April 22 - Encouragement to Be With God

Opening Prayer Thoughts. 

Praise God. 
Praise God that he is Holy in his being and in all his works. Praise God that his name is Holy and that his rule is righteous. Praise God that holiness adorns his dwelling, heaven. Psalms 22:3, 111:9, 145:17, 93:5. 
Acknowledge sin.
Confess our sin of unholiness. Confess your need to be forgiven for, and cleansed from, sin. Thank God that such forgiveness and cleansing is freely available in Christ. Romans 3:10-12, 1 John 1:9.
Let us "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2 
     Give thanks for the Session and Deacons’ Zoom meeting on Monday evening, the first of what, God willing, will be a weekly meeting. Give thanks also for the blessing of the Canadian RP ministers’ Zoom prayer meeting yesterday. Give thanks for technology, which enables such meetings to take place. 
Let's read Luke 3:18-22.
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
V18. John ends up in prison.
What happens to John and why? Note, this doesn't happen at this time. Luke is just finishing off what he has to say at this point about John before beginning his account of Jesus' ministry. Matthew gives us a bit more information. Matthew 14:1-12. John had called Herod out over his relationship with his sister-in-law, Herodias; they had divorced their respective partners and married, and Herod didn't appreciate John expressing his view on the matter, so he put him in prison. Consequently, John's ministry was relatively short-lived but it was nonetheless highly effective for he did achieve what he had been sent to do – prepare the way for the Lord. Some people live their entire lives and never achieve what they have been put on the earth to do. It begs the question – are we fulfilling the goal, the purpose, the Lord has set for our lives, and by that I mean our calling to be conformed to the image of Christ? Romans 8:29.
V21. Jesus’ Baptism – the heavens opened.
Luke begins his account of Jesus' ministry with his baptism, albeit without mentioning John or the circumstances surrounding it. This is the one recorded occasion when John was with Jesus. For a more detailed account, see Matthew 3:13-17. While Luke's account of the actual baptism appears understated, nonetheless, this is a highly significant event in both Jesus' life and world history. Luke tells us that the “heavens were opened”. Imagine that. The opening of the heavens is a rare occurrence in God's Word. Ezekiel, the Old Testament prophet, speaks of the heavens opening and seeing visions of God. Ezekiel 1:1. As he is dying, the first known martyr, Stephen, says, and probably in a whisper, that he sees the heavens open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:56. John, when recounting the vision God gave him, states that it was by way of the heavens opening. Revelation 4:1, 19:11. Each of these occasions of the 'opening of heaven' is remarkable because they each led to a specific revelation from God. This occasion of the opening of heaven is truly remarkable because it marks the call to, and commencement of, Jesus' public ministry. A call accompanied by the gift of the Holy Spirit and by a voice from heaven. 
V22. The Holy Spirit descends. 
All four gospels tell us of the descent of the Holy Spirit as a dove, but Luke alone speaks of it in bodily form. This shows that it was an objective reality and not merely an aberration seen by just John and the Lord. Another interesting point, which Luke is the only one to provide, is that the Holy Spirit descended after the baptism when Jesus was speaking with his Father in prayer. Jesus was continuously in communion with his Father during his life on earth. That's why it is odd that we think we can get by with just an occasional 'condescension' into prayer. 
V22. The Father speaks.
The words that the voice from heaven declares are simple but eternally profound. "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased." While this is a divine declaration about our Lord Jesus Christ, let's not miss the point that it is also a declaration to Jesus, directing his thoughts to the fact that he is both the Son of God and the Suffering Servant. It is a declaration to Jesus that the Father regards the claims of his Law to be fulfilled, and consequently, he is satisfied and well pleased. 
The question that I haven't asked yet is, why was it necessary for Jesus to be baptized by John? We know from what Matthew tells us that John was more than reluctant to baptize Jesus. John's baptism, after all, followed an act of repentance, and Jesus had nothing to repent of because he was without sin, not only up to this point, but throughout the entirety of his life on earth. Hebrews 4:15. The answer is simple; Jesus, from the outset of his ministry, set out to identify with the sinners he had come to save. We have a Saviour in heaven who, in the most unimaginable humility, came to earth and experienced human life as each of us do, and so he knows all of our needs well. Are we sometimes just too proud to stand with others because we think it would be too demeaning? How can we reach people, the lost, if we don't identify with them at some point in their lives? That does not mean we have to enter into their sin, but it does mean we have to care enough to get to know them and be with them in some way or other.
Finally, these verses present us with the person of the Father, the person of the Son, and the person of the Holy Spirit, and the fact that each one of them is equally concerned about, and engaged in, our redemption. The deliverance of our souls from hell and into heaven is something that all three persons of the Godhead are equally involved in.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that one day heaven will be opened, not for us to receive a new revelation from God, but for us to enter into, and dwell in, for all eternity? What a glorious reality to ponder. 
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 on your right hand The Lord will stay."
Something to think about. Shorter Catechism.
Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

Scripture proofs pdf - https://opc.org/documents/SCLayout.pdf
Thank God.
Thank God for the fact that the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit are equally invested in our eternal salvation.
Thank God that Jesus is a beloved Son who gave his life as the Suffering Servant.
Thank God the heavens will be opened one day to receive us and all God's elect people. 
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley