1 December 2019
Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3
Opening Hymn: 288 “We Come, O Christ, to You”
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: Romans 5:1-2
Hymn of Preparation: 434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”
Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9
New Covenant Reading: John 11:17-44
Sermon: To Live is Christ
Hymn of Response: 330 “Who Is This, So Weak and Helpless”
Confession of Faith: Q/A 1 Heidelberg Catechism (p. 872)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 277 “Before the Throne of God Above”
OT: Psalm 42:1-5
NT: Revelation 21:1-8
The City that is to Come
Shorter Catechism Q/A # 12
Q. What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.
Monday (11/25) Read and discuss John 11:17-27. This is a beautiful and stunning passage. Jesus reveals to Martha that the resurrection is not only an event it is a person. Jesus says: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” But what exactly does it mean for Jesus to be the resurrection? One way to get out this is to think about Christ’s own resurrection from the dead. Why didn’t Jesus remain dead after He died? There are several good answers to this question, but allow me to highlight just one: The letter to the Hebrews points out that Jesus became our Great High Priest, not on the basis of his ancestry, but because He intrinsically had an indestructible life. That is, Jesus was not only truly man He was also truly God. Peter also proclaims this truth at Pentecost where he tells the crowd that:
God raised [Jesus] up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Once we realize that Jesus is truly God that makes complete sense. God cannot be destroyed. God cannot be conquered by death. But here is the astonishing thing that Jesus is telling Martha: Jesus is telling Martha that this isn’t just true about Him. Because Jesus came to identify with His people, it is true of every person who places his or her trust in Him. When, by God’s grace, you place your trust in Jesus Christ – you are vitally and permanently united with Jesus, … so that His life becomes your life. Just as it was not possible for death to hold Jesus – it is now no longer possible for death to maintain its grip upon you. Think about it this way. If Jesus holds you in His hands, and death holds you in its hands, it is death whose grip must be broken … for Jesus will never let you go. Read or sing Hymn 288 “We Come, O Christ, to You” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong.
Tuesday (11/26) Read and discuss Romans 16:17-20. In verse 20, Paul is obviously and powerfully pointing us back to Genesis 3:15. There, the gospel is proclaimed for the very first time, and intriguingly – it is proclaimed by the LORD and it is proclaimed to Satan:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall crush your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
Because Genesis 3 is so clearly talking about Christ crushing Satan’s head – many commentators assume that Paul is talking about the Second Coming of Christ – when the LORD will consummate history and cast Satan into the Lake of Fire. But that is not what Paul is saying. Rather, he is telling the Romans something that should give us great confidence as we go out and engage in the Great Commission:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Under whose feet? Paul is clear: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” We have already seen a preview of this when Jesus sent out His disciples during our Lord’s earthly ministry. For example, in Luke chapter 10 we are told:
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”
How did Jesus respond?
[Jesus] said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
That is, as the Disciples ministered Christ’s word in Christ’s name – Jesus interpreted the consequences of that ministry in terms of His own victory over Satan. Satan had convinced Eve to trust his words rather than the word of God. Paul is voicing confidence that the opposite will take place in Rome. As the saints in Rome cling to Christ and proclaim the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit – God Himself will use this handful of Christians in the capital of the Roman Empire to trample Satan under their feet. The same is true for us today. The LORD isn’t calling us to be Alert and Holy in the spiritual equivalent of the Alamo – where we can all valiantly give our lives for a lost cause as Satan and his followers overwhelm the Church. Jesus is calling us to be alert and holy in a great battle that the Church cannot possibly lose. Read or Sing Hymn 434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: Give thanks that Christ’s Kingdom cannot fail.
Wednesday (11/27) Read and discuss Isaiah 25:6-9. Alec Motyer writes:
Reading and rereading Isaiah 25:6-9 it is impressed on us that this is one of the Bible’s high spots: ultimate, eternal reality, is a banquet, with no expense spared, every provision made and, lest there should be anything to mar our enjoyment of it, every tear dried. And this is no mere flight of prophetic fancy or some ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ pie in the sky. It is confirmed by Jesus and reiterated by one who was, so to speak, allowed to be there, the seer John caught up to heaven and shown its delights. Isaiah gives us three aspects of the heavenly banquet to ponder: first, it is characteristic of our God to have such an end in view, to bring us to the enjoyment of it, and to spread all of his heavenly riches out for our participation – ‘This is our God’ (v. 9a). Secondly, this is what salvation is. Eternal bounty, the pure hilarious joy of the Lamb’s wedding breakfast, ‘the shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast.’ ‘We exult in his salvation’ (v. 9). Thirdly, it is a matter of confident and patient expectancy, a call to the upward and onward gaze, the eye trained on the skies for outcome.
Prayer: Please lift up those in our congregation who are suffering with health challenges.
Thursday (11/28) 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 330 “Who Is This, So Weak and Helpless” Prayer: Give thanks for having the Word of God in our own language.
Friday (11/29) Read and discuss Revelation 21:1-8. The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. That may come as a bit of a surprise to those of us who think that paradise restored might be something like a beach in Hawaii. So is Tim Keller right when he says, “If you don’t like cities you are not going to like the new heavens and the new earth”? Well, not exactly. What cities provide is an opportunity for large numbers of people to easily interact with one another for good or for ill. On the positive side, the degree of interaction and specialization that cities provide promotes economic growth through trade, exceptional educational opportunities, and generally the highest forms of a civilization’s culture. On the downside, social deviants who are shamed into behaving better in small towns are able to find peer groups in large cities that will affirm their perversions as though they were good. So, large modern cities like New York and London produce the extremes of human culture. On the one hand there is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, financial and business centers, and world class universities. On the other hand, there are gangs, slums, homeless people, and every manner of perversion imaginable. But what if all the negative things were to be taken away and we were left with only the upside of cities? That is what God is promising to do in this passage:
And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. … To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.
Yet, the most important thing about this city will not be its beauty or even that all its citizens will be entirely free from sin. The most important thing about the New Jerusalem is that God Himself will dwell there with His people:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. … The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Read or sing Hymn 277 “Before the Throne of God Above” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Amoskeag Presbyterian Church in Manchester.
Saturday (11/30) Read and discuss John 11:28-44. In verse 33 we are told that Jesus was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. What does it mean that Jesus was “deeply moved in his spirit?” For some reason, most English translations leave this rather vague. We could easily imagine that Jesus was deeply moved, perhaps, with deep compassion for Mary, Martha, and even for the crowd. But that is not what this expression means. The Greek word is never used of compassion. In extra-biblical Greek, the term is used to describe the snorting of horses who are preparing for battle. When it is applied “to human beings, it [always] suggests anger or outrage.” … Jesus is seriously angry, but the question is … “Angry at what?” Nobody can explain this any better than the great Princeton scholar, B.B. Warfield. Warfield writes:
It is death that is the object of [Christ’s] wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom He has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill His eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and He advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words … “‘as a champion who prepares for conflict.’ The raising of Lazarus thus becomes, not an isolated marvel, but … a decisive instance and open symbol of Jesus’ conquest of death and hell. What John does for us in this particular statement is to uncover to us the heart of Jesus, as He wins for us our salvation. Not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites [death] on our behalf.”
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.