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Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 29 September 2019

29 September 2019

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: Psalm 145D “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father; We acknowledge and confess before You; Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned; In wandering from Your ways; In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us; Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors; Cleanse us from our secret faults; And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father; Help us we beseech You; To live in Your light and walk in Your ways; According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Ephesians 2:13-16

Hymn of Preparation: Psalm 119B “How Shall the Young Direct Their Way?”

Old Covenant Reading: Proverbs 3:1-12

New Covenant Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-21

Sermon: Finding Favor with God

Hymn of Response: 474 “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 852)

Doxology (Hymn 568)

Closing Hymn: 181 “Now Thank We All Our God”

PM Worship

Hymns: Psalm 100B, 252, 459, 343

OT: Psalm 119:33-40

NT: Colossians 1:21-29

The Glory of this Mystery

Shorter Catechism Q/A # 3

Q. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (9/23) Read and discuss Proverbs 3:1-12. Verses 5-8 are at both the literary and theological center of this string of proverbs. More than advice, they contain a promise that God will do something if we place our trust in Him. In verse 6 we are told that, if we do this, “He will make our paths straight.” But how does this fit with all the struggles and suffering that are frequently part of the Christian life. Andrew Steinmann explains:

While the first two invitations might be considered the sage father’s wise advice, the third invitation (3:5) emphasizes that this is not mere human counsel, but divine guidance. The invitation to trust in Yahweh contrasts with relying on one’s own human reason or emotions. This trust in Yahweh is equated with acknowledging Him, that is, openly admitting that God’s favor and love, conferred by His guidance in His Word, are better than human judgment. The promise of straight paths (3:6) is especially poignant because paths in ancient Israel were often winding, tortuous roads that took much effort on the part of travelers. A straight path, which would be relatively easy to traverse, was rare. “He will make your paths straight” does not necessarily mean that one’s course in life will be comfortable and trouble free. It does mean that through His Word God will reveal the right direction and destination, even if bearing the cross is required in order to get there.

Read or sing Psalm 145D “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make your paths straight by causing you to more fully trust and acknowledge Him.

Tuesday (9/24) Read and discuss Romans 15:1-7.  Derek Thomas comments:

We are so much concerned about ourselves. “Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feeling, everything is going my way.” … Everything is going my way. You know what the American national anthem is? Of course you do: “Oh, say can you see, what’s in it for me?” That’s it isn’t it? Sadly that’s it. We are concerned about ourselves, our own rights. Here is Paul’s prayer, “May the God of endurance and encouragement that comes from Scripture, may the God of endurance grant you to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You see what is on Paul’s mind all the time? The glory of God. You see what is Paul’s great concern of all the time? The glory of God. We are so concerned about ourselves, we are so concerned about our rights, and we get so hurt and offended, and the church ends up in squabbles and fights and little cliques. Paul is saying, “Stop doing that. Look up and be concerned about God’s glory.” You know how God is glorified and you’re of one mind and one heart. You may not all agree about every single issue, that’s not what Paul is saying, but you are agreed that you will deny yourself your right for the sake of your brother.

Read or Sing Psalm 119B “How Shall the Young Direct Their Way?” Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters at Pleasant Mount OPC in Bridgeton, Maine as they look for their next pastor.

Wednesday (9/25) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 1:18-21.  Before we become too impressed with the latest gadget we ought to ask, “What is it good for?” Otherwise we will end up with a house filled with clever but useless devices. We should ask the same question about the various philosophies which clamor for our attention and commitment as well. What good are they? Do they help us to know God better? Do they provide a way of forgiveness from our sin? Will they grant us true security, not only in this age but also in the age to come? First Corinthians was written primarily to Greeks who had inherited some of the most impressive philosophical thinking in all of history. This philosophy is often interesting, at times challenging, and yet ultimately quite useless. Take the famous example of Plato’s Republic. Plato is a brilliant writer and the Republic can be great fun to read (Don’t laugh at your bookish pastor!). Yet, what good is it? Plato begins by trying to construct the ideal political arrangement and ends up with a totalitarian government (Interestingly, the 20th century witnessed a similar phenomenon on a vast and tragic scale as communism – which was supposed to elevate the working class – produced untold misery in its various totalitarian incarnations). We should note that secular philosophy twenty-five centuries after Plato has persisted in its failure to deliver the goods. Take, for instance, the highly regarded philosopher Bertrand Russell. Russell was a socialist, a communist, and an atheist. That is, he was wrong about economics, politics, and theology – yet he was still considered a great philosopher. In what other field do people think like this? Would someone who couldn’t do math, physics, or electrical engineering be hired to design computer chips or acclaimed as an engineering genius? Yet, someone who is wrong about all the big questions of his field (such as economics, political theory, and the existence of God) can be a highly acclaimed tenured Professor of philosophy at a distinguished university. We should not be intimidated by such individuals but simply seek the truth wherever we can find it. In today’s passage Paul makes the basic point that manmade philosophy never led anyone to know God nor to be known by Him. Instead, this comes through the revelation of the gospel in Jesus Christ. Why then should anyone be intimidated from speaking the word of God’s wisdom and power by manmade wisdom that can’t deliver the goods? Prayer: Ask the LORD to make the young people of our congregation fearless in the face of whatever non-Christian philosophies may hold sway in our culture.

Thursday (9/26) Read and discuss Psalm 119:33-40. Today’s passage reminds us of the dependence that we have on the LORD for our learning, growth, and obedience in the Christian life. Notice how each of the verses begins: “ Teach me … Give me … Lead me … Incline my heart … Turn my eyes … Confirm … Turn away the reproach” and then finishes with praise and longing: “Behold, I long for your precepts. In your righteousness give me life.” The LORD is His own interpreter. We will only understand His word and put it into practice through the active work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. John Philips expresses this dependence simply and beautifully when he writes:

Life is a journey. A man of God is a wanderer in this world. Here he has no continuing city but he seeks one to come. Like Abraham he is a stranger and sojourner on the earth. This world is not his home, he is only passing through. And, as one who is passing through an alien scene, he needs directions. Here he is seen asking God to guide him on his way.

By God’s grace the psalmist promises to follow the guidance the LORD provides. This is no mere intellectual activity but one that shapes the course of the Christian’s life.

Read or Sing 474 “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee” Prayer: Ask that the Holy Spirit would cause you to abide in Christ and that the Father would prune you so that you would produce even more spiritual fruit.

Friday (9/27) Read and discuss Colossians 1:21-29. No one appreciates fresh rain as much as a farmer at the end of a long draught. Sometimes we need to recognize the depth of our need before we can fully rejoice in God’s provision. That is true with our relationship with God as well. Until we understand that we are by nature children of wrath who are aliens to God’s promises we will never be fully amazed by God’s grace. N.T. Wright helps us grasp this when he writes:

Paul believes that the purposes of the creator God, to reconcile the whole creation to Himself, had been entrusted to Israel, the promise-bearing people. But people living in Colossae, and most other places in the world, were outside Israel. They were Gentiles, worshiping idols rather than the one true God, ignorant both of God’s saving purposes and of how they themselves could share in the benefits of those purposes.

Their lives reflected the gods they worshiped. Their thinking was distorted, getting muddled and into one misunderstanding after another. Their behavior, in consequence, was out of line with the wonderful, enriching human existence that the living God designed for His image-bearing creatures. (Don’t be fobbed off with the idea that ‘sin’ or ‘wickedness’ means ‘having a good time when God wants you to have a rotten time.’ That’s a typical example of the muddled thinking that people get into when they ignore or forget the true God.)

But now the Colossians find themselves inside. They are on the map, part of the action. Indeed, the very words ‘but now’ – one of Paul’s favorite phrases – say it all. Once you were … outside, muddled, sinful; but now God has acted, and everything is different. And being brought ‘inside,’ being put on the map, has as its chief delight and privilege the fact of being brought into the very presence of God Himself. …

What has happened to make them ready for the presence of the King, this God, is the death of King Jesus. Paul doesn’t here explain in detail how precisely Jesus’ death achieves this, but he declares that through it we have – another of his big words – “reconciliation.”

Read or sing Hymn 181 “Now Thank We All Our God” Prayer: Ask that your thoughts and actions would be increasing distinguished by their Christ-like love.

Saturday (9/28) Read and discuss Proverbs 3:1-12. The promised blessings attached to doing the things offered in these Proverbs are quite attractive. But when we begin to look at our performance in terms of what these Proverbs are inspiring us to do we quickly realize how far we fall short. Where does that leave us? Andrew Steinmann helpfully writes:

None of us follows the advice of these six invitations perfectly. We as sinners often fall short of having the trust in God that we ought to have. Thus we cannot claim these promises by our merits [as though they were the wages due to us], but only by the grace of God given to us in the merits of Christ, who kept God’s law perfectly and grew in wisdom. As people who remain sinners as long as we remain in this life, we cannot expect or demand that we receive the benefits of these promises fully in this life. We also fail to recognize the extent of the blessings we already have, especially when we compare ourselves with those who have more. Yet we also know that all God’s promises are yes in Christ, and we who are heirs of those promises shall receive their benefits in full on the Last Day.

Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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