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The Goodness of God

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good
Genesis 1:31

Have you ever stopped to think just what the adjective “good” means? We use that word today to describe those things that are just mediocre. Those things that are just acceptable are “good.” We reserve words like “excellent,” “super,” “outstanding,” and “great” for those things which are better than good.

And yet, in the book of Genesis, we find that everything God created is described with one simple word: “good.” It was only at the end of the sixth day that God looked at all He had made – the light, the sky, the plants, the animals, man, and said, “They are very good.”

Does this mean that all creation is just acceptable, just passable in God’s eyes? No, I don’t think so!  You see, goodness is one of the attributes of God that refers to the absolute perfection of His nature. God is not only the Greatest of all beings. He is the best. All the goodness there is in any creature has been placed there by the Creator, but God’s goodness is not derived from anyone or anything else. God IS good!

All that comes from God – his creation, His promises, His laws, His decrees, His judgments – cannot be anything other than good. “And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1 :31).

The goodness of God is seen first of all in creation. Everything about the structure of man and the intricacies of this created world attest to the goodness of our Maker! It never ceases to amaze me when I ponder the wonders of human birth – how the cells joins and divide, multiply and grow, developing into a living, breathing, thinking human being created in the image of God.

The goodness of our Creator is not just confined to man.  When God had created the birds of the air, the beasts of the field and the fish in the sea, He pronounced them good. There are those who would have us believe that each animal upon this earth is in the process of developing into a higher life form. Not so! God created all things just the way He wanted them. With infinite wisdom and perfect planning He created all things. God saw all that He had made and it was very good.

The  goodness  of  God  is  seen  in  the  many  natural pleasures which He has provided for His creatures. He could have very easily created food with no taste or flavor, flowers with no color or scent, birds with no melody or song. Instead, we see “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9).

The goodness of God was seen most visibly when He sent His Son “born of woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4). It is through the Gospel of the Good News of God that salvation has appeared to all men.

The goodness of God should be the very life breath of the believer’s trust. It is this attribute of God which most appeals to our hearts. Because His goodness endures forever, we ought never to be discouraged. “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once wrote: “When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good.”

In God’s vocabulary “good” describes the very best anything can be and “very good”
would be equivalent to our “excellent,” “super,” “outstanding,” or “great.”

Let us be thankful that we have a God who is “good.” He doesn’t expect anything from us that He is not. No matter how we describe things well done – whether they are “excellent,”  or  “superior”  or  “outstanding,”  God  will  only  expect  us  to  reflect  His goodness as He one day commends our faithfulness saying, “Well done, my GOOD and faithful servant!”

It is my prayer that you would have a “good” week as you experience God’s “goodness” and grace. “

Blessing and Peace

Pastor Mark

Categories: Christian Living, God, Worship

Preaching: An Act of Worship

March 1, 2011 2 comments

 

 “Hear the word of the Lord,
all you of Judah, who enter by these gates
to worship the Lord!”

Jeremiah 7:2

 

I pray that your Lord’s day was uplifting and that each of you were blessed as you offered yourselves holy and living sacrifices before His throne of grace.

 
I’m sure that many of you have spent long hours contemplating the act of worship –  what it involves . . . why you come before God each Lord’s Day . . . how you are to present yourself to Him, etc., etc.  But have you spent much time thinking about the centrality of the Word during the worship  service?  What  is  the  purpose  of  the  preacher  standing  in  front  of  the congregation?  What is he really doing?  How are we, sitting in the ‘congregation’, supposed to receive his message?  Whose message is it intended to be?

 
I have spent hours over the past 20 years (and will continue to spend much more time)  thinking about just that,   i.e., preaching as as an act of worship. If preaching is not an act of worship then the church will end up worshiping the preacher and what he says rather than worshiping God and what He says.

“When I declare the Word of God I offer sacrifice.”

Martin Luther

 

  “When thou hearest the Word of God with all thy heart, thou dost offer sacrifice . . . Preaching, if not sacramental, is profane.  By this we mean that a true sermon is an act of God, and not a mere performance by man.  In real preaching the speaker is the servant of the word and God speaks and works by the word through his servant’s lips.” 

