Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare for worship. Since the NCAA basketball tournament is in full swing right now I wanted to share an applicable quote from Matt Chandler’s book The Explicit Gospel. The NCAA basketball tournament is oftentimes referred to as March Madness. Matt Chandler calls the tournament March Madness is this powerful quote:

“As I write this, March Madness is going on. It’s the greatest sporting event. (I say that because it’s also the last athletic venue in which David can still beat Goliath. There’s not really another venue like it where a college you’ve never heard of that has, say, eight hundred people in it can upset superpowers in the basketball world.) But here’s the thing about fallen men and women who love March Madness. All over our country, fans are nervous. I’m not joking. They’re nervous in their guts, they want their team to win so badly. They watch the games and yell at their televisions: “No! Yes!” Kids are crying in fear, wives are running for more nachos—it’s chaos. It’s madness. With victory comes elation and surfing a thousand websites to read the same article over and over and over again, and with defeat comes destitution of spirit and days of mourning and moping, angrily arguing on a blog about who really deserved it or an official’s botched call.

Every bit of those affections, every bit of that emotion, and every bit of that passion was given to us by God for God. It was not given for basketball.

Where is the nervousness in our guts when we’re coming into an assembly of those pursuing God? Where is the elation over the resurrection? Where is the desolation over our sins? Where is it? Well, it’s on basketball. It’s on football. It’s on romance. It’s on tweeting and blogging.

Are you really going to believe we’re not worthy of hell?

Thank God for his response to all this blasphemous nonsense: the wrath-absorbing cross of Christ.”

So, as we prepare for worship we might need to confess some idolatry in our hearts. Maybe it has been sports that we have idolized, maybe it is our career, or our families, or perhaps it has been comfort and ease that we have idolized. Rico Tice talks about idolatry and says: “Anything that we serve instead of God is a created thing, an idol. Money, reputation, power, career, family, and so on — our hearts get kidnapped.” Maybe our hearts have been kidnapped by money, reputation, power, career, or family this week. I am convinced that materialism is a massive idol in our churches today, and I am constantly feeling my own heart pulled in that direction. Rico Tice is quick to remind us that we as Christians still struggle with idolatry. He says: “Becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically or immediately cure us of this idol-worship. At the heart of all sin is idolatry in the heart — loving and obeying something other than our loving God. I am constantly struggling to keep the Lord Jesus at the center of my heart, to find my identity and assurance and purpose and satisfaction in him.”

Tice continues with this reminder: “We need to ask ourselves, So what does my heart find easy to love more than Jesus?  We need to spot our idols, so that we can confess our idols, and so we can begin consciously to seek what we have been looking for from those idols in the only place where we will truly find it — the Lord Jesus. We need to replace our idols with the real God: Christ…

We need to ask the Spirit to go to work in our hearts with the gospel, so that we’ll love Christ more and more, and he’ll displace our idols; and so when we talk about what we love, we’ll be talking about him.”

So, we might need to spend time confessing our idols and repenting of any other sin that the Lord has placed upon our hearts. We should also plead with God to stir up our affections for Him. There is a hymn that was written in 1856 called: More love to Thee, O Christ. That hymn starts with these words:

More love to Thee, O Christ,
More love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make
On bended knee;
This is my earnest plea:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!

So, as we prepare for worship we should on bended knee earnestly plead with God for more love for Christ. We should also spend time praying for the service tomorrow. We should lift up Ian and Erin at the throne of grace as they will lead us in worship. If you could pray for me as I do the confessional tomorrow I would appreciate it. Also, we should lift up Mark at the throne of grace as he will open up God’s Word to us. He will be preaching on Galatians 4:21-5:1. The link to the ESV text is below:

Galatians 4

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Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. Donald Whitney talks about worshiping God and he says that: “To worship God is to ascribe the proper worth to God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God as He is worthy. As the Holy and Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the Sovereign Judge to whom we must give an account, He is worthy of all the worth and honor we can give Him and then infinitely more. Notice, for instance, how those around the throne of God in Revelation 4:11 (“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”) and 5:12 (“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”) addressed God as “worthy” of so many things.

