Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5
Opening Hymn: 230 “Holy, Holy, Holy”
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: Colossians 1:11-14
Hymn of Preparation: Psalm 92B “It is Good to Sing Your Praises”
Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 5:22-33
New Covenant Reading: 1 John 1:5-10
Sermon: God’s Character/Our Standard
Hymn of Response: 278 “Nothing but the Blood”
Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 852)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: Psalm 1A “That Man is Blest”
OT: Psalm 34:1-22
NT: Ephesians 2:1-10
Raised and Exalted with Christ
Shorter Catechism Q/A # 18
Q. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
Monday (1/6) Read and discuss 1 John 1:5-10. Karen Jobes writes:
In a culture such as ours that values independent thinking and autonomy, it is often difficult for people to acknowledge the most basic principle of Theology 101: God is God and I am not. By virtue of the fact that He is the creator of the universe and all life within it, and in His ongoing role in sustaining all He has created. God’s authority extends to the spiritual and moral universe in which human beings live. John’s implicit claim that it is God himself who defines spiritual light and darkness is perhaps the foremost principle that seekers and coverts to Christianity need to embrace. God is entitled to set the standards for human life and to judge each person according to those standards, whether or not they recognize His existence or authority. My role as a creature of God is to bend my will to His, to walk in the light as He has defined it, and to live with the moral consequences of my decisions. Without that fundamental understanding of God’s sovereign right over all human beings, one cannot truly know God, accept Christ, or have a mature spiritual nature.
Read or sing Hymn 234 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant our leaders wisdom in dealing with our challenging relationships in the Middle East – and particularly with Iran.
Tuesday (1/7) Read and discuss 1 John 1:1-4. This very stylized introduction may seem unusual in English, yet it was considered to be very elegant Greek. But I’m not particularly interested in you appreciating John’s literally skill as I am that you understand what he is emphasizing. Many commentators suggest that John is emphasizing the eyewitness nature of the Apostolic testimony: “… we have heard … we have seen … we looked upon … and have touched with our hands.” That is important. And we should consider carefully why following the Apostolic witness is essential for us as Christians. But the way John writes this verse points us in a different direction regarding his main point of emphasis. Four times, John puts the direct object at the beginning of a clause:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life …
Fronting the Direct Object in front of the verb is a strong form of emphasis in both Greek and Hebrew. Let me make one observation, and then give you a paraphrase which might help fix this in your thinking. You may be wondering why we have the neuter pronouns “that which” and “which” when John is clearly referring to Jesus Christ. In Greek, when you speak of a block of something, in this case God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ, over three or so years, you use the neuter case. In bringing this over into English, it can be really helpful to go back to the masculine pronouns. See if this paraphrase helps with fixing John’s emphasis in your thinking:
He who was from the beginning, Him we have heard, Him we have seen with our eyes, Him we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life …
The main thing that John wants his readers to get is that it is all about … Him! We will see why the Apostolic eyewitness is important, in a moment, but John wants to make clear that it is only important because it is a witness to Him. Jesus is the word of life. So, what mattered back then – and what matters today – is that you are trusting, worshipping, and following the true Jesus. Prayer: Ask the LORD to lead your loved ones to place their confident trust in the Christ who is authoritatively revealed to us in God’s word.
Wednesday (1/8) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 5:22-33. Paul Gilchrest writes:
Moses recalls the resplendent glory and majesty of Yahweh on Sinai and Israel’s reaction. The mountain itself had been ablaze with fire. The fear of the people at hearing God speak stood in stark contrast to Adam and Eve’s delight in the presence and fellowship of the LORD in the garden of Eden. Instead of taking God’s gracious work as beneficial, their fallenness made them perceive it as a threat to life [very much like Adam, after he had sinned, when he hid himself from the LORD out of fear]. Nevertheless, in faith they acknowledged the LORD as their God and committed themselves to obedience, asking only that Moses serve as their mediator before the awesome King.
God honored Israel’s response. Everything they said was good and God yearned for their heartfelt obedience. Deuteronomy is an exposition of God’s way of life which is rewarded with prosperity and longevity.
