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Guide to Christian Living for the New Year (partial recording)

December 27, 2020 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Joshua 1:1–15,

Note: The entire recording is not available. An outline of the sermon has been provided to help fill in the missing portion.

Review: Where is Your Hope?       Isaiah 1:1-15

Last week we asked and attempted to answer the question:

“Where is your hope?”

In answering this question, we looked at one of the most common tendencies among Christians – which is the sin of Nadab and Abihu.

The offering of strange fire.

Instead of searching the Scriptures to discover what and how a Holy and Righteous God requires to be worshipped, churches and Christians take it upon themselves to invent and expand and change and modify….

Somehow thinking that God Himself isn’t capable of deciding just how He wants to be worshipped

As a result of this continual, incessant tendency, we now see that the Churches in this land have come under the judgement of God.

Just yesterday, again, Los Angeles County Health Officials Urged People Not to Attend Indoor Church Services.

But rest assured, you can still go to the grocery store, the gun store, the drug stores, order take-out, and the riots and the demonstrations….just don’t take part in the one activity which might lead to the salvation of your soul!

We reviewed passages in Isaiah, Judges, Nehemiah depicting similar judgements God visited upon the Israelites as we are currently experiencing now.

We spoke about the driver behind all of this as being our own sin and our own desire to find fulfillment and happiness and comfort NOW, according to our timetable…forget God’s timetable…we want it now. We are our own god.

But then we reminded ourselves that hope is not lost.

  • We don’t have to make ourselves feed good.
  • We don’t have to cling to the paltry offerings from the government for hope.
  • We don’t need stimulus checks – the church should take care of its own.
  • We don’t need to swallow the false facts the media is feeding us so that we can feel “safe” if we just do what they say.
  • We don’t need to close the church doors.
  • We don’t need to be afraid and buy into the fear that is constantly on the news.
  • We don’t need to invent holy days and rituals in an effort to make us feel closer to God.

What we need is to return to God.

What we need is to trust in God, place our faith in Christ.

This life, the life that we have, exists only because God so decreed.

Our life ---- Your life ---- My life ---- all life belongs to God.

He has given us everything we need to live a life that glorifies Him.

Trust in Him ---- and not in yourselves.

Resist the world.

Resist the culture.

God didn’t reward Nadab and Abihu through their use of unapproved means and He won’t award us either.

And He won’t reward you either.


So what are we to do?

  • We are to live for Christ.
    • Not ourselves.
      • But Christ.

“I’m already doing that”, you might respond.

But are you?

Have you really renounced the world and it’s trappings?

  • Or do you still look to the TV and the News and the Media to decide how you are going to live your life or whether or not you are going to worry?
  • Are you still clinging to the bits of hope the government is dripping out?
  • Are you still thinking that salvation is going to come through the frenzied development of a DNA-altering viral treatment?
  • Are you still clinging to the belief that a mask with holes ten times larger that the largest virus particle is going to protect you?

Are you still clinging to the belief that social distancing is going to save you?

Ask yourself this question:

If doing what the media tells us – to wear a mask and keep your distance is really going to protect us, then why are they keeping small businesses and restaurants closed?

Aren’t we protected? Aren’t we now “safe”?

The fact is – they don’t really care about keeping you safe.

The fact is – they don’t really care about the truth.

There is only one place that we can go to find truth – absolute truth.

Truth that doesn’t change.      Truth that never changes.

And that is the God of the Scriptures.

  • Not the God in your mind.
  • Not the God of this world.
  • Not the God of the media.
  • Not the God of your tradition.

But the God of the Scriptures. To Christ and to Him Alone.

  • Be careful, remember how deceitful sin can be.
  • It can make you think you are perfectly fine and fully obedient.
  • It is deceitful and tricky and conniving…if you think you are ok, chances are you aren’t.

As we prepare to enter the new year, let’s all agree – together – to return to our Lord God. To return to the God of the Scriptures and not the god that has been refashioned for us by the culture….by the slow drift of our own strange fire.

This is a good saying:

That which we do which glorifies God

serves to build up our faith and strengthen Christianity.

That which we do which does not glorify God

serves to weaken our faith and undermine Christianity.

And how are we to determine what glorifies God?

  • The answer is easy …. Turn to the Scriptures.

And that is what we are going to do today – we are going to review principles for godly living so that we might start this new year off on the right “foot”

Be Strong and Courageous

Turn with me to Joshua, chapter 1 as we read verses 1-9

Hear Now the Infallible, Inerrant, and Inspired Word of God.

May God add His blessing to the reading and the hearing of His Holy Word.

First Principle: Obey the Scriptures (verse 7)

Do you remember our review and teachings on the Doctrine of Scripture?