The more we focus on God, the more we understand and appreciate How worthy He is. As we understand and appreciate this, we can’t help but respond to Him. Just as an indescribable sunset or a breathtaking mountaintop vista evokes a spontaneous response, so we cannot encounter the worthiness of God without the response of worship.”

So, as we prepare for worship we should focus on God. Maybe this week we have been focused on ourselves, our jobs, our schoolwork, our families, our future, but maybe we have neglected focusing on God. Jon Bloom asks: “Want to refresh your soul? Want to run with more endurance today?” I would add this, want to prepare your hearts for worship? Then he answers: “Cease to be the focus of your attention.”

Bloom continues: “The state of your soul depends on what occupies your mind. If your self is occupying your mind, forget peace and contentment. You don’t find those in a vacuum of needs and sinful cravings. And forget loving others. A self-preoccupied soul might like the idea of being viewed by others as loving, but ends up finding others obstacles that plug up its craving vacuum.

And forget joy. The soul does not find satisfaction in the self. It’s not designed to. It’s designed to find supreme satisfaction in Someone else (Psalm 107:9), and then to enjoy everything else because of that Someone else (1 Timothy 6:17).”

So, how do we get our minds off of ourselves as we prepare for worship? One answer I would give would be to: “Look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and all that God promises to be and do for you through him. Only he will satisfy your soul (Psalm 63:1-3) and only he has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).”

Look to Jesus

So, as we prepare for worship we should ‘look to Jesus’ or fix our thoughts on Jesus. We should race to the cross. Maybe we need to spend time repenting of our self-centeredness this week and then plead with God to stir up our affections for Him.

After we have raced to the cross, maybe we should just dwell there for awhile. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says: “Look at the cross, my friend. Have you ever really looked at it? Have you ever, with Isaac Watts, surveyed this wondrous cross? I am asking you to do so now. Look at those three crosses on that little hill called Calvary, outside the city of Jerusalem. Look at the middle one and at that person who is dying there. They are amazed that he has died so quickly. Who is he?…He is the eternal Son of God. He is the second person in the blessed Holy Trinity. He is God the Son.”

In John chapter 1 John the Baptist sees Jesus and says: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” So, Jesus the eternal Son of God the second person in the blessed Holy Trinity took on flesh and dwelt among us. Not only did he dwell among us, but he is the sacrificial Lamb who dies condemned in our place.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that: “The Lamb of God has come. God has provided his own sacrifice. It is his own Son. The Lamb of God. This is what happened on Calvary’s tree. God took your sins and mine and he put them on the head of his own Son, and then he smote him, he punished him, he struck him, he killed him. The wages of sin is death. So what was happening on the cross was that God himself was laying your sins and mine upon his own dearly  beloved Son, and he paid the penalty of our guilt and our transgressions. ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2nd Corinthians 5:21).”

So, as we meditate on the cross we should remember that all of us are vile sinners, but we should remember that if we have turned from our sins and have trusted in Jesus to save us, then our sins have been paid in full. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones says: “And by Jesus all who believe, you included, are at this very moment justified entirely and completely from everything you have ever done…I tell you, in the name of God, all your sins are blotted out completely, as if you had never sinned in your life, and his righteousness is put on you and God sees you perfect in his Son. That is the message of the cross, that is Christian preaching, that it is our Lord who saves us, by dying on the cross, and that nothing else can save us,…”

So, let’s spend time meditating on the cross of Christ as we prepare for worship. Let’s also spend time praying for the service tomorrow. We should continue to lift up Rachel and Ben Bowen and their families at the throne of grace. We should also pray for Ian and Erin as they will lead us in worship. We should also pray for Jerry as he will lead us in a time of confession. Jerry will be looking at Philippians 1. Let’s be sure to pray for Mark as he preaches from 1 Peter 1, I believe. Links to Philippians 1 and 1 Peter 1 are below.