Sing or Read 221 “O Light That Knew No Dawn” Prayer: Ask the LORD to incline your heart toward joyful obedience of every commandment that comes to us in His word.
Thursday (1/9) Read and discuss Psalm 34:1-22. James Montgomery Boice writes:
When I was living in Switzerland in the mid-1960s, I had a friend for whom the first half of Psalm 34:8 was probably her favorite passage in the Bible: “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” She liked the strong physical quality of it and probably, because she was liturgically inclined, viewed its best fulfillment in the communion service.
I do not think this verse is about communion, though that is not an inappropriate application of the principle. But my friend was certainly right in this, that the verse encourages us to try God out, almost physically, just as we would some great treat or delicacy. Does that seem indelicate or impious to say? To compare God to good food? Maybe. But although God is more than this image suggests, he is certainly not less. Our problem is not that we think of him too literally but that we do not think of him literally enough. Moreover, as far as the communion service goes, the eating of the broken bread and the drinking of wine is to teach us that that God becomes as literally a part of us by faith as food becomes a part of our bodies by the eating of it.
How does God become a part of you, a part of your thinking, of what you really are? It is by faith, and faith means believing God and acting upon that belief. In other words, it is exactly what David is speaking of in this stanza, though in other words. He wants us to act on what we know of God and his goodness, for only then will we actually experience for ourselves how good God truly is.
Read or Sing Hymn 243 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Ask the LORD to lead visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by joining our church family.
Friday (1/10) Read and discuss Ephesians 2:1-10. Clinton Arnold writes:
God has made it possible, and indeed expects us, to live a virtuous life. Because He has broken the power of the various forces inclining us to do evil, God has called us to live out our daily lives in a manner consistent with His holy and righteous character. In fact, He designed us to life a lifestyle of “good works.” This includes demonstrating love to others in the same way that He has love us. It entails eradicating shameful and impure practices in our lives and appropriating all of the virtues of Christ. This passage thus lays the groundwork for the numerous ethical admonitions of Ephesians 4-6.
This purpose of God’s redemption and empowerment of believers stands in strong contrast to many of the religions of Pauls’ day, especially as represented in the common folk belief. The orientation of many of the adherents tended to look more self-serving, that is, through approaching the deity with such goals as: “How can I benefit from this god?” or “How can I get this god to make my cattle fertile or my crops productive?” or “What can I do to keep the god from striking me with some punishment?” The orientation of the gospel is different because it is not predicated on a “you do this for me and I will do this for you” foundation. It is based on a self-sacrificial gift of God. Now he expects His people to give, and love, and do good deeds while expecting nothing in return.
Read or sing Hymn 157 “When Morning Gilds the Skies” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Covenant OPC in Barre, VT.
Saturday (1/11) Read and discuss 1 John 1:5-10. Karen Jobes writes:
Readers today need to hear the third point made in this passage, which declares the reality of sin. There is in modern society a rationalization about sin that prevents even the word from being used beyond the walls of the church, for sin implies a moral responsibility to God. Wrong behavior is attributed to bad parenting, genetic propensities, or lack of adequate education, or it is embraced to affirm a perceived entitlement of individuals to define moral principles for themselves. The claim that there is a God and that a violation of His moral standard is sin invites harsh social disapproval in a culture that no longer believes in absolute truth and sees any such claim as a wrongful and arrogant assertion of power.
Furthermore, it is increasingly difficult to define sin in a society where what is legal is not necessarily ethical and moral by God’s standards. Collectively, modern mankind has said, “We have no sin,” and “We have not sinned.” Unfortunately, many preachers and churches have bent under that social pressure and largely avoid the “s” word. This will no doubt continue to be one of the greatest challenges to the church’s proclamation of the gospel in the years ahead. This denial of sin by society, even with the complicity of the church, is itself sin. To deny sin is to call God a liar, for God has declared His moral standard and has paid dearly for our sin by sending Jesus Christ to die as our atonement. What serious business it is to deny sin in any of the ways we humans, starting with Adam and Eve, have found to do it!
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.