April 17 - Encouragement to Be With God

Opening Prayer Thoughts. 
Praise God. 
Praise God that he made us and that we do not own our lives, but by his love we are his. Praise God for the privilege and joy of worshiping him as our Maker and Lord. Psalm 100:3, Psalm 95:6.
Acknowledge sin.
Confess the sin of frequently living as if we are the masters of our own lives and those who decree our destiny. Ask God to help us to remind ourselves that we are his blood-bought slaves purchased to live for his glory and our good by obeying his commands. 1 Peter 1:13-25.
Let us "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2 

Pray for the salvation of those joining in online worship who have still not received forgiveness for their sins. 
Let's read Luke 3:1-6.
Each of the four gospels tells us that John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus and that his ministry was a message of the need for repentance. But what is peculiar to Luke is that he alone tells us how John replied in a practical and straightforward way to people's questions about what repentance involved, but we will get into that next week.
V1. An ungodly time.
Luke begins with a specific date. Why? Because it marks the beginning of the recommencement of prophecy. God had been silent for 400 years; now, he speaks again through John the Baptist. Luke dates the period by naming the current world and regional leaders. Tiberius Caesar was the Roman Emperor; Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of the region, i.e. Judea. Herod was Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who became tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (ruler of one of three provinces in the area) on the death of his father in 4BC and held office until 39AD. We are going to come across these men later in Jesus' life. The other rulers mentioned are Herod's brother Philip who ruled in one of the provinces, and Lysanias; information about him isn't clear. Luke cites these men for historical accuracy because it authentically dates when John the Baptist and Jesus lived. One thing that does unite all these men is their godlessness, evidenced in how they governed.  
So, John didn't begin his ministry in a wholesome, welcoming environment, which is an encouragement to us in the church today. As someone has said, 'The darkest hour of the night, is often that which just precedes the day.' Now is a time for the sowing of God's word in our own lives, and in the lives of those we love. A time to prepare for the 'light of day' and the harvest, which God has eternally decreed. 
Luke also adds a dating important to Jews, namely the references to Annas, high priest AD 6-15, and Caiaphas, Annas' son-in-law, high priest AD 18-36. Again, these are two men who will play a key role in Jesus' life. 
V2. John, a man, ordained of God. 
How did John come to be in the job he did? It was through a call and commission from God. Every man who would hold office in the church must receive such a call and commission. This 'internal' call must be proved or validated by the church through an 'external' call, followed by ordination. Each of these steps is not to be entered into lightly; nonetheless, Jesus encourages us, "therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." (Matthew 9:38).
V3-6. John's message. 
Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke tells us nothing about John's appearance nor what he ate; instead, he states where John will undertake his ministry, namely in and around the Jordan Valley, and then he goes straight to his message. What was his message? What does it mean? Well, it means that John preached the necessity of being baptized as a sign of true repentance. Baptism was not a new thing. It was common practice in several religions to symbolize cleansing and a fresh start. It was a practice that the Jews used alongside circumcision for males to receive Gentiles into Judaism. The idea of Jews being required to be baptised would have been unpalatable to many. They considered themselves as the righteous descendants of Abraham and, as such, cleansed through the sacrament of circumcision. 
The focus of this repentance and subsequent baptism was the forgiveness of sins. So, whatever righteousness the Jews thought they had been observing wasn't going to cut it with God. John's message brought to the fore a real need that had to be faced, namely that without the forgiveness of sin, there can be no relationship with God and no eternal life. Attempted outward observance of the Law merely pointed up the inability to fulfil the Law, and so raised the issue of need for forgiveness. In turn, this pointed to the need for a Saviour. One who would make atonement for the breaking of the Law and provide the basis for forgiveness. And it is the same today. The fact is simple; doing things to make God happy won't cut it with God. Forgiveness of sins is an absolute necessity, for there can be no entry into heaven without it. Heaven is a place of holiness, and God will not tolerate sin in it. (Revelation 21:27). 
Although all four Gospels quote the words of Isaiah's prophesy about John in Isaiah 40:3, only Luke includes Isaiah 40:4,5. How did Isaiah characterize John? How did Isaiah describe the result of John's work? What promise did Isaiah give that John would point to in his ministry? Amazingly, this prophecy was written about 780 years before this, and now it is going to unfold exactly as written. It is another proof that God keeps his Word without fail. 
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 23B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Memory Verse. 
Keep up the memorizing; it will be good for your heart relationship with the Lord.
Psalm 121C:1-4, "Unto the hills I lift my longing eyes; whence comes my aid? The Lord's my help, the heavens and earth by him were made. Your foot from stumbling He will always keep; the One who guards your life will never sleep. He who keeps Israel slumbers not nor sleeps, by night or day."
Something to think about. Shorter Catechism.
Q. 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.
Thank God.
Thank God that there is forgiveness of sins. Thank God that the preaching of the gospel is the means he has chosen to turn men and women from their sin and to seek faith in Christ. Pray that the preaching of God's Word in the congregation would reap an eternal harvest to his glory.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley