New City Catechism – Week 1

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Personal/Family
Worship Guide
“All Creatures of Our God and King”
(Hymn #11 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q1: What is our only hope in life and death?

A1: That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

Hope is our capacity to set our desires on future potential outcomes.  People hope for a great many things, but what they hope for is always related to what their heart loves.

When we come to Jesus Christ and the gospel, we don’t change our definition of hope. Hope is still our capacity to set our desires on future outcomes. What changes is not the definition. Rather, the goal of the hope changes.

Before we come to Christ, we may hope for things to bring us future happiness. Some of them are morally neutral and some are morally wrong. When we come to Christ, our greatest and truest hope is set upon Him. Our desires for future happiness are set on His love, His glory, being fruitful for Him, pleasing Him and sharing in His grace and fellowship forever.

The power of our hope also changes. Before Christ, our hopes are shaky and full of anxiety. We are anxious we won’t get what we want. We fear that something, someone, fate, chance or enemies will keep us from our hearts’ desires.

For the believer, hope is stronger than life and death itself. Our hope is fixed upon God’s unshakeable promises in Christ. “So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain” (Heb 6:18-19).

Because the focus of our hope is no longer our own kingdoms and earthly pleasures, the whole course of the Christian life is redirected. We do not live for ourselves (Romans 14:7-8).  Our definition of success changes.  The essential hope that animates us is not how can I gain this or that for my pleasures, but how can my life please and glorify the one who saved me.

Ponder these questions. “Have I truly come to the place that my hope is set upon the Lord above all else”? Then ask yourself, “does this fundamentally change how I live my life?” “Do I belong to him or myself?”

-Pastor Jay

The Best Light of Christmas

Pastor Jay preaches on John with this week’s sermon “The Best Light of Christmas” from John 8:12.

John 8:12 (ESV)

Dispute Over Jesus’ Testimony

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is the Christmas light that truly matters.

  • He is the very presence of God’s glory with his people.
  • He is the hope of the nations.
  • Jesus is also the way of eternal life.
  • He is one who destroys the darkness.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Share about what you love about Christmas.
  • Why do we celebrate Jesus at Christmas?
  • What did Jesus do for us through His birth and eventual death and resurrection?
  • How are we able to now have hope in Jesus?

Saved to the Uttermost

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “Saved to the Uttermost” from Hebrews 7:20-28.

Hebrews 7:20-28 (ESV)

And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind:  ‘You are a priest forever.’” Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Jesus is able to save us completely!

  • He is able by an oath of the Lord.
  • He is able because he continues forever.
  • He is able because he lives to make intercession for us.
  • He is able because he is holy.
  • He is able because he brings the perfect sacrifice.
  • He is able because He is the perfect, eternal son.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Share about a time when someone has saved you.
  • What does Jesus save us from?
  • How did you feel knowing that Jesus is always there for you?
  • If Jesus is sinless, then why is Jesus able to understand the temptations that we face?

A Better Hope

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “A Better Hope” from Hebrews 7:11-19.

Hebrews 7:11-19 (ESV)

Jesus Like Melchizedek

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

We needed a new high priest.

  • We needed one who is effective.
  • We needed a high priest who is alive.
  • We needed a high priest who brings a better hope.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Share about what you find the most hope in.
  • Why is the law not able to bring perfection to humanity?
  • How did Jesus become a high priest?
  • In what ways does Jesus help us to draw near to God?

2017 – A Year of Learning (The New City Catechism)

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What is the value of knowing God’s truth, of recognizing biblical teaching from error, or of gaining a sweeping grasp of biblical doctrine? If you can answer that, you can probably guess the value of a good catechism.

A catechism is a tool to instruct Christians in the basic beliefs of the Christian faith. In an easy question and answer format, a catechism lays a systematic foundation of biblical doctrine.

For many years, churches used catechisms with the young to form that foundation early. For a variety of reasons, many evangelical churches were wary of the approach. Perhaps it seemed too connected to infant baptism and what was seen as “dead ritual.”

In place of deep saturation in biblical doctrine, our churches have often trained our children in a piecemeal approach lacking a comprehensive predetermined roadmap. In His book on the subject, J.I.Packer writes, “We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they should feel about it.”

Maybe Packer overstates the case to make a point, but there is some force to what he is saying.  The average Evangelical church has no consistent practice in place to instill the simple rudiments of orthodox, biblical doctrine.

The New City Catechism is a tool that has recently become available to the church. It is a free, web-based catechism that you can access at http://www.newcitycatechism.com. There is a browser version as well as an app for iPad.

We are encouraging our people at Grace to make 2017 a year of learning. The catechism is divided into 52 short questions and answers that can be memorized, discussed and built upon. Families will benefit by having the adults and children work through each week’s Q&A together. Set aside a few moments at mealtime to rehearse the questions. Consider having family devotions a couple times a week to go more in depth. Home school families could potentially build it into part of their lesson plan.

We hope you will consider this as a challenge to solidify your grasp of basic Christian doctrine and to pass it on to others. We will make various resources available to encourage you along the way.

Surprising Greatness

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “Surprising Greatness” from Hebrews 7:1-10.

Hebrews 7:1-10 (ESV)

Melchizedek the Priest

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.

See how great he is!

  • Jesus is great, because he blesses God’s people.
  • Jesus is great, because he deserves our devotion.
  • Jesus is great, because he is the king of righteousness and peace.
  • Jesus is great, because he is eternal.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Share about a time when someone has shown you an undeserved kindness.
  • In what ways has Jesus blessed the people of God?
  • Why is Jesus deserving of our devotion?
  • What does it mean when we say that Jesus is eternal?