J. I. Packer and R. J. Coates in their book Beyond the Battle for the Bible

 

The act of preaching is an awesome responsibility. The witness to God, the witness to the church, and the witness to a lost world are all brought together in the proclamation of the Word.  The Pastor is called to be both a prophet in that he proclaims the Word of God and a priest in that he also administers the Word and its sacraments.  Paul viewed his ministry of the gospel as a “priestly ministry.” He used the word latreuo (“priestly service of God”) in Romans 1:9 to describe his ministry of the gospel; and in Romans 15:16, he used leitourgos
which gives us our English word liturgy.  Both words have priestly overtones. (It’s interesting to note that these are these same words used in Revelation 22:3 describing our service before God and the Lamb in the New Heaven and the New Earth!)  Paul viewed his evangelist ministry as that of a priest, bringing the people won to Christ as sacrifices on the altar, to the glory of God.  He sees himself  as “a  minister (leitourgos) of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles,  ministering as a priest offering the sacrifice of the gospel of God, praying that the offering (prosphora, a sacrificial offering) of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16).

What a high and holy view, not only of preaching, but the sacrifice of worship and also of personal evangelism!  When we look at preaching and evangelism as acts of spiritual worship, it ought to change the way the preached Word is heard. It certainly ought to have an impact on the way the Word is preached.  If preaching is an act of worship, then the preacher must not present to God that which has cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).  Malachi reprimanded the priests of his day because they were not giving God their best. They put defiled food on God’s altar and brought sacrifices that were lame and sick (Malachi 1:6-8).

May that never be said of those who teach and stand in the pulpit of Covenant Reformed PCA.  It is my prayer that as we worship each Lord’s Day, as you hear the Word taught and as you hear the Word preached, that each one of you might be brought face to face with the living God through our Lord’s preaching ministry, which is

“an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.”

Westminster Confession of Faith, ShorterCatechism Q. #89

 

May God richly bless you as you serve Him this week through the knowledge of His Son, Our Savior Jesus Christ, and in the power of His Spirit.

In His Service and Yours,

Pastor Mark

The Sacrifice of Worship

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, 
in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Rom. 12:1

 

A couple of young children one day while at home decided they wanted to reenact Noah’s Ark. They found a cardboard box and went into the bathroom. They rounded up all the stuffed animals they could find, put the plug in the bathtub and turned on the shower till the water reached the top of the tub. That was the flood. They stopped the shower.They pulled the plug. The water drained. The flood was over.  They had a good time, but there was a problem. They had learned in their Sunday school class that at the end of the flood Noah presented a sacrifice to God.

The little girl reached over and took one of her brother’s animals saying, “We’ll sacrifice this one.” Immediately her brother responded, “No you won’t. That’s my favorite stuffed animal.” He quickly reached into the box.  Taking one of her animals he said, “We’ll sacrifice this one.” Without hesitation she responded, “No you won’t! Grandma gave me that one. I would never think of giving it up'” After fighting for a moment, the sister ran upstairs. She searched through some old toys. It didn’t take her long. She had found just the right animal for the sacrifice. Bringing a toy sheep that had only three legs, one eye, one ear, and a missing tail she said, “We can sacrifice this one. I don’t need it anymore.”

Sound familiar? Let’s be honest! If you think about it for a moment you can see yourself in that story somewhere. Every one of us at some point in time has come before God in worship and hesitated about giving Him our best. We have all struggled with ourselves about what is appropriate. We have hurriedly searched through our inventory of acceptable gifts and presented to God those things we can live comfortably without.

Noah and his family had just been delivered through an event that had wiped every living creature off the face of the earth. Noah had found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8) so he “in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.” Because of such a great salvation, “Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Gen. 8:20) before the Covenant God of Promise. Noah held back nothing. It was an offering given out of the overflow of a full heart. It was an offering given to express appreciation for a salvation so full and free. There was no holding back.

Giving to God has always been an act of worship. Cain “brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock” (Gen. 4:3-4 NASB). That they brought an offering implies that there was a specific place of worship designated as a designated place of sacrifice.