Philippians 1

1 Peter 1

Picture from here

 

Preparing For Worship

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It has been a few months since I have written a preparing for worship post, but I hope we have all sought to prepare our hearts for worship each week. In my very first post from January 2016, I mentioned R. Kent Hughes who said: “We must discipline ourselves in preparation for corporate worship, and that does not begin with the thirty seconds after we have breathlessly sat down.” We need to prepare to meet God in corporate worship.

We need to remember these words from Kent Hughes on worship: “Therefore, it is important that we understand, in distinction to the popular view that worship is for us, that worship begins not with man as its focus, but God. Worship must be orchestrated and conducted with the vision before us of an…awesome, holy, transcendent God who is to be pleased and, above all, glorified by our worship. Everything in our corporate worship should flow from this understanding.”

We should be eagerly anticipating corporate worship each week. R. Kent Hughes is helpful here when he says: “there is something very wonderful about the gathered body of Christ. There is an encouragement that takes place from singing with the people, affirming the same things, saying “amen” to the reading of God’s word, having your Bibles open with all the pages turning at the same time to the text that can’t happen individually. There is nothing like gathered worship.”

Something that I have emphasized many times on these post is that we need to do heart-work before we come to worship. We need to prepare our hearts for worship. Jesus says in Matthew 15:8-9 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” When we honor God with our lips in worship when our hearts are far from the Lord, then we worship in vain. John Piper says that: “the essence of all worship is the act of honoring God.” 

Piper continues by saying that: “Worship throughout biblical history always involved action. The main word for worship in biblical Hebrew means “to bow down.” Worship was performed in bowing, lifting the hands, kneeling, singing, praying, reciting Scripture, etc. All this can be called worship. But all this can also be done when the heart is far from God…We all know this sort of experience in our ordinary life…haven’t you sat through a school talent show and observed how some applause comes from internal appreciation, but other applause comes from external expectation.

Those two different experiences correspond to two different senses in which we use the word “worship.” The one is a series of activities performed by the body and mind. The other is an experience of the heart which may or may not find outward expression. It seems clear to me that when the Bible commands us to worship, it is not commanding us to honor God with our lips while our heart is far from him. When David says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2), and when Jesus says, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve (Matthew 4:10), and when the angel says to John in Revelation 19:10, “Don’t worship me; worship God,” we can be sure that they did not mean perform liturgical acts regardless of your heart’s condition. In those commands worship refers to an experience of the heart that is anything but far from God.”

Drawing Near To God In Our Hearts

So what does it mean to draw near to God in our hearts? Piper answers: “drawing near of the heart to God means the coming alive of our feelings for God. Worship is an affair of the heart. It is an affair of feeling and of emotion.” He also adds that: “true worship which delights God is the drawing near of the heart to God, or, to put it another way, the quickening of the heart with genuine feelings in response to God’s glory.”

Something that has been stirring my affections for God this week has been to reflect on our adoption into God’s family, which Mark so powerfully preached on last week. (Which if you haven’t heard it yet I would strongly encourage you to listen to it here.) Ephesians 1:3-6 says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

J.I. Packer said this about our adoption into God’s family: “Our first point about adoption is that it is the highest privilege that the gospel offers.” The highest privilege that the gospel offers is our adoption! He goes on to say that: “In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge [justification] is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father [adoption] is…greater.”

One thing that I have mentioned over and over as an essential part of preparing our hearts for worship is prayer. We should all spend time in prayer for the service tomorrow. We should lift up Ian, and Erin at the throne of grace. We should lift up Mark and Allen at the throne of grace as well. We should pray that non-Christians would come and that God would open their eyes to see the beauty of Jesus during the service. We should also spend time praying for ourselves that we would be attentive to the preaching of God’s Word. John Piper says we should: “pray, “O Lord, give me a heart for you…Give me a soft and receptive heart. Give me a humble and meek heart. Give me a fruitful heart.”

Mark will be looking in part at Galatians 4 tomorrow. The link to the ESV text of Galatians 4 is below.

