GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH, AN EVER – PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE. THEREFORE WE WILL NOT FEAR . . . (Psalm 46: 1)
WELCOME TO OUR FIRST SUNDAY WORSHIP IN 2021.
OPENING HYMN (CH-1) ALL PEOPLE THAT ON EARTH DO DWELL, Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice. Him serve with mirth, His praise forth tell, come ye before Him and rejoice.
Know that the Lord is God indeed; without our aid He did us make; we are His folk, He doth us feed, and for His sheep He doth us take.
O enter then His gates with praise, approach with joy His courts unto: praise, laud, and bless His Name always, for it is seemly so to do.
For why the Lord our God is good, His mercy is for ever sure; His truth at all times firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure.
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the God whom earth and heaven adore, be glory, as it was of old, is now, and shall be evermore. Amen.
LET US PRAY:
LORD OUR GOD, You are our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble, therefore we fear only You. At this first Lord’s Day of the new year of Your grace 2021, we come to worship You and to seek Your Word and Your will in all our ways. We come praying for Your help that we might give ourselves completely to You as we walk through this year. Bless both the gifts we bring and the dedication of our hearts for the help of Your Church and to the glory of Your Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – PSALM 46: 10.
“BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD; I WILL BE EXALTED AMONG THE NATIONS, I WILL BE EXALTED IN THE EARTH.”
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – HEBREWS 1: 1 – 3 ; 10 – 12.
IN THE PAST GOD SPOKE TO OUR FOREFATHERS THROUGH THE PROPHETS AT MANY TIMES AND IN VARIOUS WAYS, BUT IN THESE LAST DAYS HE HAS SPOKEN TO US BY HIS SON, WHOM HE APPOINTED HEIR OF ALL THINGS, AND THROUGH WHOM HE MADE THE UNIVERSE. THE SON IS THE RADIANCE OF GOD’S GLORY AND THE EXACT REPRESENTATION OF HIS BEING, SUSTAINING ALL THINGS BY HIS POWERFUL WORD. AFTER HE HAD PROVIDED PURIFICATION FOR SINS, HE SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE MAJESTY IN HEAVEN… “IN THE BEGINNING, O LORD, YOU LAID THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORK OF YOUR HANDS. THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; THEY WILL ALL WEAR OUT LIKE A GARMENT. YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP LIKE A ROBE; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL BE CHANGED. BUT YOU REMAIN THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NEVER END”.
The Bible is God’s Word. Millions have had their lives changed by its message. Many attempts have been made to destroy the Bible, but all have failed. Let me remind you just two of these attempts. In AD 303 Diocletian, emperor of the Roman Empire, set out to destroy all of the Bibles in the land together with the people who possessed them. He believed that Christians could not exist apart from the book they claimed as their rule of faith. Tens of thousands of Christians were cruelly martyred. Then Diocletian felt so successful that he erected a monument over a burned Bible with the inscription Extincto Nomine Christianorum (The name: Christian is extinguished). Yet by AD 313, the next emperor, Constantine, winning a major battle under the sign of the CROSS, became a Christian, and declared Christianity the Religion of the Roman Empire… In AD 1987, one of the members here in our church at that time, offered me a toilet-paper roll with traces of Bible-verses still readable on it. Thousands of Bibles were turned into toilet paper by a Communist regime to fulfil their goal to close down Christianity completely. Yet by 1990, the new president proudly declared in his New Year’s speech that Romania had become a Christian country again. A Latin proverb says, Sic transit gloria mundi (This is the changing glory of the world).
The Bible remains the ULTIMATE WORD OF GOD, not because of some magical power, but because of the RISEN CHRIST, who was, and is, the living WORD OF GOD in us, and for us in AD 2021, and for evermore. In Him is to be found the Happy New Year we aim for.
- – GOD’S ULTIMATE WORD OF COMMUNICATION. (Hebrews 1: 1) Ever since the Garden of Eden, God has sought to communicate to His people the Message of Life. The Bible is not only a record of God’s WORD, but in itself a part of God’s COMMUNICATION. People can discover many things about the created universe, but only God can reveal to people the spiritual truth about the secret of LIFE. In revealing Himself to us, God had to take a primitively simple people, and lead them a step at a time. Sin had so blinded the minds of people that God could reveal only a small portion – through the prophets at many times and in various ways – of His Truth. The Old Testament prophets were like people putting together a giant puzzle. Here and there God handed to them a piece of the picture. Each fragment was accurate but was only a part of the TRUTH. The final shape of the picture was given through the coming of Jesus Christ. Everything else remained in fragmentary form until Christ came to give unity to the picture and fullness to the prophecies. The Old Testament prophets were only God’s messengers, but to turn your eyes upon Jesus is to look at God, and understand in human terms His Message of Life, through the Word that became flesh for us.
- – GOD’S ULTIMATE WORD IN SALVATION. (Hebrews 1: 2 – 3) Where SALVATION of the soul is concerned, Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Word of God. Prior to Jesus’ coming the people believed in the promise of a Saviour Messiah; since Jesus came, we are offered the experience of Salvation through faith in the revealed Saviour. Christ is truly God in Flesh, the radiance of God’s glory. (Verse 3). The word “RADIANCE” depicts it as Light shining through the darkness (John 1: 5). Jesus is DIVINE, and for a brief moment during His earthly life – on the Mount of Transfiguration – the divine radiance shone through as the exact representation of (God’s) being (Verse 3). The writer of Hebrews is saying that Jesus Christ is the exact reproduction of God’s essence – God’s being. We have Christ pictured here as being the REDEEMER: – After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (Verse 3). Christ personally effected the removal of our GUILT. He provided cleansing from our sins. Here the idea of His High-priesthood is introduced. We need no other high priest; no one but Christ can remove the stain of guilt from our souls. Jesus Christ is God’s Ultimate Word on what people can do about sin. Simon Peter realized this truth, answering the Lord’s question as to whether the disciples would also leave Him: – Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE. (John 6: 68).
