Worship at Good Shepherd on March 26, 2017.

For those who were unable to attend, today’s worship service may be watched here:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/101425832

 

The bulletin is available here: 2017.03.26-bulletin

‘Walk as children of light’

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:8-11 (cf. v. 1-21)

Since God, in His grace and mercy has shined upon us with the light of the Gospel and has opened our eyes through His Word that we might see our utter sinfulness and see that, in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead, God reaches out to us in mercy and forgiveness and offers to us a place in His everlasting kingdom through faith in His Son, should we walk in darkness and continue in the sinful ways of this world? Cf. Titus 3:3-7.

The Scriptures admonish us, as children of the light who have come to a knowledge of the truth, to walk in the light of God’s Word and continue trusting in our crucified and risen Savior. Rather than joining together in the unfruitful works of darkness, we are to expose and reprove them for what they are – lies of our old evil foe, the devil, and disobedience to God’s commandments (cf. Eph. 5:1ff.; Rom. 6:1ff.; Gal. 5:16ff.; 2 Pet. 2:1ff.; Jude 3ff.).

This has application in every aspect of our lives and in our congregation and church as well. Rather than joining together in any of the ways of the world, and rather than joining together and fellowshipping with churches (or individuals) which espouse and hold to false doctrine and sin – anything that is not of the truth revealed in God’s unerring Word – we are admonished to expose and reprove sin and error that those who are deceived might come to see the truth and repent, trusting in Christ Jesus for mercy (Eph. 5:11).

This is what God commands us to do when He commands us to mark and avoid false doctrine and sin and not to become a partaker in evil deeds (cf. Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 John 9-11; Tit. 3:10-11; Isa. 8:20; Matt. 7:15-23; Rev. 2-3).

And we too, as believers, are to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word, acknowledge and confess all that is of darkness and turn to Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, and receive in faith forgiveness and cleansing through His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of the all (2 Cor. 13:5; Psalm 139:23-24; 1 John 1:5 – 2:2).

Dearest Lord Jesus, we thank You for granting us Your Spirit and opening our eyes that we might see our sin and guilt before God but also see and know His mercy and forgiveness toward us for the sake of Your atoning sacrifice for us upon the cross. Grant that we walk in the light and not turn back into darkness. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

How Should We Worship?

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:23-24 (Read v. 19-24)

Psalm 95 directs us to worship the LORD: “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (Psalm 95:1-2). But how are we to worship? Should it be with liturgy and organ or with contemporary song and guitar? Should it be in a beautiful church or cathedral or in a steel building or barn?

These questions are really not much different than the question asked by the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria when she perceived Jesus was a prophet because of His knowledge of her life and relationships: “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:20). And she asked a valid question because the Samaritans, who accepted only the first five books of Moses and had altered parts of them, claimed they were to worship on Mt. Gerizim and had worshiped there for centuries and continued to worship there even after the Jewish ruler Hyrcanus destroyed their temple around 125 B.C. The Jews, on the other hand, said that Jerusalem was the only place where people should worship (Deuteronomy. 12:5ff.; 16:5-6; 1 Kings 8:14ff.; 12:25ff.). And, Jesus’ answer to this woman’s question certainly has application to our own time.

Jesus pointed out to this woman the time was coming when God’s people would neither worship in Mt. Gerizim nor at Jerusalem. As He said elsewhere, the temple would soon be destroyed (Matthew 24) and God’s people would be scattered all over the world, preaching the Gospel and joining together with other believers in various places (cf. Mark 16:15-16).

Sadly, though the Samaritans sought to worship, they did not know the true God because of their admixture of error and false teaching (2 Kings 17:24ff.; 17:32-35). They rejected most of the Old Testament Scriptures, including the many promises of a Messiah and Savior who would bear the sins of the people and redeem them from sin and eternal death (cf. Isaiah 53; Psalm 130). The Jews, on the other hand, had the Scriptures and the promises of the Messiah and Savior.

But, Jesus went on to say: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

He pointed out to this woman that true worshipers would “worship in spirit and truth,” meaning that true worship is not constituted by certain places or outward forms and observances but comes from the regenerated (or born again) spirit of man and truly glorifies and praises God, not being mere lip service.

What constitutes worshiping in spirit and in truth? First and foremost, true worship flows from faith in Jesus Christ as God the Son and the Messiah and Savior of the world. Jesus Himself said that He is the way, the truth and the life and that no one can come to Father apart from Him (John 14:6). He also said that we can do nothing pleasing to God in regard to good works and service toward God apart from faith in Him (John 15:4-5). He said, “…all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:22,23; cf. 1 John 2:23). And, indeed, it is only through the atoning sacrifice of the Son that we can approach the throne of God with our prayers, praises and petitions (cf. Hebrews 10:19-25; 1 John 5:11-15).

True worship, then, can only come from a heart which has been regenerated by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. Again, it is as Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63; cf. John 15:1ff.; 3:3,5-6).

True worship must not be idolatry (cf. Exodus 20:1ff.; Deuteronomy 6:13-15). It brings no glory to God if we do not worship the Triune God who has revealed Himself in the Bible. (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:4ff.; Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 1:1-5.)
Instead of compromising the truth for the sake of outward unity, or for the sake of being contemporary, true worship holds fast to the Scriptural doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:12-17; John 8:31-32; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:42). God abhors false doctrine and adulterating His Word. Therefore, worship which contradicts the teaching of Scripture is not true and pleasing worship (cf. Isaiah 8:20; Deuteronomy 4:2; 13:1ff.; Matthew 7:21ff.; Jeremiah 23:28).

