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Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 2 February 2020

2 February

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 248 “All Creatures of Our God and King”

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: Joel 2:12-13

Hymn of Preparation: Psalm 51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Old Covenant Reading: Daniel 3:8-30

New Covenant Reading: 1 John 2:12-14

Sermon: Strong in the Broken Places

Hymn of Response: 277 “Before the Throne of God Above”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 851)

Doxology (Hymn 568)

Closing Hymn: Psalm 126A “When Zion’s Fortunes God Restored”

PM Worship

Hymns: 238, 246, 244, Psalm 11A

OT: Psalm 11:1-7

NT: Hebrews 6:13-20

Our Refuge in Distress

Shorter Catechism Q/A # 21

Q. Who is the redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/27) Read and discuss 1 John 2:12-14. Although John uses some of the simplest language in the New Testament, it can be a challenge to figure out precisely why he is writing something. When we feel that we’re just not getting it, we can (1) break down what John is saying in our own language; and (2) consider how the broader context can help us understand this portion of his letter. A simple breakdown of these three verses might look like this:

  1. John is writing to fellow Christians (“your sins have been forgiven on account of His name”).
  2. John recognizes that the letter is going to both mature Christians and to new converts who are full of fresh enthusiasm for the gospel.
  3. John gives the reasons why he is writing: (1) “your sins have been forgiven; (2) “you have known Him who is from the beginning (twice); (3) “you have known the Father”; (4) “you have overcome the evil one (twice); (5) “you are strong and the word of God dwells in you.”

Put this way we can see that John is writing this letter with great confidence that God is powerfully at work in the lives of the letter’s recipients.  When we look at the immediately preceding verses (context!) we discover the reason why John can be so positive. With the coming of the Kingdom of God the life and light of the age to come have already bust into this world. The Mosaic covenant was primarily worked out through a series of human mediators. For example, the people would come to Moses with their problems and Moses would bring these concerns to God and then return with God’s answers to the people. Yet, in Jeremiah 31 the LORD promised that He would one day bring about a new covenant:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

We can match the items in bold print from Jeremiah with the assertions from 1 John 2:12-14 and see that John’s confidence in writing this letter flows from the reality that God has already inaugurated the New Covenant and grafted his readers into it. Read or sing Hymn 248 “All Creatures of Our God and King” Prayer: Give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday (1/28) Read and discuss 1 John 2:7-11. John tells us that the commandment to love one another is both old and new. Why is both the ancient nature of the commandment and the newness of this commandment with the coming of Christ and the inauguration of the New Covenant so important to John – and, therefore, for us? There is a famous saying about parenting which goes like this: “There are two lasting things we give our children. One is roots and the other is wings.” That’s what John wants to give to his original readers, … and that is what the LORD wants to give to each and every one of you. The ancient and enduring nature of the Second Great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself gives us stability – it gives us roots. John isn’t promoting a novelty or a fad like those who have separated themselves from the Apostolic Church. As Isaiah so memorably put it:

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The ancient nature of the commandment gives us roots. But when we look at the history of God’s ancient people, Israel, we see a sorry demonstration of almost continual failure. The number of people who lived out this command, who genuinely manifested the light of loving one another, makes up a discouragingly tiny remnant. Are we just doomed to cling to the words of the Law – but to be utter failures in carrying it out as the Ancient People of God seem to have been? That’s an important question to contemplate. Because how you answer this question will drive most of the expectations you have about your Christian life. “Are we just doomed to cling to the words of the Law – but to be utter failures in carrying it out as the Ancient People of God seem to have been?” John’s answer is a resounding “No!” … because the light of the New Covenant is already shining. The ancient nature of God’s commandment gives us roots. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant gives us wings. Sing or Read Psalm 51C “God, Be Merciful to Me” Prayer: Ask the LORD to ground your thinking in His perfect and sufficient revelation to us in His word.

Wednesday (1/29) Read and discuss Daniel 3:8-30. When should a Christian disobey the laws of the State? How do you know when to say, “We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).” The answer of many modern Christians is essentially never. While the LORD requires Christians to show appropriate deference to the civil magistrate that is not the Biblical answer. Part of the problem is that it is difficult for a generation to recognize the cultural forces within which they themselves live. Perhaps the greatest heresy of the Twentieth Century was nationalism.  The most severe forms of nationalism were National Socialism (Nazi Germany) and Atheistic Communism (the Soviet Union and “Red” China). In spite of the horrors perpetrated by these two systems, there does not seem to be any backing away from nationalism in the modern world.  Indeed, the broad trend seems to increasingly want to create Messianic States where the State and its Civil Rulers fill the role that rightly belongs to God alone.  Of course, this isn’t the first time in history when this has happened.  In Daniel chapter 2, the LORD told Nebuchadnezzar that He had granted the king a truly great kingdom – symbolized by a head of gold. Apparently, Nebuchadnezzar was not satisfied to have his moment in the sun and then to pass off the world’s stage as subsequent kingdoms replaced his. “Had Nebuchadnezzar wanted to memorialize the revelation God had given him – namely, to point out that only the kingdom God builds cannot be shaken – he would have built an image with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay.  Beside it he would have placed a large stone. … The image commissioned symbolized his desire that no kingdom should destroy his – not even the kingdom of God (Sinclair Ferguson).” The challenge was now set up.  Would God’s renewed image bearers, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abendego, bow down to the image of a mere man? Their duty was clear. “Whenever God’s people are required to disobey God in order to obey the government, they must refuse (Jay Adams and Milton Fisher).” It is important for us to notice that these faithful Jewish men were not out protesting the king’s policies. They were not instigating civil unrest because the government wasn’t being run the way they wanted it to be run … or even because the government’s policies were immoral (in a democratic-republic Christians are certainly free to do such things). These men were simply confronted with the harshest of choices: disobey God or die.  The dramatic nature of their deliverance can sometimes overshadow the power of their witness. We must remember that they didn’t know they would be physically delivered from death. Perhaps, more importantly, we must not presuppose that God will deliver us from death rather than through it.  After all, miraculous acts of deliverance are almost by definition quite rare.  Let us take the words of these men as our own confession: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Prayer: As Western Culture drifts toward an increasingly militant secularism it would be easy for Christians to imagine that things are only going to get worse. Yet, nothing is too hard for the LORD. Sing or Read Hymn 538 “Take My Life, and Let it Be” Prayer: Please pray that Christ would send revival and reformation to Europe and North America.

Thursday (1/31) Read and discuss Hebrews 6:13-20. J. Ligon Duncan comments:

Now let me say something about Abraham’s obedience.  It may seem here as if we are saying that Abraham by his obedience merited God’s response, and merited assurance.  But listen to what Thomas Brooks says.  “Though no man merits assurance by his obedience, yet God usually crowns obedience with assurance.”  Do you hear what he’s saying there?  He’s saying God is not obliged to give us assurance because we are obedient.  And we don’t earn assurance of our salvation because of our obedience, but there is this intertwining of assurance and obedience, such that when we are faithful, when we believe and when we are obedient in our faith, the Lord usually crowns that faithfulness with an assurance of the hope in us.  That’s important to see because in this passage it’s going to be made clear by the author of Hebrews that one of the reasons that God swears His oath and promise is to reinforce the people’s failing and weak trust in His word.  It’s not because God is untruthful, it’s because people are weak in their trust in Him that He adds this oath of confirmation.  But in Abraham’s case when was it that God swore this oath?  Was it at a point in Abraham’s life when he was disobedient?  No.  This was his supreme act of obedience, and it was because God was pleased with Abraham’s faith that He gives to him this extra dose, this extra confirmation of assurance.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to strengthen you that you would stand fast in your faith.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to strengthen you that you would stand fast in your faith.

Friday (1/24) Read and discuss Psalm 11:1-7. Allen P. Ross writes:

The central message of this psalm could be worded this way: Faced with the breakdown of law and order with attacks from the wicked, the righteous must stand firm in their faith in the sovereign God who reigns and judges from above. The psalm describes anarchy, wickedness in high places, and attacks on the righteous in this description of godless society. It is not all bleak; the righteous know that God is sovereign, that he loves the righteous, and that he will eventually set things right. God reigns from heaven; it is his kingdom. He may allow evil to exist for a short while, but in the end, he will destroy it.

But in the meantime, the wicked have to be endured. There are times when one is tempted to flee, but if that is done out of fear and not by faith, it is wrong. The believer must lie by faith and that includes knowing when to leaven and when to stay. By staying one can champion righteousness in the midst of corrupt society, even though there will be malicious attacks and persecution. The believer must not give in to a corrupt environment, and if by remaining faithful the believer suffers for it, at least the suffering will be for righteousness sake.

If believers are absolutely convinced that the sovereign God reigns from heaven and that some day he will destroy the wicked, then they may be courageous in the face of antagonists. Jesus warns his disciples that he is sending them as sheep among wolves, but he tells them that they should stand firm in the faith and not fear those who only have power over the body, but fear the LORD who has power over body and soul. The servants of the LORD face with such life-threatening opposition must respond with faith, faith that the LORD is ruling over the affairs of humans and will provide wisdom to decide what is the best way to respond in any given situation. For example, the apostle Paul endures much suffering in his serve of the LORD as he stands up for the faith, but for the sake of continued service he also finds it wise to escape over the wall in a basket (see 2 Cor. 11:24-33).

Read or sing Hymn 265 “In Christ Alone” Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters in China and ask that they would enjoy greater religious freedom and that they would stand firm in their faith.

Saturday (1/25) Read and discuss 1 John 2:12-14. Karen Jobes writes:

John lays down some hard teaching in 1:5-2:11: “If we say, ‘We have fellowship with Him,’ and walk in darkness, we lie.” “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ then we deceive ourselves.” “The one who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commands is a liar.” “The one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness.” I can almost hear the original readers thinking, “Is this what John thinks we are? Who is he talking to? John might answer, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” But in 2:12-14, the Apostle affirms those who have in fact been living out their faith well. He wants to reassure them that he does know that their sins have been forgiven, that they do know the Father, and that they have overcome the evil one.

For those in positions of spiritual leadership, this is a glimpse of John’s pastoral ministry. He is writing in the aftermath of a serious situation that split the church (“they have gone out from us, but they were not of us,” 2:19). He is going to make some strong exhortations that implicitly will demand the community’s loyalty to his apostolic authority. Bu first, he wants to affirm them. He reassures them of their fellowship with God and the eternal life they have in Jesus Christ. He affirms that he knows that they do know the truth.

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

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