Sacrificial giving was a part of that worship. Wherever Abraham pitched his tent he built an altar so he might express his faith through worship (Gen. 12:8; 13:17, 18; 26:25). Calling upon the name of the Lord, Abraham offered first fruits and sacrifice before the Lord his Covenant Keeping God. He brought a tenth as he encountered  Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Gen. 14:18-20). This “tenth” was  a token of his gratitude for God’s deliverance. His grandson Jacob continued this  practice of tithing as an act of worship and gratitude (Gen. 28:22) recognizing and proclaiming that all the believer possesses comes from the gracious hand of a God who is Good.

The ritual sacrifices of the tabernacle and the temple give us further illustrations of  the importance of coming before God with an appropriate sacrifice. What was important  about all these offerings was not the gift itself but the gift as the expression of the  self-surrender of the worshiper. This was what was well-pleasing to God. It was the  absolutely essential element of sacrifice. The prophets had to continually remind the children of Israel that sacrificial offerings without the surrender and obedience of the  offerer were an offense to the Lord (Isa. 1 :11; Amos 4:4-6,  etc.)

Going through the motions of worship without a heart that is totally surrendered to the Lord of Worship is still an abomination to Him. Giving Him those things that we can do without, holding back what we think is too precious to part with, giving God what is second best, is an affront to the God who has freely and sacrificially given us all things.

Every  believer  should  realize  that  the  giving  of  an offering to God is an act of pure worship. Any other motive for making an offering is unworthy. That’s why each Lord’s Day morning we emphasize the worship function of the offering we present to Him. I have often reminded those who are gathered to worship that having worshiped the Lord by offering up our prayers, and praise, and adoration, we also have the privilege to worship Him by the giving of our tithes and offerings. And this activity is part of our worship to God.  We don’t tack this on at the end of the worship service.  We don’t put a box at the back door so you can slip something into it as you leave the church.  The tithes are recognition of the sovereign authority of God. As such the offerings are an expression of our deep love and thanksgiving to Him who has given to us such a great salvation, so full and free. They are part of the worship we give to God.   Paul says in Romans 12:1 in view of God’s mercy, that we should offer our bodies as  living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is our spiritual act of worship.

There is no greater incentive to holy living than contemplating the mercies of God. How could we possibly hold back when we consider what great a love our Father has lavished on us through the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ? The only sensible, logical and appropriate response to him in view of his self-giving mercy is that we would offer our bodies totally and completely, worshiping  Him with our minds and hearts every day of our lives, but especially as we come before Him each Lord’s Day to worship with the corporate body, the local church.

May you have a blessed week serving the Lord sacrificially, knowing that a “broken spirit and a contrite heart” He will not despise. 

Give Him the first!  Give Him the best! Give Him your all!

Blessings and Peace to you all,

Pastor Mark

 

Come Let Us Worship . . .

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Guard your steps as you go to the house of God,
and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools….

Ecclesiastes 5:1
 
 
 Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

For the past year and a half I have been preaching through the monumental book of Revelation during our Sunday Morning time of Worship.  I must admit there are many parts of that book that will remain shrouded in mystery until that time when we meet Jesus at his return and are able to ask Him to clarify those things signified in His apocalyptic words.

Oh, there is certainly that promise of blessing to those who read and those who hear and heed the words of this prophecy (Rev. 1:3). Since obedience must follow understanding, we can be assured that there is much within John’s inspired revelatory words that is understandable.

The themes of the sovereignty of God, of Christ as conqueror, and the Spirit’s powerful presence are golden threads running through the crimson fabric of the Lamb’s sacrifice. The theme of worship and honor and glory and praise are woven into that fabric so those who read and hear are able to clearly understand that the highest calling of the saints of all ages is to come before our Triune God bringing uninhibited worship to Him who sits on the throne in sovereign rule and power and authority.

Revelation 4 and 5 remind me of one of those greeting cards that has a message stored on a voice recorder. As we open these two chapters and read the message of encouragement we can also hear the crescendo of voices, first of the four living creatures, then of the twenty four elders, now the harps and the voice of myriad of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels added to the voice of every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them saying:

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

What a glorious encouragement this ought to be to each of us to come before that same throne of grace in a time of corporate worship and adoration with the saints of all ages.

