Day 201 - The Lord's Day
Read - Genesis 4:3-5 and Hebrews 11:4
Message - Alan Burke
We have all seen the change in the season, as the nights are get shorter, the warm sun is failing, the wind has began to bite and the autumnal colours are on display. At this time of the year meeting houses would normally be filled with the bounty of harvest as people gathered in to give thanks and praise the Lord, to worship Him for his goodness to us in how He provides all our needs. This coming Lord’s day we give thanks to God for the his provision in the harvest and even thought this year has been like no other and our lives have been transformed in ways that we never imagined we give Him our thanks for seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night have not ceased (Gen 8:22).
Today we look to the account of Cain and Abel, two brothers who were brought up in the same home, they were both taught about God and as they grew they became the first farmers, Cain in arable, Abel in livestock. They lived as God intended, they cared for God’s creation, providing the necessities to live by and those who work the ground still do to this very task, they care for God’s creation (Gen 2:15). Yet when Cain and Abel brought their offerings what is striking is that the Lord only had regard for Abel and his offering (Gen 4:4). There is that bit inside us wants to say; ‘that’s not fair’, they both brought their offering, what more do you want God!’ Was it that Cain brought a sack of Brussel sprouts and Abel brought a nice bit of lamb for a good Sunday roast? Was it that the sprouts only cost £2 a kilo and the lamb came in at £13 a kilo? Of course it wasn’t, it wasn’t the value of what they brought it was something far more important.
We learn from Hebrews 11:4 that it was… ’By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings.’. The offering Abel brought was a better sacrifice not because of its value but that it was offered in faith, whereas Cain brought his offering but it was a token gesture that revealed his indifference to God. We will think more as the week goes on about how we are to come before the Lord God for Scripture address both the outward form of our worship and our inner motivations, the visible and the invisible, the seen and the unseen. In Cain we see someone who’s inner motivations were wrong, his offering may have looked the part to all around, he may even have brought an abundance of it but it was worthless, what mattered above all was faith. His worship displeased God even though he did outwardly it seemed he was doing what was required but his heart was far from the Lord.
You may be lamenting that this year the meetinghouse won’t be decorated from top to bottom, the choir won’t have some fantastic new pieces to preform for us and there will be no supper afterwards with that slice of apple tart with some cream, yet these things do not matter, we may love them but what matters above all else is faith. Do you have faith? Abel had faith and for all those who lived in faith do so with a sure confidence in who God is, in His character, that He is who He says He is. We can have confident trust in the eternal God who is all powerful the God who has revealed himself though his word and the Word incarnate our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ whose promises have been proven, who will never leave us or forsake us.
What is a sacrament?
A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers. (Gen. 17:7,10, Exod. 12, 1 Cor. 11:23,26)
Read - 2 Corinthians 5v16-21
Message - Scott Woodburn
What defines a successful church? Easy, a successful church will have the most people, the most money, the most impact in the community and the most organisations for our children. It certainly isn't going to be the place where the congregation is tiny. It won't be the place where the preaching isn't as good as all the churches in the town. It won't be the church where there is a Sunday school class of three children taught by Vera who is now almost 80.
Read the opening paragraph again. Is what we have just read correct? I suspect not. In every walk of life we can judge the success or failure of a venture or a person on earthly wisdom. Paul raises a red flag against such wisdom as the chapter closes. He no longer regards anyone according to the flesh. He doesn't check their bank balance or how shiny their teeth are. These things are of no regard. He once considered Christ in such "fleshy" ways, but no longer (v16b).
If anyone has received Christ they are a new creation (v17a). What they were has gone and been replaced by the new (v17b). What does this new life look like? Paul has already explained it in his letter. The new birth sees the veil lifted from our eyes. We recognise Christ as our Saviour and receive Him by faith. Even though we are passing away physically, everyday we are being renewed (sanctified) inwardly. We have a hope of heaven and know that one day we will stand again physically before Christ. The law couldn't do it but the Gospel of grace can.
The glory for this belongs to the Lord who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us a ministry of reconciliation (v18). Prince or pauper, pagan or priest, all who trust in Christ will be saved. The old will go and the new will come! God in Christ has reconciled us to Himself (v19). He no longer counts our trespasses against us. His wrath has been poured out upon the Lamb who is the propitiation for our sins. Jesus was sinless but was made to be sin (v21a) so that through faith in Christ we might become the righteousness of God (v21b).
What defines a successful church? Let me humbly suggest that one mark of "success" is that the church large or small declares faithfully the Gospel of Christ. Their efforts might see many saved or there may be no discernible fruit. Either way such a church rests on the truth that it is God who gives the increase. The Lord has reconciled us, through Christ, to Himself and entrusted to us the Gospel and so in closing let me use the written word to call upon you to be reconciled to God (v20).
You have heard the Gospel in this devotion. Probably you have heard it numerous times before. Today is the day to believe it. Repent of your sin and put your faith in Christ and you will be saved. Nothing else matters! No earthly wisdom will be applied to you today, you will not be turned away because of your looks, your finances or your past. Instead, simply, I implore you on behalf of Christ...be reconciled to God.
Q93 Which are the Sacraments of the New Testament? The Sacraments of the New Testament are Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
Read - John 4:24 and Gen 4:3-5
Message - Alan Burke
Do you prefer shepherds pie or a steak and kidney pie, roast chicken or beef, apple tart or apple crumble, a cup of tea or or a cup of coffee, Coke or Pepsi, walking in the Mourne’s or along the sea shore, red or blue, chair or pew, piano or organ, Psalm 65 or We plough the field and Scatter? Regardless of your preference it is still a preference. What about worship, do our preferences matter? Well to help us think about this we first think to the words of Jesus in John 4. It is an encounter that I’d say most of us are familiar with, Jesus and the Samaritan woman and in their interaction Jesus says this “...true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (Jn 4:24). Let’s think about that for a moment. Jesus said true worshipers will worship “in spirit”, this means that worship must come from within. Think back to Monday when we thought about Cain and Abel (Gen 4), they both brought their offering to the Lord but how the Lord only had regard for Abel’s offering. The difference between the two was faith, Abel brought his in faith (Heb 11:4), effectively Abel brought his offering “in spirit”. Abel brought his offering with a heart that was motivated out of love for God and gratitude above all else. Is this how we come to worship the living God or are we focused on our preferences, our wants, our tastes?
Look also what Jesus Said, that worshipers will worship in “truth”. None of us I imagine would suggest that we make a six foot effigy and begin to bow down before it, we know the Ten Commandments of the Lord, his Ten Words that were given to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 20), we know that to make a six foot effigy would be wrong but what about everything else we do? How carefully though do we though examine what we do against the word of God to know if we come in “truth”, is what we are doing biblical, does it match up to what God has revealed in the scriptures or do we instead look to what the church down the road or the new mega church in the states is doing. Worshipers should worship in “spirit and truth”. It matters both how we come (in spirit) and it matters what we do (in truth). When we come together this Lord’s day to worship God if we are able, are we lamenting at what we have lost because of Covid, that the harvest service simply isn’t like harvest should be because the meetinghouse won’t be decorated from top to bottom, the choir won’t have some fantastic new pieces to preform for us and there will be no supper afterwards with that slice of apple tart with some cream or will we be delighting that we can come to worship the living God worship in spirit and truth though Jesus Christ, knowing what matters is not our preference but the living God.
What is baptism?
Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, (Matt. 28:19) doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’ s. (Rom. 6:4, Gal. 3:27)
Read - 2 Corinthians 6v1-2
Message - Scott Woodburn
Imagine an event in human history that was so momentous, so glorious that it has changed everything forever. You'd pay attention to such an event wouldn't you? Perhaps such an event happened in 1963 when Lee Harvey Oswald's bullet took the life of President John F. Kennedy? Kennedy allegedly had big plans and would have almost certainly transformed the USA for generations. Perhaps we need to go further back and ask if the event played out in Europe. The Allies were on the ropes and found themselves on the beaches of France waiting to be pushed into the sea. When all looked lost, for some reason, Hitler ordered his troops to pause, giving vital time for the "miracle of Dunkirk" and a retreat to the shores of the UK.
We could recall countless other moments like those outlined above, yet all would fall short compared to the events of 2000 years ago. God had taken on flesh and in turn was taken by the hands of sinful men to a place of torture and death. Jesus was fully God, fully man but without sin. He became sin for us and made an end of it as he died on the cross and days later was raised to life. What Jesus did has changed everything forever. As we like to sing at Christmas, Jesus was born that man no more may die.
If what I have written is true (it is) then what will you do with such knowledge? Paul has been given the ministry of reconciliation and urges his listeners not to receive the grace of God in vain (v1). What does he mean? We deserved the cross not Jesus. We deserved the wrath of God not Jesus. Yet in his magnificent grace Christ died for the ungodly. We receive the grace of God in vain when we hear and know the Gospel yet at every turn we refuse to believe it.
I am convinced that no page in the history of this world is as glorious as the page that speaks of Christ's death and resurrection. No other event in history had the impact that Christ's sacrifice still has. To know this to be true (again, it is) and to reject it, is to make oneself the greatest fool who has ever lived and to receive the grace of God in vain.
Christ has come and the words of Isaiah 49 (quoted by Paul in verse two) have been fulfilled. A favourable day has come. It is a day of grace, a day that all who call upon the Lord will be saved. It is today. A day of salvation for all who will believe. Christ alone has made this a reality. The events of Calvary have changed everything forever.
Change? Like the change promised by Obama or Boris? No. Real change. No more sin, no eternal punishment, no hell, but salvation, reconciliation, peace, forgiveness and hope. Real change brought about by the work of Christ. It's time to believe it. Repent of your sin and trust in Christ. Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Q95 To whom is Baptism to be administered? Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible Church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible Church are to be baptized.
Read - Exodus 32, Matthew 15:7-9 and John 4:24
Message - Alan Burke
This year has been a year like no other, our lives have been impacted in so many different ways by Covid-19 and it will only be in the years to come that we will understand the impact that it has had. The Church of Jesus Christ has been likewise been impacted in so many ways yet we know that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass (Ps 115:3; Dan. 4:35). As we come to harvest we can see the impact that Covid-19 has had clearly, the meetinghouse won’t be decorated from top to bottom, the choir won’t have some fantastic new pieces to preform for us and there will be no supper afterwards with that slice of apple tart with some cream. This week we have been thinking of what matters as we come to worship on the Lord’s Day, that we come with the right heart, that we worship in spirit and truth (Gen 4:4, Jn 4:24). What does this look like though? As we think about this lets look to two example the first from Exodus 32 and then next from Matthew 15.
Let’s think first to the most enthusiastic worship service in history, we may not have been there but we know of it and that is the worship that was given not to God but by his people to the golden calf as his people worshiped the idol they had made and made sacrifices to it (Ex 32). No one could say that their worship wasn’t filled with enthusiasm, that it wasn’t filled with emotion and feeling that was stirred up within them. Sadly though even though they worshiped the form and the focus of that worship was wrong and the Lord was angry with it. It was filled with enthusiasm, emotion, feeling but both in its form and focus it was wrong. On the other hand Jesus himself challenges and criticises the worship of the religious leaders in his day that had the right form and focus by saying that while they honoured God “with their lips,” their “heart is far from” him (Matt 15:7-9). Neither the enthusiasm of God’s people who worshiped the golden calf or the religious leaders who honoured God with their lips with their heart far from him were pleasing or acceptable to God. For us as God’s people we must search our hearts as we come every Lord’s Day, keeping our focus on the one we come before, the God who reigns over all.
The church is made up of people from every tribe, tongue and nation, there will be many cultural differences that impact worship that are inconsequential, yet the focus should always be not on what pleases us but God, is it God centred, God directed, do we ascribe honour to God in the reading, preaching singing and praying of his word, do we desire it to be done according to His will and His word? Our services or worship to God can be filled with emotion but if there is a lack of truth, a lack of the word of God in its reading, preaching, singing and prayer then it will be empty, likewise there can be a service that is full of the reading, preaching, singing and praying of God’s word but it can be dead orthodoxy. True worship comes from those who worship in spirit and truth, who have a heart that was motivated out of love for God and gratitude above all else and who love truth, who love when his word and it is read, preached, sang, prayed so that worship is Christ exalting. Is that what our worship is?
What is the Lord’ s supper?