Galatians 4

 

 

 

Preparing For Worhsip

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It is once again time to prepare for worship. I just decided to re-post one of my previous preparing for worship post for this week. I started that one off with this question: How do we prepare for worship when our hearts are cold? How do we prepare for worship when we are spiritually dried up like an old piece of forgotten fruit in the back of the refrigerator? I read something from George Mueller that got me thinking about this. He said: “It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were of no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer.” I know I have fallen prey to this temptation. I will be spiritually dry during the week and I will just leave my Bible unattended. I will leave the throne of grace unattended as well, as my heart grows colder and is filling with the dark murky water that we have talked about in the past. If this is you this week Randy Alcorn has some advice. He says: “The key in such times isn’t to give up on God’s Word and prayer but to stay with it and ask Him to give us joy.” “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12).”

So, if your heart is cold today and has been this week, let us run to the throne of grace and just pour our hearts out to God and plead with Him to restore the joy of our salvation. Another thing we can do to help us prepare for worship when our hearts are cold, is to simply go back to the Cross. As Jerry Ediger said in a sermon let us: “race to the Cross.” This has been something that has been a tremendous help to me in my own life when I have been dry. Numerous times I have been spiritually dry and I have simply gone to the Cross. John Stott says the Cross ‘is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled.’ So, I will take my cold, dry heart and I will stand at the foot of the Cross of Jesus. There at the Cross, I behold the sinless, savior, suffering the wrath of God in my place, and sparks begin to fly upon my cold heart. Soon my heart is melted and my eyes begin to fill with tears. Charles Spurgeon said: “something lies within the truth of the Cross which sets the soul aglow;…” I love that line from Spurgeon. So, let us race to the cross and stand beneath that blazing fire to have our love kindled and our souls set aglow.

John Piper said: “The preciousness of being saved will rise in its intensity to the degree that you see the horror of what your saved from, and the beauty of what your saved for.” So, as we prepare for worship today and tomorrow let us remember as the song says that at one time we were running our hell-bound race indifferent to the cost. Just this morning I was thinking about my life before my conversion, and I was reminded just how sinful I was. I was running a hell-bound race. As John Piper says: “I must feel the truth of hell―that it exists and is terrible and horrible beyond imaginings forever and ever…I must feel the truth that once I was as close to hell as I am to the chair I am sitting on―even closer.” As we feel the weight of our sin and understand that we deserve hell and at one time we were running there, we must remember the grace of God.

“That God looked upon our helpless state
And led us to the cross
And we beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in our place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace”

Let us pray for the service tomorrow as well. Let us pray for Ian and Erin who will once again be leading us in worship. Let us pray for Allen who will lead us in a time of confession, and let us pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark I believe will once again look at Galatians 1. The link to the ESV text is below:

Galatians 1

Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. I thought this was a good reminder from Bob Kauflin: “When we gather as God’s people we are being called away from other pursuits to worship God together in a specific place and time. We can worship God indirectly as we play soccer through good sportsmanship and serving others. But we worship him more directly on Sunday mornings as we gather to sing, pray, hear God’s Word preached, and share the Lord’s supper.”

He continues by saying: “God is the one who has called us out of the world to rehearse the gospel in his presence for his glory and our good through the power of his Spirit. That should encourage us to engage fully with God because we come by invitation, not presumption, through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.

Finally, we come together for a specific purpose. After a week when we’ve been tempted to worship money, relationships, control, sensuality, and ourselves, a call to worship God wakes us up to the fact that we are sojourners and exiles in this world (1 Peter 2:11), that there is one true God, that he deserves to be exalted in our minds, hearts and wills, that he calls us together so that we might build each other up, and that that’s what we’ve gathered to do.”

We have all probably had busy weeks, and we have been tempted to worship so many other things this week, and maybe we have been spiritually lazy this week. If this has been the case with us we probably just need to start by praying to God and asking His forgiveness. We need to race to the cross as Jerry Ediger so often says. I think we need to be reminded of God’s grace. Just this morning I read Jerry Bridges definition of grace: “God’s unmerited favor to those who deserve only His wrath.” My affections were almost immediately stirred when I read that. I was once again reminded that I deserve nothing but the wrath of God, but I was also reminded that God has poured out His unmerited favor upon me. John Stott says that: “Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.”