And, finally, true worship is exactly that: true worship. It is not merely going through the outward motions or using certain forms. It is worship which comes from the heart and is genuine and sincere. It gives glory to God and thanks and praises Him for His goodness and mercy toward us in Christ Jesus. As David writes: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” (Psalm 103:1).

We praise Thee O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord. All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father Everlasting. To Thee all the angels cry aloud, the heavens and all the powers therein; to Thee cherubim and seraphim continually do cry; Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of the majesty of Thy glory. The glorious company of the apostles praise Thee; the goodly fellowship of the prophets praise Thee; the noble army of martyrs praise Thee; the holy Church though all the world doth acknowledge Thee; the Father of an infinite majesty; Thine adorable true and only Son, also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ. Thou are the everlasting Son of the Father. – Opening of the “Te Deum” from The Lutheran Hymnal.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

 

How can we be righteous before God?

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…. Romans 4:3-5

How was Abraham righteous before God? Was it by his own works and devotion to God? Or was it a righteousness graciously imputed to him by faith?

Many look at Old Testament saints like Abraham and draw the conclusion that they lived a righteous and holy life and, therefore, God loved and accepted them as his own. Yet, when we look at the life of Abraham, the Scriptures reveal flaws and mistrust. He more than once called his wife Sarah his sister out of fear he would be killed so that another might take her. He listened to Sarah when she gave him Hagar as a concubine to bear children rather than trust fully that God would do as he promised. Though Abraham was certainly a man of faith who sought to walk in the ways of the LORD, he was not without sin.

So, how was Abraham righteous before God? St. Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6: “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” The apostle Paul explains further: “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” If Abraham were righteous by his own works, righteousness would not have been accounted or imputed to him, it would have been earned by him and his own. But the Scriptures say that Abraham believed God’s promises and that righteousness was accounted to him by God.

Notice, too, that David, in Psalm 32, speaks of the blessedness of the one who confesses his sins and receives God’s mercy and forgiveness (Romans 4:6-8). He, as well, speaks of God’s forgiveness and the imputation of righteousness being God’s gracious gift, received through faith, and not earned by our own works.

How then are we righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes? By our own works? Or, by faith? Though many assume the way to be righteous before God is by our works and obedience to God’s commandments, the Bible teaches us that we have all come short and that even our best righteousnesses are like defiled, unclean rags in God’s eyes (cf. Romans 3:9ff.; Isaiah 64:6).

The only way for sinners like you and me to be righteous before God is through faith in Christ Jesus. When we believe the Word of God which tells us that Christ fulfilled all righteousness for us and then was sacrificed for us to make full atonement for all our sins, God accounts it to us for righteousness. He forgives all our sins for the sake of Jesus’ blood, shed upon the cross, and He imputes to us the perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 3:21-28).

It is as the Bible says: “To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (v. 5); “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28; cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 3:6ff.; 3:26-29; Philippians 3:8-9).

Grant that I cease working to be counted righteous in Your eyes, O LORD, and place my faith in Christ’s perfect righteousness and in His atoning sacrifice on the cross for my sins that I may be accounted righteous and holy in Your sight. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

 

‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven….’

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” Psalm 32:1-2 (Read Psalm 32)

Have you ever considered what a blessing it is to have forgiveness of God? What a blessing to have the LORD not hold our sins and iniquities against us? To have the LORD’s forgiveness removes all fear of wrath and condemnation and gives us peace with God (cf. Romans 5:1-2). To have forgiveness for all our sins gives us the assurance of life everlasting (cf. John 5:24). Indeed, the one who admits his sin to the LORD instead of attempting to hide and cover up his sins is blessed because in the LORD, for the sake of Jesus’ holy life and innocent sufferings and death, he has forgiveness of God (cf. 1 John 1:5 – 2:2).

What about you? Do you have God’s forgiveness, or are you attempting to hide and cover up your sins? Are you justified of God, or trying to justify yourself? Are you self-deceived and attempting to fool others in regard to your sinfulness, or do you admit your utter sinfulness and look to God for mercy and forgiveness?

What happens when we keep silent about our sins? When we are unwilling to admit our sinfulness and look to the LORD for forgiveness? When we are unwilling to give up our sins? God’s hand is heavy upon us. We grow old and weary through our groaning and sighing all day long as we feel the guilt and weight of our sins. Our moisture, our vitality, our joy, is turned into the drought of summer; it is evaporated away.

To confess our sins is to say and agree with what God says of us and our sin (cf. 1 John 1:9). Confession makes no excuses for sin, but acknowledges sin as sin and deserving of God’s eternal wrath and punishment! When we acknowledge our sin unto the LORD and quit attempting to hide it and cover it up, when we confess our transgression of God’s commandments unto the LORD, He graciously forgives our sins for Jesus’ sake. “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

For God’s forgiveness everyone that is godly will pray now, before it’s too late! “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Don’t put off repentance! Don’t wait another day. Acknowledge and confess your sins now and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Tomorrow may be too late for you. You may never have opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness again. Turn to the LORD now and God will have mercy upon you and save you from the judgment to come!

The Bible says, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5).

I have sinned, O God, and failed to keep Your holy commandments. I deserve Your wrath and punishment. Pardon my sins for the sake of the shed blood of Christ Jesus, Your Son and my Savior. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

[Scripture Taken from the King James Version of the Bible]