather took him aside and said, “It will be a terrible waste of a brilliant mind to throw it away on Christian studies.” And throughout his studies he received resistance instead of his family’s support.
On a more drastic level, Christians can expect opposition when we proclaim the message of the gospel. A recent, unforgettable color photograph from Africa illustrated a special report entitled “The Global Persecution of the Faithful.” It was a picture of a Sudanese man sitting on a donkey, with a caption that read, “Still preaching.” The man’s feet had been chopped off to keep him from evangelizing village to village. But that horrific act would not stop him. He now rides the donkey to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. The article, included in a publication of the Washington Times, when on to document the rise of persecution around the world with the startling statement: “More Christians were killed in the twentieth century than in the previous nineteen centuries combined.”
Read or Sing Hymn 338 “When I Survey the Wonderous Cross” Prayer: Lift up the young people of our congregation and pray that they would know that counting everything loss for the sake of Christ is a wonderful trade.
Friday (4/26) Read and discuss 1 Kings 4:1-34. John Woodhouse writes:
Solomon’s kingdom was strong: “Solomon also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. While Solomon may have had little need to call on military force to keep the peace of his kingdom and empire, it appears that considerable resources were available to him.
But is that all? I don’t think so. Without taking away from the astonishingly positive picture we are being given of Solomon’s kingdom, this mention of horses and chariots (a bit lie the earlier mention of forced labor in v. 6) strikes a discordant note. Didn’t Moses say that a king in Israel “must not acquire many horses for himself” (Deuteronomy 17:16)? Didn’t Samuel warn that there would be trouble with a king who had chariots and horsemen? Up to this point the only persons in Israel to acquire chariots had been Absalom and Adonijah – hardly encouraging precedents. Here is a further hint that Solomon’s astonishing kingdom was not without potential problems.
Read or sing Psalm 1A Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in the PCA Presbytery of Southern New England as it meets today and tomorrow.
Saturday (4/27) Read and discuss Romans 10:5-13. R.C. Sproul writes:
When the Reformers were proclaiming the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the great objection raised against it was its seeming implication of cheap grace or easy-believism. Anyone can say they believe in Jesus, but saying so is no manifestation of true godliness. What are the 4necessary ingredients of saving faith?
Luther, following James’s teaching that faith without works is dead, asked, “Can a dead faith justify anybody?” Luther answered emphatically in the negative. Luther said the only kind of faith that justifies is a fides viva, a living faith, one that is manifested in a life of obedience to God. The first ingredient of faith is notae, which means there is content to the faith we embrace. We have heard the cultural adage, “It does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere,” but let me suggest that it matters eternally and profoundly what we believe. People can put their trust and faith in the Devil and be sincere about it. There is no comfort to be found from faith in a false object. Saving faith requires content, information, and knowledge.
The second ingredient of saving faith is assensus, intellectual assent to the truth of the data. We might understand and believe the facts of the resurrection of Jesus and the atonement, but that does no more than qualify us to be demons, because every demon from hell knows that information is true. That is why Lutheran Reformers said that data and intellectual assent to the data are not enough. Intellectual affirmation of the truth claims of the gospel must be embraced with personal trust and affection for the truth, something no demon will do. That is why Paul says it is not enough to believe it in our heads; we have to believe in our hearts. The Old Testament teaches that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7). The Old Testament writer has to confused organs of thinking with organs of feeling. The point is that we can say we agree with something intellectually without its ever getting to the core of our being.
I study the text of Scripture in order to take the text from the Bible and communicate it to others, but every time I prepare a sermon, I have to prepare it for myself. At the end of the day I have to look in the mirror and say, “R.C., do you believe what you proclaimed today?” Sometimes I find myself answering, “I believe it in my head.” When that happens, I must ask myself, “Do you believe it with your life, or is this just an exercise in theology?” Ministers and teachers are in danger if the truth does not get down into the bloodstream of their hearts.
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.