I think one of the best ways to prepare for worship is just preaching the gospel to ourselves. Maybe we should just go to a familiar passage like Romans 3:23-26 which says:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

John Stott writes this in his commentary on Romans 3: “Justification is the heart of the gospel and unique to Christianity. No other system, ideology or religion proclaims a free forgiveness and a new life to those who have done nothing to deserve it but a lot to deserve judgment instead. On the contrary, all other systems teach some form of self-salvation through good works of religion, righteousness or philanthropy. Christianity, by contrast, is not in its essence a religion at all; it is a gospel, the gospel, good news that God’s grace has turned away his wrath, that God’s Son has died our death and borne our judgment, that God has mercy on the undeserving, and that there is nothing left for us to do, or even contribute. Faith’s only function is to receive what grace offers.”

As we dwell on the gospel we should also pray that God would stir up our affections for Him. We should also be sure to pray for Ian, Erin, and Ben who will be leading us in worship tomorrow. If you could pray for me as I will be doing the confession time I would appreciate it. We should also pray for Mark as he will be opening up God’s Word to us. I believe we will once again look at Galatians 1. The link to the ESV text is below:

Galatians 1

Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. Tomorrow we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. Joni Eareckson Tada said: “Sometimes I know that I come to Communion unprepared, not paying attention to the housecleaning that my heart needs.” Paul says in 1st Corinthians 11:28: “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.” All of our hearts need housecleaning as Joni said before we come to the table. Tim Challies says that: “Our sin should be upon our hearts, but only in such a way that we understand it through the application of the blood of Christ. We must behold Christ broken and behold the ugliness of our sin in the red of the glass of the blood of Jesus Christ.”

David Mathis reminds us that we should not take the Lord’s Supper lightly:

“One of the first things to note is that the Supper is not to be taken lightly. Handling the elements “in an unworthy manner” is the reason Paul gives the Corinthians for “why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Corinthians 11:27–30).

Great things are at stake when the church gathers at the Table of her Lord. Blessing and judgment are in the balance. There is no neutral engagement. Our gospel is “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:15–16). So also the “visible sermon” of the Supper leads from life to life, or death to death. As with gospel preaching, the Table will not leave us unaffected, but either closer to our Savior, or more callous to him.”

Mathis continues with these powerful words: “…the Table gives the church a formal rhythm of remembering and rehearsing that which is of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3), the gospel of Christ’s saving work for us. It helps embed gospel-centrality into the life of the church.

Like baptism, the Supper gives us a divinely authorized dramatization of the gospel, as the Christian receives spiritually — through physical taste, sight, smell, and touch — the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus for sinners. The Table is an act of new-covenant renewal, a repeated rite of continuing fellowship and ongoing perseverance in our embrace of the gospel. It helps us “hold fast to the word” (1 Corinthians 15:2) and “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23)…

Here at the Table, we hear Jesus’s voice, have our Savior’s ear, and commune with his body. We receive afresh his gospel, respond in faith, and knit our hearts together in the bread and cup we share. And in doing so, we look not only to the past and remember what he’s done, and not only to the present and our growing union with him, but also to the future and the full feast to come. “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

“We eat only little bits of bread and drink little cups of wine,” says John Frame (Systematic Theology, 1069), “for we know that our fellowship with Christ in this life cannot begin to compare with the glory that awaits us in him.”

So, after we have spent time doing housecleaning on our hearts, we should spend a greater deal of time focusing on Jesus. Robert Murray M’Cheyne famously said: “Do not take up your time so much with studying your own heart as with studying Christ’s heart. For one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ!” We should as Matthew Henry wisely said: “Take a walk,…by faith and meditation to mount Calvary. There is nothing like it.”

As we prepare our hearts for worship let’s be sure to spend time in prayer. Let’s be sure to pray for Ian and Erin as they will lead us in worship. Let’s also pray for Jerry as he will lead us in a time of confession together. We should also pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark will once again be looking at Galatians 1. The link to the ESV text is below.

