April 21 - Encouragement to Be With God

Opening Prayer Thoughts. 
 
Praise God. 
Praise God that he is truth and he is light. Praise God that his Word is living and active. That it is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces to the division of soul and of spirit. That it discerns the thoughts and intentions of our heart. (Hebrews 4:12). Praise God the Holy Spirit that he illuminates the Word to us. (John 16:13-16).
 
Acknowledge sin.
Acknowledge and confess your sin of running from God on occasions when he has cut you to the heart with his Word. Ask that the Holy Spirit would make his Word clear to you, and that, in hearing it, you would obey what he calls you to do. (James 1:22-25).       
 
Let us "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2 
     Pray for the families affected by the horrific events in Nova Scotia over the weekend. Pray for the godly ministers in that community as they bring God’s Word to bear on this terrible situation.
     
 
Let's read Luke 3:15-20.
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
 
V15. Questions Asked.
What begins to happen as John preaches the message God has given him to proclaim? It is seen that two of the consequences of Biblical preaching are an expectation of God's working, and people starting to think. 
 
Whilst thoughtlessness in respect of God is one of the characteristics of the unconverted, it can also be a feature of the professing Christian. It's a peculiar thing that people can sit in worship and prevent themselves from being confronted with the questions that God's Word raises. The root of such behaviour, of course, is spiritual pride. Ultimately, and it usually doesn't take too long, the person will start objecting to the preaching. Why? Because of the challenge it brings to their predisposed perception of themselves. So, rather than allowing God to confront them, they confront the preaching, and if the preaching doesn't change, then they seek out somewhere where they hope they won't be confronted. Whatever you do, please ask God to give you a willingness to be confronted by the Biblical preaching of his Word. Seek the joy of excited expectation and the mulling of questions generated by direct preaching. 
 
V16. The Christ – his person and work can be the only acceptable focus.
Who do the people think John might be? How long does it take John to repudiate the idea? John makes two points in directing them to Christ. First, that he is inferior to the One who is yet to come and, second, what he is doing is inferior. 
 
First, John says that the Christ will possess power that he can and never will have. Palestinian teachers were unpaid scholars, but their pupils would show their appreciation by rendering a variety of services to them. The only service a student was not permitted to provide, because of rabbinic teaching, was to untie the sandal-thong of his teacher. It was regarded as too menial, even for a disciple to do. So, John is saying when it comes to Christ; I am not even worthy to do the most menial task that a humble disciple would do for his teacher. In his eyes, John sees himself as being worthless to these people except for what God has specifically called him to do. 
 
The day we begin to cherish the perception that we are crucial to what Christ is doing in the lives of others, is the day we cease to be of any use to him. The reason is simple: Jesus said on the night he was betrayed, "apart from me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5). Our calling in life, and none more so than that of a Minister, is to be spent for Christ. Something the apostle Paul clearly understood, "I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?" (2 Corinthians 12:15). It was an attitude that governed his entire service to the Lord. Speaking to the Ephesian elders of the last time he says, "but I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24). This is the attitude that every servant of Christ must own if they are to be useful to Christ.
 
Second, John understands that the baptism he is faithfully exercising is inferior to the baptism the Christ will exercise. His baptism is incomparable to that of the Christ's who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and not water. Christian baptism with water is a Biblical ordinance; God commands it. The baptizing of an adult who becomes a Christian, and who has previously not received that ordinance, is a beautiful thing. The baptism of a child who is held within the covenant is likewise a beautiful thing. The promise of God, to be God to us and to our children, is one we hold very dearly, for it speaks of the richest of all blessings, cleansing from sin and union in new life with Christ. And yet, it is the fulfillment of that promise that we must, by God's grace, diligently seek in the lives of our children. It is the regenerating and renewing work of the Holy Spirit that we must earnestly pray for in the life of each child who is a covenant member of our blessed community. The desire must be for the realization of what baptism speaks of, and not merely the exercise of the commanded sign itself. 
 
V17,18. Judgement is coming. 
What Word would you use to describe the picture John paints in these verses? I am thinking of 'separation'. The visible Church is a 'mixed' body. She comprises both those who are truly born again of the Holy Spirit, and those who profess to know Christ but are still dead in their trespasses and sins. Put simply, the believers and unbelievers, the holy and unholy, the converted and unconverted sit together in every congregation, and frequently sit side by side. I think, and I say this carefully, that I have a fairly good antenna for where people are in terms of their soul love for Christ, and yet in many years of ministry, my loosely held summations have been wrong on a number of occasions. False profession of faith can so easily mimic the ways of true profession. Phantom faith is so prevalent (Matthew 7:21-23) that the correct discernment of a person's true standing before Christ can be extremely difficult, if not nigh on impossible. The reality is that the wheat and the chaff will continue together until the Lord returns, but on that day there will be a separating, and it will be a perfect, solemn and eternal separation. Christ the judge will not get it wrong. He knows all things; he sees the real unseen heart and has a grasp of the unrevealed thoughts. The righteous, those who have been declared right by virtue of faith in his finished work at Calvary, will enter into his presence, a place of unimaginable joy for eternity. The wicked, those who have refused to confess the reality of their sin and need of a Saviour, will be sent from his presence to experience unspeakable horror throughout eternity. This is the 'good news' which John preached to the people. Good because it declared truth and reality of life and the Judgement, and good because it speaks of the only way of everlasting life beyond the Judgement.  
 
May we daily look toward to that day, paying close attention as we do so to the words of the apostle Peter who exhorts us "to be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fall." (2 Peter 1:10).  
 
 
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 Isr’el 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. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind? 
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery. 
Scripture proofs pdf - https://opc.org/documents/SCLayout.pdf
 
 
Thank God.
     Thank God for godly ministers who know who they are and what their task is under Christ. Thank God for the expectation and questions he raises in our lives through the direct preaching of his Word. 
      Pray that God would save our covenant children and those in our midst who are unconverted.
     Thank God for sending the Good Shepherd into the world to lay down his life, so that, come the day of Judgement, we may enter into our eternal rest in him.  
 
 
Take care in Christ,
Andrew
 
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley