New City Catechism – Week 40

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“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”
(Hymn #80 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q40: What should we pray?

A40: The whole Word of God directs and inspires us in what we should pray, including the prayer Jesus himself taught us.

When we first read the question as written, we would be tempted to start listing all the kinds of prayers, supplications, and examples of prayer provided in the scripture. We would want to go immediately to the Lord’s Prayer, and look at each part.

But the question is intended to be even more basic than that. (We will look at the Lord’s Prayer next week.) The question, “what should we pray” is asking, what is it that should regulate, inform, direct and inspire how we pray.  The Word of God should direct us.

If prayer is simply asking God for whatever we desire, our prayers could be so selfishly motivated or even sinfully motivated that God would not hear us. (James 4:3) The content of such prayers, the attitude, and motives could be completely contrary to God’s design.

Instead, we look to God’s revelation to us, the Bible, to understand the one to whom we’re praying, how He ought to be addressed, what requests He encourages, and to understand His will. We let God by His Word conform even our praying to His understanding and not our own.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Praying in this way does not remove the humanity of our prayers, nor turn them into a vain repetition. Our prayers will still flow freely from our hearts. They will, however, hew to the scripture and be more likely to conform us to Him in the process of praying.

-Pastor Jay

New City Catechism – Week 39

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“Have Thine Own Way” View question on
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Q39: With what attitude should we pray?

A39: With love, perseverance, and gratefulness; in humble submission to God’s will, knowing that, for the sake of Christ, he always hears our prayers.

It’s easy to narrow people down to two groups. Those who like “ABC” and those who don’t. You can substitute almost anything for “ABC”. People who like to read and those who don’t. People who like jazz music and those who don’t. There are endless examples.

When it comes to kids, it’s no different. For example: those who ask the right way and those who don’t. Some kids have learned how to ask or have been taught how to ask. They approach the request carefully, making sure they don’t do it at a wrong time, or more importantly, ask for something which they know isn’t possibly going to happen (too much money, etc.). Then you have the other kind of child. They either haven’t been taught or simply don’t care about the timing or the request itself. In fact, it doesn’t feel like an entreaty. It’s more of a demand. There’s no tact, humility, or even gratitude.

Sometimes, I find myself praying like the second child. I don’t do it intentionally. I forget who I’m talking to. Paul tells us to pray with some guidelines in Philippians 4:6. The overall idea is four-fold.

First, we pray in love. We love God for who he is, not just for what he’s capable of doing for us. We lovingly turn to him because we know he is the ultimate Provider. Second, we pray with perseverance. I’m reminded of the parable Jesus told about the woman who was insistent before the judge (Luke 18). She wasn’t rude. There’s a difference between persistent and annoying.

Third, we pray with gratefulness. Whether we receive the answer we hoped for or not, we pray to a God who always listens and is always in control. It’s never easy to see prayer answered in a way we might not agree with. But there is a comfort in knowing he’s still in control. Sometimes, the loving parent doesn’t say “yes” to a child’s request because there’s something the child is unaware of.

Finally, we pray according to his will. Jesus gave a great example of this in the garden the night he was betrayed. He was honest with the Father. He wasn’t looking forward to the cross, but he was obedient and wanted to accomplish the Father’s will above all.

-Pastor Jon

The Sin Reality Check

Pastor Jay continues the series on War of the World – A Training Manual for “My Little Children”, with this week’s sermon “The Sin Reality Check” from 1 John 1:5-2:1.

1 John 1:5-2:1 (ESV)

Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Christ Our Advocate

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

We need to check the reality of our faith by considering our relationship to sin.

  • There are those who claim to have fellowship with the Lord but whose relationship to sin reveals that they are not in fellowship with Him.
    • We walk in darkness.
    • We deceive ourselves and say we have no sin.
    • We make God out to be a liar by saying we have not sinned.
    • We lie and do not practice the truth.
    • We have not the truth in us.
    • We have not the word in us.
  • There are those who claim fellowship with the Lord, whose relationship to sin reveals they are in fellowship with him.
    • We walk in the light as He is in the light.
    • We confess our sins.
    • We seek to not sin.
    • We have fellowship in the church and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us.
    • We have forgiveness and cleansing of sin.
    • We have an advocate with the Father.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What should a true Christian do with sin?
  • What are ways we know that we are in fellowship with the Lord?
  • What are attitudes that show we are not followers of Christ?
  • What are we saying about God if we ignore or deny our sin(s)?
  • What comforts do we have if we walk in light?

New City Catechism – Week 38

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“Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul”
(Hymn #52 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q38: What is prayer?

A38: Prayer is pouring out our hearts to God in praise, petition, confession of sin, and thanksgiving.

On one hand, prayer seems like it would be simple. And it can be: we are talking to God, “pouring out our hearts,” as Psalm 62:8 says. However, sometimes what should be a simple and natural activity can become difficult and strained. Our minds wander. We struggle to know what to say. Or we fall into prayer “ruts” where we are praying the same phrases over and over.

Our catechism this week can help with the content of our prayers. It gives four main categories, or components of prayer. I have often seen these same four categories represented with an easy-to-remember acronym: ACTS. These letters stand for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.

A – Adoration. It is a good habit to begin our prayers with intentional worship of God. It helps us to remember that he is the focus of our prayers, not us, and that in prayer we have an audience with the glorious, powerful, majestic God of the universe. Sometimes I try to think of one specific attribute of God (eternal, all-powerful, wise, loving, just) and use that as the focus of my prayers of adoration.

C – Confession. Our worship of God exposes the vast difference between his holiness and our sinful hearts. It is appropriate to spend regular time in prayer searching our hearts to confess sin before God. Don’t move too quickly through this portion of prayer, ask God to reveal subtle attitudes or thoughts that are not pleasing to him (Psalm 139:23-24).