Galatians 1

 

Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. The last eight weeks we have considered this quote from Ligon Duncan: “Reflect on and pray through the attributes of God. Consider what makes Him worthy of our worship. Consider yourself, and spend time in confession of sin. Pray that God would prepare your heart to hear the proclamation of His Word.” So, for eight weeks in a row we have looked at a different attribute of God. We have looked at God’s immensity, God’s omniscience, God’s power, God’s patience, God’s grace, God’s holiness, God’s faithfulness, and God’s immutability. This week I want to focus on the mercy of God.

Psalm 145:8-9 tell us: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”

Charles Spurgeon tells us that God: “is gracious, or full of goodness and generosity. He treats creatures with kindness, his subjects with consideration, and his saints favour. His words and ways, his promises and his gifts, his plans…all manifest his grace, or free favour. There is nothing suspicious, diced, morose, tyrannical, or unapproachable in Jehovah,—he is condescending and kind. And full of compassion. To the suffering, the weak, the despondent, he is very pitiful: he feels for them, he feels with them:…What an ocean of compassion there must be since the Infinite God is full of Slow to anger.”

Spurgeon goes on to say that God is a God of great mercy. “This is his attitude towards the guilty. When men at last repent, find pardon awaiting them. Great is their sin, and great is God’s mercy,…for he is good to the greatly guilty.” All of us are greatly guilty before a holy God, but God is ‘good to the greatly guilty.’ We should be stunned by that truth every day of our lives. We should reflect upon the gospel as we prepare our hearts for worship each week. As we reflect on the truth of the gospel “our hearts cannot sit still.” We will be moved with wonder as we reflect on God’s grace and mercy that He has extended to the ‘greatly guilty.’

Titus 3:4-7 would be a great passage to reflect on each week, that says: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” 

The notes in my Bible on these verses from Titus 3 say that: “We are reminded that God and God alone ‘saved us,’ not due to any contribution we make but solely due to his own mercy. We learn that this mercy gives us new birth, or ‘regeneration,’ the total renewal of who we are by the Holy Spirit. We learn that this regeneration washes us―messy sinners get clean not by washing themselves but by being washed by the Spirit, poured out on us (vv. 5-6); we are reminded of the way Jesus himself in his earthly ministry cleansed, with a touch of his hand, those deemed dirty by society (e.g., Matt. 8:3; Mark 1:41). We learn that justification―being declared acquitted and righteous in God’s divine courtroom―is only ‘by his grace’ and makes us not only righteous but heirs, with Christ, of all things through the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7).”

Psalm 103 is another great place to dwell on. The first 12 verses of Psalm 103 tell us:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:10 says that God ‘does not deal with us according to our sins,…’ Jerry Bridges said that when we read this verse we should ask ourselves, what if God did deal with us according to our sins? How terrible that would be! Incomprehensibly though God doesn’t deal with us according to our sins! How is this possible? The answer is that God dealt with all of our sins when he laid our sins on the sinless savior. Isaiah 53:6 famously says: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Verse 10 of Isaiah 53 tells us that: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;” (or bruise him). 

John Piper commenting on verse 10 of Isaiah 53 says: “In other words, it was not for his own sin that the Father bruised him. It was because he wanted to show us mercy. He wanted to forgive and heal and save and rejoice over us with loud singing. But he was righteous. That means his heart was filled with a love for the infinite worth of his own glory. And we were sinners, and that means that our hearts were filled with God-belittling affections. And so to save sinners and at the same time magnify the worth of his glory God lays our sin on Jesus and abandons him to the shame and slaughter of the cross.”

So, as we prepare for worship today and tomorrow let’s be stunned by God’s mercy towards us (the greatly guilty)! Let’s spend time in prayer and let’s just thank God for laying all of our sins on Jesus. Let’s be sure to pray for Ian, Erin, and Molly as they will lead us in worship. Let’s also pray for Jerry as he will lead us in a time of confession. Let’s also pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark I believe will be looking at Galatians 1 again. The link to the ESV text is below.

Galatians 1