The Lord’ s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’ s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace. (1 Cor. 11:23–26)
Read - 2 Corinthians 6v3-11
Message - Scott Woodburn
Humanity needs little to no excuse to reject the Gospel, sadly though the church often makes it much easier for people to denounce Christ. This is no new phenomenon. Acutely aware of the accusations against him, Paul reminds the Corinthians that he put no obstacle in anyone's way. There could be no fault found with his ministry (v3). This verse always weighs heavy with me. I am fully aware of my limitations and painfully aware of my mistakes. May God be merciful and give the increase despite my failures.
In the text Paul could commend himself to the Corinthians in every way (v4a). He had endured all sorts of trials to show that he was not a false apostle (v4b-5). He was a man and minister of integrity (v6-7) who used the weapons of righteousness to attack Satan's kingdom and to defend himself from the Devil's barbs. What are these weapons? The shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of the Lord (Ephesians 6v16-17).
Paul knew both sides of every coin. Some honoured Paul and his ministry, others suggested he was a dishonourable man out for personal gain (v8a). Some praised and encouraged while others slandered his word and appearance (v8b). Some believed Paul to be an imposter, others knew that he was a true Apostle (v8c). He wasn't worth knowing, yet to some they realised the power of his ministry (v9a). He lived and laboured as a dying man preaching to dying men (v9b). Often he was punished and sorrowful and poor and empty handed (v9c-10). Yet at the same time he was alive, rejoicing, rich and one who possessed everything. Such was the life of the Apostle as he walked the roads preaching Christ.
Paul had hidden nothing from the Corinthians. He had told the truth and been straight with them (v11a). Indeed to them he can say "my heart is wide open to you" (v11b). He loves them and wants what is best for them. Unfortunately it seems that the Corinthians had restricted their affection towards Paul (v12). What had happened? The rough and tumble of congregational life. The falsehoods of the false apostles. The necessity of church discipline. Life had happened, taken its toll and restricted the love that came from the Corinthians to their Apostle.
I always find verse thirteen so emotive. It is easy to think that Paul was a giant who never knew trouble and slept like a lamb every night. Yet here he asks his spiritual children to love him a wee bit more (v13).
Here is our application. In the rough and tumble of our fellowships may we excel in love. From the pulpit to the pew and back again, may our hearts be wide. None of us are faultless. No hands are clean. No lips can say they've never spoken falsehood. Again may we excel in love. Father God, forgive us our failings, remove obstacles to Christ and water our shrivelled hearts with the Gospel so that they might flower once more and be wide to our brothers and sisters. For Christ's sake. Amen!
Q97 What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper? It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves, of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.
Read - Romans 1:16-17
Message - Alan Burke
Today I want to tell you a story, a synopsis about a man who lived some time ago. Growing up he didn’t have it easy and his parents did all that they could so that he could have a better life than them, wanting him to go to university. They made sacrifices to make it possible that he could get an education and a career. He worked hard, excelled at his studies, got his degree, was on his way to becoming a lawyer. Then everything changed on night during a thunderstorm and he ended up becoming a monk. You may know his name, Martin Luther. Why do I tell you about Martin, because as a monk in his own word… ““…I wearied myself greatly for almost fifteen years with the daily sacrifice, tortured myself with fastings, vigils, prayers, and other very rigorous works. I earnestly thought to acquire righteousness by my works.”
The more hd tried, the more he attempted to please God by what he did, the more he became aware of his own sinfulness before a God who is Holy, abundant in goodness and truth and that before this God all his efforts were worthless.
Saying; “Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.”
Luther wrestling with his own sinfulness, he worked tirelessly to earn God’s favour but while he was studying Romans, he came to not so much a discovery but a rediscovery of biblical truth that is still ignored by many that became the great cry of the Reformation, that matters because none of us have a leg to stand on before a God who is Holy, abundant in goodness and truth and that before Him, all our efforts are worthless. While reading Paul’s letter to the Romans, hearing how the faith of the believers there was being reported all of the world he went on to read; ”For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
He now understood for the first time that God freely gives the perfect righteousness he requires, through personal trust in Christ, He now knew the grace of God, he now knew that the righteousness of God is shown in the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to us. Imputed isn’t a word that we use very often, but what it means is that though faith, when God looks at the sinner he sees not the sin but Christ and his righteousness, it means that though faith when God looks at Alan Burke he sees not my sin but Christ and his righteousness, it means though faith when God looks at you he sees not your sin but Christ and his righteousness. For Luther, a man who had been tormented by his sin he understood like never before God’s great plan of salvation, that though faith alone that sinners are justified, declared righteous by God without words. It led Luther to write he, “...thereupon felt altogether born again and entered paradise through open gates.”
How about if I asked you, ‘are you are righteous before God?’ ‘Are you righteous before a God who is abundant in goodness and truth, holy and just?’ The answer is that if you have faith then though personal trust in Christ Jesus then the righteousness of God has been imputed to you, though faith when God looks at you he sees not your sin but Christ and his righteousness. For Luther who had been tormented by his sin he understood along with the other reformers that it was though faith alone that sinners are justified, declared righteous by God through faith alone, Sola fide: “faith alone”!
What is prayer?
Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, (Ps. 62:8) for things agreeable to his will, (1 John 5:14) in the name of Christ, (John 16:23) with confession of our sins, (Ps. 32:5–6, Dan. 9:4) and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies. (Phil. 4:6)
Read - 2 Corinthians 6v14-7v1
Message - Scott Woodburn
I've been told that if Brexit ever takes place British passports will change colour. This isn't some strange prophecy that I heard on the internet. British passports are currently burgundy in colour but after Brexit new British passports will return to the original dark navy. For some this is a sign of freedom while others will make their way to the Post Office to collect an Irish passport application form.
Most of us probably give little thought to the colour of our passport, it is a big enough struggle just remembering where we put it after we got home from Turkey. Yet today I want to introduce you to the concept of what John Calvin called a “duplex regimen”. Was he speaking about some kind of fitness regimen? Do it twice a week for great results? Not quite. Calvin’s argument was that the Christian lives in a world of two (duplex) governments (regimen). One government is the secular world around us and the other is the spiritual.
Is this just made up hullabaloo? Not at all. Paul was a Roman citizen by birth (Acts 22v28) and appealed to the laws of his day (Acts 22v25). He lived and worked in the secular Roman world which, in Paul’s time, was the most powerful empire on the face of the earth. Yet for Paul, a man of faith, he had heavenly citizenship as well by virtue of the fact that he had received Christ by faith. He reminded the Philippians that their citizenship was from heaven and from there they awaited their Saviour Jesus (Philippians 3v28).
This is all well and good but so what? Take a journey with me back to 2016. Donald Trump was running for the office of President of the United States and much was being made of his religious credentials. In American politics faith plays much more of a role than it does in our corner of the world. Trump was apparently a Presbyterian who loved the whole Bible rather than calling to mind a certain verse. Others however pointed out his bluff and bluster and questionable attitudes and actions. Some said that Trump was God’s man and all Christians should vote for him, others argued that a candidate’s character was of vital importance and that they would never vote for Donald J. Trump. What was a Christian to do?
Understanding the duplex regimen helps greatly. A Christian is at liberty in the secular world to vote for whatever candidate they wish. They should do so prayerfully and carefully but they should not be compelled from the pulpit to vote for a certain candidate “or else”. Christians voted for Trump, others did not. Neither group should be condemned.
But what if Donald Trump appeared at church one Sunday and was preaching to become the new minister? During the last election, news began to spread that Donald Trump was no longer an active member of his church. To use a local expression “he doesn’t darken the door of the place”. Would such a candidate be acceptable to fill a pulpit? Certainly not. The church is the kingdom of God and in the kingdom of God believers should have no partnership with unbelievers (v14).
What does any of this mean practically? As a Christian you have a dual citizenship, one in heaven and one on earth. Here on earth you will live daily beside unbelievers of all kinds. Some will be sympathetic to the church, some will despise it. Regardless, you are to love them and strive to share the Gospel with them when you can. You are to be a good citizen of the secular kingdom. You are to pay your taxes, you are to obey the speed limit, you are to vote, you are to engage the culture speaking truth into darkness, you are to pray for those in power. But at every turn you are to be careful that the secular and spiritual do not become entwined.
The church is to be in the world but not become like the world. Neither Jesus, His kingdom or His people are of this world (John 17v16 & 18v36). So Lord, guide us we pray, as we citizens of heaven pilgrim through this barren land!
Q99 What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer? The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer, but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called, The Lord’s Prayer.
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