Why is it then that all too often we enter public worship so distracted by worldly concerns? Have you ever found the preacher’s words flying in one ear and out the other, leaving no discernible impression on your mind and heart? Do you find it difficult to concentrate in prayer because your thoughts so easily wander? There is probably not one reading this who has not experienced distraction and coldness of heart in worship and prayer.

The tragedy lies in those who attend church week after week without realizing the vanity of their own worship. They might sense that something is wrong, but instead of looking inward, they seek to blame their lethargy on everything and everyone else. The pastor isn’t interesting enough. The music doesn’t stir their soul. Worship is just not exciting! And on and on ad nauseum…. If these complaints sound familiar, maybe you need to examine your own heart instead of trying to find aesthetic or sentimental satisfaction in those things that are not the essence of worship. It has been said that a church will find true spiritual vitality if only it were gripped by the holiness and the majesty of God in worship.

This is exactly what the Preacher of Ecclesiastes is driving at. He exhorts God’s people to stand in awe of God. Worship should never be entered into with levity or distraction, but with sobriety, humility, and reverence. We ought to enter into God’s presence ready to receive profitable instruction: “Draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil” (Eccl. 5:1b).

David’s psalms are deeply concerned with proper worship: “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those who are around Him” (Ps. 89:7); “Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever” (Ps. 93:5); “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; in fear of You will I worship toward Your holy temple” (Ps. 5:7).

In his treatise on A Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in Worship, Richard Steel (1628 – 1694) describes 12 causes of distraction in our worship of God. The fourth cause he writes is “lukewarmness.” He says, “He that is intense in anything hath few thoughts to spare. Distractions are but the idlings of the heart . He that runs, looks at nothing but the goal, though he meet passengers, or pass by palaces; he is in earnest, and stops for nothing; it is he that walks at leisure who turns his eye to every trifle, and descants on every object, because he is not in haste. Even so the zealous soul, though he forgets not those things which are behind, yet reaching forth to the things that are before, presseth towards the mark; he hath business in hand which concerns eternity, and he cannot stand to whisper with every passenger, nor trifle with every object….Wherefore the apostle, Rom. xii. 11, directs us to be fervent in spirit while we are serving the Lord; not drowsy, but fervent in spirit, or boiling hot, as the word signifies. The busiest flies will not meddle with the scalding honey; though the sweetness entice them, yet the heat terrifies them. The base flies of thy distractions will not molest thy heart if it keep boiling hot in the service of God.”

As you come before the Lord in public worship, set your affections and your full attention on the person of Jesus Christ, who alone sanctifies our worship. Endeavor to rid yourself of vain and worldly thoughts and distractions. Focus on the Lord and not on the inadequacy of the preacher, or the music, or anything else. Be captivated by the holiness of God. Listen to His instruction and discover the glorious blessings of dwelling in His presence.

Martin Luther said that in this day, men approached God “…as if He were a shoe clerk’s apprentice.” If that was true in Luther’s day, how much more true is it in our own? Let’s remember whose presence we enter as we come to worship. Why not begin each Saturday evening. Pray that God would prepare your heart for worship and keep you from being distracted. When you wake each Sunday morning, read Psalm 95 and pray that God would draw you to Himself. Leave for church on time. Fellowship with others when you arrive, but refrain from worldly talk and earthly chatter. Give yourself zealously to the task set before you. Worship God in all His splendor.

Sprinkle all my past sabbaths with the cleansing blood of Jesus,

and may this day witness deep improvement in me.

Give me in rich abundance

the blessings the Lord’s Day was designed to impart;

May my heart be fast bound against worldly thoughts or cares;

Flood my mind with peace beyond understanding;

may my meditations be sweet,

my acts of worship life, liberty, joy,
my drink the streams that flow from your throne,
my food the precious Word,
my defence the shield of faith,
and may my heart be more knit to Jesus. Amen

Blessings and Peace to You All,
Pastor Mark

Categories: Faith, God, Worship Tags: ,