  1. God caused the Scriptures to be written for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh and the malice of Satan?
  2. And, the supreme judge of all controversies of religion, decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men are to be examined and in whose sentence we are to rest can be none other than the Scriptures.

Observe and Do All According to the Law

Therefore: We must obey the Scriptures as our supreme authority.

God expressly forbids us to add anything unto or to diminish from his word:

  • “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it” (Dt. 4:2);
  • “but though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8);
  • “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away anything, God shall take away his part out of the book of life” (Rev. 22:18, 19).

All doctrinal traditions besides the Scriptures are rejected

Wherefore the Lord said,

Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth,

And with their lips do honor me,

But have removed their heart far from me,

And their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Is 29:13–14. (Is. 29:13).

  • “In vain they do worship me, teaching the doctrines and commandments of men” (Mt. 15:4, 9).
  • Believers are called to the law and the testimony (Is. 8:20) and destruction is announced against those who do not speak according to it.

Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left…

The Book Shall Not Depart Out of Thy Mouth

And, how are we to know if we are turning from the right hand or to the left?

That answer is given to Joshua in verse 8

Second Principle: Read the Scriptures (verse 8)

We are to meditate upon it, day and night.

Not just read it out of habit or to confirm our own bias:

  • but to study it
  • to seek to align our lives and behaviors according to it
  • to conform to it

Cautions While Reading the Scriptures

Caution #1: The liberty of reading the Scriptures does not take away either oral instruction or pastoral direction or other helps necessary to understanding.

Caution #2: Exercise caution when reading that you do not allow yourself to color the meaning of the words as written.

Here is how Calvin described this in his Institutes:

Many, while possessed of right intention, sometimes imagine themselves to be wiser than they ought, and hence either overlook many things through carelessness, or mix up their own counsels with the divine commands.

The general prohibition, therefore, contained in the Law, forbidding all men to add to it or detract from it, God now specially enforces on Joshua.

But if this great man needed this curb of modesty that he might not overstep his limits, how intolerable the audacity if we, who fall so far short of him, arrogate to ourselves greater license?

Now, look at the end of both verses 7 and 8. What is promised?

Two Things:

  1. That thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest; and
  2. That thou shalt have good success.

Expected Results

Do you see how all these things are joined together?

Both of these verses enjoin us to not only keep the law in our mouths but also to obey it – lets we become like those that honor God with our lips but keep hour hearts far from Him.

Additionally, it is noted that only those which keep and obey the Words of God can hope for enduring success.

  • While it may seem like you are successful for a time…
  • While it may seem like the godless and the wicked are successful for a time…

But only by reading, studying, keeping, and obeying can one have real success.

That only  through obedience can one grow in faith.

Again in the words of Calvin:

This passage also teaches that nothing is more effectual to produce confidence than when trusting to the call and the command of God, and feeling fully assured of it in our own conscience, we follow whithersoever he is pleased to lead.

Now to wrap this up, let us remind ourselves of everything we’ve studied for the past year.

We spent several  months studying the Doctrine of Scripture.

We have learned the importance of and the authority in Scripture

We have learned that it is the very Word of God and that there is no higher authority than God

Next Steps

We spent a similar several months studying the Doctrine of God

We have learned and grown in our understanding of Who He is by studying His attributes

We have learned and have grown in our love for Him and love for His people

We have learned that we need to become a people united to each other through God

We developed a mnemonic to help understand the world around us:

  • A – attributes of God
  • B - bible
  • C – Confession (also, the church)

Let’s review…

A – Attributes of God

Always interpret the word around in light of what you have learned about the attributes of God.

How does it accord with what you know of God’s

  • Sovereignty
  • Veracity
  • Wisdom
  • Holiness
  • Immutability
  • Omniscience
  • Eternality
  • Omnipotence

B – Bible

Remember the only place we can go to find absolute truth.

The Scriptures are the very Words, the very Breath of God.

To live a life that glorifies God, and therefore strengthens our faith, we must read and obey the Scriptures.

C – Confession

We learned that the confession is subordinate to the Scriptures.

We also learned that the confession helps to provide a systematic, wholistic view of the Scriptures.

They can also help keep us from error and misinterpret/ misapply the text.

(Included in this is also the church. We must not underestimate the value of the visible church to the believer…it is a gift from Christ – Eph. 4:8)

Reading Plan

I plan to start reading through the Bible in a year again this year.

I encourage you to do the same.

There is a reading plan in the bulletin which is an adaptation of McCheyne’s reading plan.

          Added to it are readings from our Confession and Larger Catechism.

Let’s together, commit to reading through the Bible again this year.

Let’s start this year off right by giving the priority to the Scriptures as we ought.

Not only are we commanded to read and meditate upon the Scriptures, we are commanded to obey them – and how can we obey if we don’t know the Scripture.

Let’s follow the warning and advice given to Joshua…let us follow our God.


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