Cornerstone family and friends,
Be encouraged this week by the gospel of Christ: “This is love, not that we loved God; but he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). We love Him only because He first loved us. This is good news – God loved us while we were unlovely: “For you know the love of God, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). That is cause to rejoice!! I pray that you would know that surpassing joy this week – regardless of the outward circumstances in which you may find yourself.
Here are a few announcements to be reminded of:
1. This Sunday we will celebrate the baptism of Jesse Swarts. There will be lunch at the Swarts home following morning worship. Please see the invitation from Aran and Stephanie that was emailed out yesterday.
2. Continue to be in prayer for our Outreach Sunday, April 21. Pray for your unbelieving family, friends, and co-workers; that the Lord would move their heart to join us for worship on April 21.
3. Here is a link to the new issue of “New Horizons,” our denominational magazine. This is an excellent publication with many helpful articles and resources. The latest issue concerns “difficulties having children.” You can also access back issues as well. http://www.opc.org/nh.html
4. Lastly, this week’s devotional is a short reflection from the book of Hebrews on the means God has given to his people to walk in close relationship with him (see below).
Prayer and the Word
Hebrews 4:12, 14, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword … Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God.”
The book of Hebrews is a book about persevering; specifically, persevering in the Christian faith. Throughout its thirteen chapters, the author encourages his readers “to pay close attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it … to consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession … to exhort one another every day … to go on to maturity … not to neglect to meet together … and to run the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (2:1; 3:1; 3:13; 6:1; 10:25; 12:1-2). The first readers of this letter were weary from trial and persecution, and were considering turning away from the faith. And thus the author urges them to persevere, and points them to Christ.
Chapter 4 provides a snapshot into the author’s overall argument. In vv. 1-11, the author compares the present generation of the church, which includes you and me, with the ancient Israelites in the wilderness (see Numbers 13-14; Psalm 78). The wilderness generation saw the mighty miracles of God in delivering them from Egypt, yet they did not enter into the Promised Land … and they did not enter into the Promised Land because of unbelief and disobedience (3:19; 4:2; 4:6). And the author of Hebrews is telling the reader, “Do not be like them. You also have heard the good news (4:2). You also know of a glorious redemption from slavery – redemption from slavery to sin because of Christ. Therefore, may you ‘strive to enter that rest’ (4:11).”
Furthermore, the author of Hebrews is no ivory-tower theologian; rather he understands the hardships and trials that we face in living the Christian life. He does not leave us on our own to figure out how we strive to enter that rest. To put it another way, in vv. 12-16 the author instructs us as to the means to persevere in the Christian faith. And what we find is no magical formula, no gimmicks, no quick fixes, and no 3-step method. What we find – simply put – is the ordinary means of grace, namely the Bible and prayer. First, in v. 12, we are told that the Bible is “living and active”; it is not a dead letter. It is powerful to change hearts and lives – it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16-17). Understanding the power of the Bible causes the psalmist to exclaim, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law … Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:18, 105). And second, in vv. 14-16, we are encouraged to draw near to the Lord in prayer. We can go to the Lord confidently in prayer because he is our sympathetic high priest who was tempted in every way we are, yet without sin (v. 15). To summarize, the only way to persevere in the Christian faith is through close fellowship with our Savior and King – the one who loves us and gave his life for us. And the only way to maintain close fellowship with Christ is through ‘continual communication’ with Christ. We speak to him in prayer, and he speaks to us through his word!
Dear reader, as you strive to be faithful in your walk with Christ, spend time in the word. Love the word, read the word, mediate on the word. Say with the psalmist, “Oh how I love thy law.” And spend time in prayer. Pour out your heart to your Savior. Praise him in prayer. Confess your sins in prayer. And give thanks in prayer. There is no magical formula … but there is power in the word and in prayer!!
– Rev. Robert Arendale