Sunday, January 1, 2017

God and our New Year's Dreams and Resolutions

Ephesians 3:20–21 (NKJV)
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This morning we enter into a new year. The old has passed away, behold the new has come! As we enter into this new year, I want to meditate on Paul’s words to the Ephesians. New years provide opportunities for renewed resolutions, hopes, and dreams. Paul’s words here in Ephesians 3 contain profound wisdom for us as we consider these things.

So let us note that in our text Paul is giving glory to God in the process of which he gives instruction to us. So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words. First, Paul gives glory to God: to [God] be glory. So who is this God to whom Paul is giving glory? He is the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Whatever dreams or hopes you have for this upcoming year, Paul tells us, they are not too difficult for God to accomplish. God is able to do far more than we can articulate with our mouths or that we can even imagine with our heads. God’s power is infinite. He is Almighty God. Dream big.

Second, Paul tells us that this God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is the very God whose power works in us. Did you catch that? If you are in Christ, then the omnipotent God, who rules and reigns among the affairs of men, is at work with His power in your life. As we saw in our study of Psalm 29 last week, Yahweh, the God of the Storm, is the very one who promises to give His strength to His people. David sings, The Lord will give strength to His people… In Christ, by the Spirit, that promise is fulfilled. God has granted His strength to us.

You see, Paul wants the Ephesians to grow in wisdom and maturity and the way we grow is through a deep and personal knowledge of all that God has done and is doing and promises yet to do for us in Christ. So note that Paul gives glory to God in the Church by Christ Jesus. Note that the glory to God is by Christ Jesus – Jesus is the center of our faith. It is through His death and resurrection that we have forgiveness and newness of life; through His death and resurrection that the power of God is at work in us. Glory to God by Christ Jesus.

But note that this glory that is by Christ Jesus is in the Church. In other words, Paul wants glory to abound to God’s Name in and through you and me. God’s power is on display in His people – He has forgiven us and empowers us that we might display the wonder of His work in a dark and hopeless world, that we might display the impotency of Satan and his minions when confronted with the power of our Christ. In ourselves we are weak and powerless; but in our God we can run against a troop. God wants to display the wonder and the power of His grace in your life. Are you looking for a proof that God exists? Look for it as you grow in faith and godly character.

So what this means is that those excuses you’ve been making for not addressing that sin pattern in your life are groundless; those despairing voices that have been telling you that there’s no hope for change are lying; those urges to complacency that have said it’s okay that you’re just coasting along spiritually, that you’re not really growing or being intentional about serving Christ, those urges are from the devil. God gives His omnipotent strength to His people because He loves us and longs for us to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph 3:18b-19).


So as we enter into the presence of our Lord this New Year’s Day, let us confess that we have often failed to believe Him, failed to trust Him, and let us seek His forgiveness through Jesus Christ that He might empower us as His humble people to bring glory and honor to His Name. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Don't Waste Your Joy

Psalm 28:7 (NKJV)
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.

In our continuing study of Jesus in the Psalms we examine Psalm 28 today. Verse 7 of Psalm 28 reminds us how central worship ought to be to our experience as the people of God. As we will see, God has answered David’s cry for help. So what does David do? He composes a song to celebrate the Lord’s goodness.

Since we have been doing a series of meditations on worship, I want to use this time to consider David’s song of praise in Psalm 28. David tells us that his heart trusted in the Lord – he believed that God would be true to His word and deliver him from trouble. And what happened? God answered him. My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped. You can imagine, therefore, how thankful David was. Any time our desires are fulfilled, it is natural to be filled with joy. Our team wins the game – we are joyful. We receive the present we had desired – we are joyful. We recover from illness – we are joyful. And David’s response was no different. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices. His heart was filled with joy because God had mercifully answered his plea.

But note that David’s internal joy manifest itself externally; his heart of joy bore fruit in song. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him. God saved David; consequently, David’s heart was filled with joy; and David’s joy bore fruit in praise and song. His joyful heart opened his mouth. As John Calvin wrote, “undoubtedly, when God spreads cheerfulness through our hearts, it is to open our mouths to sing his praises” (Psalms, 472). God gives us joy so that we might worship.

So what do you do when your heart is joyful? Do you direct the joy that is in Your heart in praise to God? James, the brother of our Lord, asks us, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13b). James exhorts us: Don’t waste your joy! There are plenty of times when our heart will be weighed down and sorrowful; times for prayer and petition. But if your heart is joyful, then let it bear fruit in song – and not just in song, in songs of praise to God.

So what of you? Have you sung the praises of God? Have you spoken the wonders of God? Have you shared the rich treasures of God with others? Or have you wasted your joy?


Reminded that we often waste our joy, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Character of Worship

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)
15 Therefore by [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

In our continuing study of Jesus in the Psalms we examine Psalm 27 today. In the midst of our psalm, David once again expresses his passion to worship God with the people of God.
One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.

After recounting the blessings that would come to him from entering the house of the Lord, David concludes:
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joyous shouts in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

In our text today, Paul commands us to emulate David’s passion to worship the Lord. First, our worship is to be Christological. By Jesus let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God. Even as David looked in faith to the Christ to come, we are to look in faith to the Christ who has come. The only way that our sacrifice of praise can be accepted by God is through the substitionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No one comes to the Father except through His Son, for there is one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. Our worship is to be Christological.

Second, our worship is to be communal. By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God. Even as David longed to be in the temple of God, the place where God’s people gathered to worship Him together, so we are to join together to worship the Lord. Where the people of God gather to worship, there is the temple of God. The sacrifice of praise is something that we bring to the Lord together. Our worship is to be communal.
  
Third, our worship is to be continual. By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God. Even as David desired to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, Paul wants worship to saturate our lives. This would obviously include gathering week by week on the Lord’s Day with God’s people. But the worship that we enjoy here with the people of God is to seep into our homes, our personal lives, and our friendships. Our worship is to be continual.

Fourth, our worship is to be sacrificial. By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God. Worship is offered up to God as a pleasing aroma. As David declares, I will offer sacrifices of joyous shouts in His tabernacle. Properly, worship is not a not a cathartic experience directed toward ourselves; nor is it a performance directed toward others; it is a sacrificial offering to the Lord. This is one reason why we typically refrain from clapping for our meditations and say, “Amen!” instead. It is an offering to the Lord not a performance for us. Our worship is to be sacrificial.

Fifth, our worship is to be vocal. By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of our lips. As the fruit of our lips, the sacrifice of praise requires our lips to move. Like David, Paul wants us to enter into the presence of the Lord with joyful shouts, celebrating the goodness of the Lord. Our worship is to be vocal.

Finally, our worship is to be thankful. By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name. Thankfulness is the heartbeat of worship. A man or woman who is not thankful is a man or woman who cannot worship. He might flap his lips but his praise just bounces off the ceiling. The resentful, bitter, angry man may grudgingly bow the head and speak the words, but his heart will not utter joyous shouts and so he does not worship. Our worship is to be thankful.


Therefore, by Jesus let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Our worship is to be Christological, communal, continual, sacrificial, vocal, and thankful. Often, however, our worship lacks these traits. So as we enter into the presence of the Lord, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.