April 20 - Encouragement to Be With God

Opening Prayer Thoughts. 
 
Praise God. 
Praise that he provides a ‘shadow’ for us to enter into. A place where we can dwell personally in his presence and hold fast to him in love. Praise God that, as we do so, he will guide and protect us.  Praise God that we have a Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us. One who loves and provides for us every day. (Psalm 91 and Psalm 23).
 
Acknowledge sin.
Confess the sin of our not entering into God’s presence with the diligence and focus that such a privilege merits. Confess the sin of the foolishness of simply not trusting in our Good Shepherd. Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you to really understand what the Good Shepherd has done for you, and to trust him.


Let's read Luke 3:7-14.
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
 
We come this morning to the heart of John's ministry, which was a remarkable one. Jesus says of John as a prophet that 'among those born of women none is greater than John.' Luke 7:28.  
 
V7. Striking Directness.
Luke, a medical doctor and not one given to exaggeration, gives us a concise synopsis of John's ministry.  How does John characterize his hearers? Not a message to win friends and influence people. Evidently, John was not skilled in the art of modern 'seeker-sensitive' preaching, speaking aimed at wooing people and then keeping them coming through comforting messages. What issue was John laying the point of his finger on? It was hypocrisy – saying one thing and doing another. The doing of outward religious activity, with little real regard to God himself. So, was John an angry man set on venting his rage at people? No, he was a man who had a deep love for God and for the people he was speaking to. John understood that impending wrath of God upon sin, whether in thought, word or deed, was real. He knew that the Holiness of God demanded Divine judgement upon sin, and so he preached out of a desire to confront his hearers with that reality.  He sole desire was that they respond in repentance and be delivered from the 'wrath to come' – Hell.  By the way, did you know that there are more references to the coming judgement, to God's impending wrath, and to Hell in the New Testament than there are to God's love? The point is simple; God is going to great lengths to warn mankind.
 
From what I see and hear, there is a want of such loving, direct preaching in Canada today. Too many men are constrained by what they think their hearers will think of them. Bottom line, it speaks to a lack of love for both God and man. Reading the words of Paul to the church at Galatia is a good antidote to such thinking – "For, am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10. Please pray that I will, by God's grace, love you enough to preach God's Word fearlessly to you.
 
V8. It's not who you 'know', but what ‘you do’ that matters.
What does John state must be seen in the life of the lover of God? What were his hearers relying on? John, using a play on words between stones and children, Aramaic abnayya and benayy, declares it pointedly - God can produce life from anything and does not need the children of Abraham to achieve his purposes. So, it's not about who you know, i.e. what your family heritage is, what matters is who you believe in and what you do.
 
A godly heritage is a wonderful blessing, but it does not automatically lead to a holy life. If you have been blessed with such an inheritance, and it is a blessing, it is your responsibility as an individual to make decisions that will prove that you are a lover of God. The words of Jesus in John 15:2ff are worth mulling over, "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away…. and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned." J.C. Ryle writes, "It can never be impressed on our minds too strongly, that religious talking and profession are utterly worthless — without religious doing and practice. It is vain to say with our lips that we repent — if we do not at the same time repent in our lives… To say that we are sorry for our sins is mere hypocrisy — unless we show that we are really sorry for them, by giving them up. Doing is the very life of repentance. "The talk of the lips," says Solomon, "tends only to poverty." (Proverbs 14:23).
 
V10. God-centred preaching works.
What happened when John preached? Think about the question that is asked. It lacks 'what is in this for me,' content. It is all about 'what must I do'. It was the same on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached Christ. (See Acts 2:37). It is the same when Christ is preached today. It stops being about 'what am I getting from this’ and becomes 'what do I need to do for God'. Preaching that does not teach, reprove, correct and train in righteousness is not preaching. Biblical preaching will elicit a 'who am I before God and what must I do to please God' response, because the point of Biblical preaching is to conform us to the image of Christ as a lover and servant of the Father. Anything that doesn’t do that is not preaching.
 
V11. Real doing is demanded.
A life changed by Christ will be a life changed by Christ, and it will be evident in what that life does. The formerly selfish will look to care for others; those who handle finances will be honest; those who have a position of influence will not abuse their power. It's simple; they were to change their behaviour because God had changed their mindset, their outlook on life and eternity.
 
A word of caution, when we hear or read of repentance, we often skirt around those sins in our lives that are causing the most damage, simply because they are our dearest idols. Take real care not to do this. Ask God to search and 'see if there be any grievous way in' you, just as David says in Psalm 139. Expose your innermost being to God in the knowledge that you cannot flee from him, and that he has hemmed you ‘about’ with his love. Open your heart today and have dealings with the God who knows and loves you, the God who sent his beloved son into the world to redeem you from the wrath to come.   
 
 
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 119E. 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:1-5, 
"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. 
The Lord  keeps you, a shade at your right  hand The Lord will stay."
 
 
Something to think about. Shorter Catechism.
Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression.
Scripture proofs pdf - https://opc.org/documents/SCLayout.pdf
 
 
Thank God.
Thank God that we can repent and be cleansed from our sin. 
Thank God that we can live a new life as a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Thank God for all the beautiful opportunities that open up to us in our lives. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:4-9).
 
 
Take care in Christ,
Andrew
 
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley