Psalm 63:2-5 (NIV) 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
The greatest of human pleasures will never fully satisfy us. It is only God and being found in his presence where we experience lasting pleasure.
“The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead, we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God. The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” [John Piper, Desiring God]
Prayer: “Lord, may I be found in you today. Help me to experience afresh your love that is better than life itself! It is only in your presence where I experience a pleasure that truly satisfies. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Let us worship to the song “Wellspring” by Leeland (click here).
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3.21-26)
“God is always loving; the Bible can say that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). But it is mistaken to think of God as always wrathful; there is no passage that affirms that ‘God is wrath.’ Even an affirmation such as ‘God is a consuming fire’ (Heb. 12:29, citing Deut. 4:24) lies within the context of encouraging faithfulness and perseverance, of warning against apostasy, unbelief, and disobedience. In other words, God’s wrath is the response (including an affective element) of his holiness to sin.” (D.A. Carson, “The Wrath of God,” in B. McCormack, Engaging the Doctrine of God, p. 49)
Prayer: Lord, we have heard of your fame; we stand in awe of your deeds. Renew them in our day, make them known in our time; in wrath remember mercy (cf. Habakkuk 3.2). In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s sing “Remember Mercy” (Vineyard). Click here.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matthew 16.26-27)
“But what does it mean to lose our souls? To answer this question, Jesus uses his own solemn imagery—Gehenna (‘hell’ in Mk 9:47 and ten other Gospel texts), the valley outside Jerusalem where rubbish was burned; the worm that dieth not (Mk 9:47), an image, it seems, for the endless dissolution of the personality by a condemning conscience; fire for the agonizing awareness of God’s displeasure; outer darkness for knowledge of the loss, not merely of God, but of all good and of everything that made life seem worth living; gnashing of teeth for self-condemnation and self-loathing.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 267)
Prayer: Lord, as Christians, help us to understand the dreadfulness of being eternally separated from you. While we rejoice in our salvation, give us compassion for those who are headed for eternal destruction. May we urgently present the gospel to them. May your Spirit empower us to minister effectively, that people who hear us may be saved. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished […] The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.
(Nahum 1.2-3a, 7-8)
“God’s love, as the Bible views it, never leads him to foolish, impulsive, immoral actions in the way that its human counterpart too often leads us. And in the same way, God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry where anger is called for. Even among humans, there is such a thing as righteous indignation, though it is, perhaps, rarely found. But all God’s indignation is righteous.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 264)
Prayer: Lord, you are slow to anger but great in power. We trust that you will not leave the guilty unpunished, for you, God, are righteous, holy, just and good! We pray for our friends and neighbors who have yet to trust in Jesus’ salvation. Open their hearts to trust you, to receive your salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s sing “Let There Be Wonder” (Matt Redman). Click here.
“The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3.31-36)
“Each of us faces the temptation to fashion God out of our own image. And a picture of God formed through our experiences of hurt, anger, injustice, or rage is a sad and vindictive one indeed. But this is not the infinite, good God we serve. God’s wrath is not like our wrath, and his ways are not like our own. Throughout Scripture, the need for atonement to be made is likened to a cup of wrath the sinner must consume. As we know, Jesus drank this cup for us. The cross was a remedy, providing for each of us a way to be saved.” (Keith Getty)
Prayer: Father, we rejoice in your love for the Son. You placed everything in his hands. In Jesus we have life! In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s sing “In Christ Alone” (UPPERROOM). Click here.
Let’s read aloud together the following passage, confession and prayer:
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10.28-31 NIV)
“Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker and judge of us all:
We acknowledge and lament our many sins and offenses,
which we have committed by thought, word, and deed
against your divine majesty,
provoking most justly your righteous anger against us.
We are deeply sorry for these our transgressions;
the burden of them is more than we can bear.
Have mercy upon us,
Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
for your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may evermore serve and please you
in newness of life,
to the honor and glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
(Book of Common Prayer, 2019, p. 575)
Prayer: Father in heaven, you loved the world so much that you sent Jesus to save us from the eternal consequences of our sin. We gladly receive your salvation by trusting in Jesus alone. How great is your love! In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s sing “Grace Is On Our Side” (Vertical). Click here.
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night… 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2.6-12)
Most likely we’ve already received a couple of Christmas cards this year with this scene of baby Jesus in a manger. As we look into the face of the newborn sleeping, there’s a sense of peace and calm… as if nothing is wrong with the world. How could we disturb this idyllic setting by talking about the cross and death… especially the death of this divine child! This is exactly what the author does as he repeats a seemingly insignificant description of the infant Jesus being “wrapped in cloths.” Years later, Jesus’ body would once again be wrapped in cloths… as he’s taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb (cf. Luke 23.52-53).
Prayer: Lord, we bow down before you. There is no other response. You are holy! In Jesus’ name, amen.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9.6)
“Jesus is a divine person with a human nature, and in that sense he is different from us, but human persons can relate to the divine because personhood has a relational aspect that is common to us both. As a person, Jesus can take our place and represent us before the judgment seat of his Father. Being divine, he has access to the other persons of the Godhead in a way that we do not. That is why he can be our mediator and reconcile us to God in the way that the Father intended when he sent his Son into the world. Perhaps most important of all, it helps us to understand what Jesus meant when he told Nicodemus that God sent his Son to us out of his deep love for ‘the world.’ This is not an abstract statement about something nebulous called the ‘world,’ but a clear affirmation that God loves those whom he has created in his image and likeness, and that it was out of his love for them that he sent his Son.” (G. Bray, God Is Love, p. 569)
Prayer: Lord, we want to know you. Help us in our weakness. Open up our minds to be able to receive the revelation of who you are in the Scriptures. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s sing “Light of the World (Here I Am to Worship)” (Tim Hughes). Click here
28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:28-32)
“Much of what is taught and celebrated in church life today—creation, incarnation, spirituality—is not always anchored in the preaching of Christ crucified (I Cor. 1:23). We have noted that this can result in a triumphalist form of congregational life that is disconnected from pain, deprivation, and the dehumanization that Jesus suffered. […] The cross can never be merely assumed but must always be interpreted and re-placed at the center. There is a centrifugal force at work in human nature; we want to spin out and away from the offense of the cross. A current tendency is to interpret the incarnation to mean embracing the world just as it is, because the Son of God hallowed the world by becoming flesh—incarnatus est. This, however, can easily become a sentimental evasion of the tension between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be—the life of the world to come, the world that God is going to bring[…]” (F. Rutledge, The Crucifixion, p. 120)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you were born into our world in order to deliver us from sin and death. From the manger to the cross… Lord, we stand amazed. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s sing “Jesus, Only Jesus” (Matt Redman). Click here
31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. […] 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31.31, 33)
“[S]ix centuries before Jesus, the prophet Jeremiah reports that God will make a new covenant with his people […] That means the covenant already in force, the covenant established at Sinai, has become the old covenant. If the Sinai covenant has been declared old, in some sense or other it is becoming obsolete, as it will be replaced by the new covenant. People steeped in such Scriptures could not help but wonder when this new covenant would dawn[…] But we can imagine the excitement, confusion, uncertainty, and hope when, on the very night Jesus was betrayed and went to the cross, he took a cup of wine during the meal he was having with his most intimate followers, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’ (Luke 22:20).” (D.A. Carson, The God Who Is There, p. 105)
Prayer: Lord, may we be filled with wonder and excitement as we realize how far you have come to reach us, to reveal who you are to us, to draw near to us. Thank you for your far-reaching mercy and grace! In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s sing “O Come Let Us Adore Him” (Maverick City/TRIBL). Click here