- – GOD’S ULTIMATE WORD IN EXALTATION. (Hebrews 1: 3) When Jesus came in flesh, the people of the Old Testament were anticipating a conquering Messiah who would free them from their Roman captors. Jesus tried to make clear to His disciples that His Kingdom was not an earthly monarchy. There will be a final triumph – a FINAL EXALTATION – and again Jesus will be God’s Ultimate Word in it. This final exaltation will come when the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command … (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Of course, Christ was exalted following His Resurrection when He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, but His exaltation will not be fully manifested until His Return. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it like this: – In the beginning, O Lord, You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end. (Verses 10-12). Heaven and earth, as we know them, will grow old. Christ will roll them up as one rolls up an old garment and lays it aside to be worn no more. Heaven and earth, as we know them, will be exchanged for new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21: 1). Scientists have set forth what is called the Second law of thermo – dynamics, the belief that the Universe is gradually losing heat and is slowly running down. The Bible says it more poetically by describing the universe of God’s Creation as an old garment that gradually is becoming worn out. In the face of such prospects, God promises an ULTIMATE EXALTATION; – the kingdoms of the world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever (Revelation 11: 15). All, because Jesus is the SON OF GOD.
James V of Scotland often travelled about his kingdom in disguise in order to acquaint himself with the real needs of his people. He disguised himself as a farmer and went under the name of “The Good Man of Ballengiech”. Over the years, he developed close friendships with humble people who never dreamed that he was the king. During one of his disguised travels, the king was befriended by a poor countryman who risked his own life to become the king’s friend. Later the same countryman was summoned to Stirling Castle where the king kept his mid-winter court. Naturally the poor fellow was horrified, because in those days to be summoned to the king’s court usually meant to be condemned for some crime. Little did the poor man know that the king before whom he was to appear was one and the same with “The Good Man of Ballengiech.” Imagine the surprise on the face of the poor countryman when he looked up into the eyes of the one sitting on the throne, fearing that he would hear a condemnation of death, and seeing that the king was in reality an old friend. The summons to the king’s court was not for condemnation but for reward ( from: – James Hastings, The Epistle to the Hebrews).
Jesus comes to us in much the same manner. He came among us as one of us to become both our Friend and Lord. He came as God’s ULTIMATE WORD to us, who is always coming with love, and ever present to help in need and trouble. We don’t know what lies ahead, therefore we are offered today to take with us for our journey into AD 2021: God’s COMMUNICATION with us through His WORD from our Bibles, God’s ULTIMATE WORD OF SALVATION given to us in His Son, Jesus Christ, and the promise of the ULTIMATE EXALTATION through our Risen Lord, who shall reign for ever and ever. AMEN.
A NEW YEAR’S POEM
Instead of making a New Year’s resolution
Consider committing to a biblical solution
Your promises are easily broken
Empty words, though earnestly spoken
But God’s Word transforms the soul
As you spend time alone with Him
He will change you from within.
LET US PRAY:
LIVING AND LOVING GOD, we come to You at the start of another year with thanksgiving for all Your blessings given to us in the past year, but also with fear of the unknown that lies ahead. Lead us, and help us to hear Your word, and see Your hand at work. Teach us, and guide us to know Your will. Send us on our way and help us to walk by faith, in the knowledge that, as You have been with us in the years gone by, so You will be with us in the days ahead. Though life may not work out as we wish, Lord, offering quite the things we hope for; though it may bring tears as well as laughter, dismay besides delight, teach us, whatever the future may hold, to remember that You will be there by our side, able to lead us from the old to the new. As we come to You at this time of new beginnings, we are reminded of those who feel, the future holds no promise, those who struggle with burdens to which they can see no solution. We pray for those facing pressures: relationships strained between husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister – patience stretched to breaking point both in our country and all over in the world because of Covid-19 Coronavirus’ mutations. We pray for those facing pressures at work: overwhelmed by responsibilities, troubled by job insecurity, or simply unhappy of what life offers. Be with those who face pressures of health, crushed by depression, wrestling with infirmity as years go by, or living with the knowledge of terminal illness. Bless Her Majesty the Queen, and all the leaders of the world, with wisdom and goodwill. Bless Your Christian Church Universal in all its branches; our Church of Scotland in all its presbyteries and parishes, and all our sisters and brothers in our congregation. Be with everyone of us living here on this island, in our country and all over in the world. Keep in Your care and blessing all our loved ones, wherever they are, and be with all those whom we now quietly name in our hearts… and bless this new year of Your Grace given to us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-24) – GOD IS OUR REFUGE and our strength, in straits a present aid; therefore, although the earth remove, we will not be afraid:
Though hills amidst the seas be cast; though waters roaring make, and troubled be; yea, though the hills by swelling seas do shake.
A river is, whose streams make glad the city of our God, the holy place, wherein the Lord Most High hath His abode.
God in the midst of her doth dwell; nothing shall her remove: God unto her an helper will, and that right early, prove.
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the God whom we adore, be glory, as it was, and is, and shall be evermore. Amen.
MAY THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL ( IN THIS NEW YEAR).