T – Thanksgiving. It’s not just for the fourth Thursday of November. C.J. Mahaney reminds us that we are always “better than we deserve.” This aspect of prayer is important not just to acknowledge God’s many blessings, but also to remind ourselves of them (Psalm 103:1-5). In fact, by spending deliberate time thanking God, we may find a different perspective on the things we will ask him for.

S – Supplication. This simply means that point in prayer where we bring requests to God. Pray for things that are heavy on your heart. Pray for the sick and the hurting. Pray for your lost friends, neighbors and co-workers. Pray for the persecuted church and the global advance of the gospel.

There is nothing magical about any formula for prayer, and if you find the ACTS model helpful, don’t feel like you must include every element every single time you pray. However, it can be a help to make sure our prayers don’t just become a laundry list of requests, or meaningless repetition. God delights in the prayers of his people (Proverbs 15:8), let’s enjoy the wonderful privilege we have to speak to him.

-Pastor Jonathan

We Happy Few

Pastor Jay starts the series on War of the World – A Training Manual for “My Little Children”, with this week’s sermon “We Happy Few” from 1 John 1:1-4.

1 John 1:1-4 (ESV)

The Word of Life

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Rejoice that you are included in the fellowship of Jesus Christ, the word of life.

  • Rejoice because the word of life is real.
  • Rejoice because the word of life has been testified to reliably.
  • Rejoice because eternal life was proclaimed to you in the gospel.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • How do we know that the gospel is true according to our text?
  • What do we know is true concerning Jesus in this text?
  • Who we are and what do we have according to this text?
  • What is our reason for joy?

The Log in Our Eye

Pastor Jay continues the series on Owning His Peace, with this week’s sermon “The Log in Our Eye” from 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (ESV)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

We must repent of the sins that rob us of peace.

  • We need to repent of pride.
  • We need to repent of envy.
  • Repent of selfishness.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • How do pride, envy and selfishness work against the peace of Christ?
  • What does it mean to repent of these sins?
  • What does not being selfish look like? How can we follow Christ and overcome selfishness?

New City Catechism – Week 37

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“Spirit of God”
(Sovereign Grace Music)
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Q37: How does the Holy Spirit help us?

A37: The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, comforts us, guides us, gives us spiritual gifts and the desire to obey God; and he enables us to pray and to understand God’s Word.

The question, “how does the Holy Spirit help us”, is worded in a very biblical way. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever”  (John 14:16). A few verses later we realize that our helper is the Holy Spirit, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). Yes, as the helper, sent by Christ, he helps. But how?

The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin. This is stated in John 16:8. This was evident on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came with power upon the church and then Peter preached to the crowds. They were cut to the heart and repented under the preached word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit works in us as we battle sin. Paul says that we are to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit (Romans 8:13).

The Holy Spirit is a comforter. The word “helper” is sometimes translated “comforter.” The word literally speaks of one who comes along side of another to help, aid, advocate for and comfort.  When we are exhausted and do not know how to pray, he helps us by praying for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).

By the Spirit we are fashioned into the image of Christ. The fruits of our faith in Christ are called the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness are all those good things that he works out in us. By Him we grow in Christlikeness, holiness and obedience.

As the one who moved men to write the very words of scripture, (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21) the Holy Spirit is the one who illuminates those words to our hearts and minds. They are words and they are life but they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The Holy Spirit is our helper. He is not an impersonal force, but the third person of the Deity and our constant helper and friend.

-Pastor Jay

Peace in Sovereignty

Pastor Jay continues the series on Owning His Peace, with this week’s sermon “Peace in Sovereignty” from James 4:13-15.

James 4:13-15 (ESV)

Boasting About Tomorrow

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

To own the peace of Christ we must trust the sovereign will of our creator.

  • We must trust His sovereignty over our well-being.
  • We must trust His sovereignty over our plans.
  • We must trust His sovereignty over our glory.
  • We must trust His sovereignty over our happiness.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What is God’s sovereignty?
  • Why should we trust the sovereignty of God over all things in our lives?
  • How do we know that God has our well-being in mind?
  • How does God’s sovereignty insure that we can own the peace of Christ?
  • Does God want our happiness?

New City Catechism – Week 36

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“Wonderful, Merciful Savior”
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Q36: What do we believe about the Holy Spirit?

A36: That he is God, coeternal with the Father and the Son, and that God grants him irrevocably to all who believe.

Two basic questions arise concerning the Holy Spirit.  Who is he and what is he all about? This week we focus on who he is. What do we believe about him?

Simply put, “he is God.” He is God, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. In the book of Acts, when Peter is speaking to Ananias, he says, “…why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)

Peter puts the word “God” in apposition to the person of the “Holy Spirit.” This tells us that the Holy Spirit is God. There are many such scriptures that put the Holy Spirit alongside the names of the Father and the Son.  Jesus commands us for instance to baptize in the name of The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

By saying that he is “coeternal” with the Father, we are affirming that He has always been in the unity of the three. He is not a created being or he would not be God. Just as the scripture says of Christ, the word, that he was in the beginning with God (John 1:2), so we affirm that the Spirit was with the Father and the Son in the beginning as well (Genesis 1:2)

God gives the Spirit to indwell all those who are in Christ. Every believer can be assured that the Spirit dwells within him or her, because God has made this a promise. In Ephesians, Paul writes, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

This gift of His Spirit is irrevocable, which means He will not be taken from us.  His presence is a guarantee that takes us into eternity. Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” (John 14:16).

-Pastor Jay