"If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart." Mal 2:2 ESV
Blasphemy is one of the worst possible sins in the Bible. Another passage in the Bible tells us that cursing God was a capital offense. It was punishable by death.
As we see from this verse, failure to honor God’s name results in a direct curse from God. It even says that the blessings God gives will be turned into a curse. We may think of the quail that the Lord gave to the Israelites in the wilderness. The Israelites were failing to give honor to God as the one who had just saved them out of Egypt and they did not recognize his power to sustain. So he gave them quail. But the quail, thought it was a blessing, it was also a curse—it turned into a plague.
So it behooves us to recognize how circumspect we should be when it comes to honoring God’s name and giving him the reverence he is due.
When we think of blasphemy, we typically think of taking God’s name in vain. This is the most direct form. Using God’s name as an expletive not only empties it of its infinite value, but it also uses that which is holy for profane purposes. This is also true of the diminished forms of God’s name, such as “omg” or “gosh” (God) or “geez” (Jesus).
But we must also recognize that God’s name stands for anything which is associated with God himself. So it is not just his names, but his word, worship, attributes, & works.
For instance, when a child draws a picture, you do not criticize the work and say it looks nothing like what he/she was trying to depict. Why? Because you know that you might make that child cry. The criticism of the art is an insult to the artist himself.
The same is true when it comes to God's name. When we disparage anything connected to God (like the weather or some providence He brings our way), it is a criticism of God himself.
So we must be careful to recognize the depths of the third commandment. Did you grumble at the weather this morning? The Lord produced the ice and it is one of his marvelous works. Are you not engaged in the songs you sing or giving attention to the word? That is God's worship & God's word and that flippancy is a form of blasphemy.
I remember one time in Seminary we had a break between classes. A few of us headed to the men’s room. Just as we opened the door, three guys were heading out. We were all chatting in our respective groups, and we almost collided when the door opened. I cried out, “Holy cow!” It just popped out of my mouth as a natural reaction to the close encounter. A terribly awkward silence immediately followed. It was then awkwardly broken by one student saying, “Yes, you have to watch out for those sacred bovine.”
My irreverent use of God’s most grand attribute was certainly brought home.
As we come to our time of confession this morning, let us take to heart the ways we have blasphemed God. Whether it be in the profanities we have uttered, disrespect we have shown, or irreverent attitudes we my have had towards God’s person and work, let us confess them and ask that God hold back the curses he has threatened for it.
You have pledged that you will not hold him guiltless who takes your name in vain. Lord, we confess that we have been a blasphemous people in that we have failed to honor you and uphold your majesty. We admit that have not treated the reading & preaching of your word with the highest esteem.
We acknowledge that we have not been as engaged as we should be. We have let our minds wander in prayer, we have been flippant when approaching the Communion Table, we have spent little time glorifying you and meditating on the wonder of your being.
Our Lord our God, we admit that we have not reverenced you as we ought and we beg your pardon.
Forgive us for having the heart of Esau, who would profane his birthright by selling it for a pot of porridge. Give us grace to overcome the sacrilege of the Israelites who treated the sacred Ark of the Covenant as a superstitious toy. Let us be freed from the attitude of Paul, who kicked against the goads and ignored the testimony of the saints.
O blessed and most merciful Father,
We acknowledge this day our sins and shortcomings before you and confess our having forfeited every right to any and all good. We, by our guilt, have provoked you to anger, incurred your just indignation, and made ourselves liable to your eternal and righteous curse.
Yet, knowing that we deserve not the least of your favors, we humbly as that you would have compassion on us, and, through your infinite goodness and according to the riches of your grace, we pray that you would pardon the bounty of our sins and forgive all our trespasses.
We hold not back the depth and breathed of our evil. We readily confess and grieve the full bounty of it. We, poor sinners that we are have sinned each day, in thought, word, and deed. We have sinned against heaven and against our neighbor. We have sinned both intentionally and unintentionally. We have both by way of omission and commission; having left undone those things which we were commanded to do and having done those things which we were forbidden to do. We have sinned both because of our ignorance and lack of understanding and despite having had the light of nature and the gift of greater revelation.
There is not one commandment that we have not transgressed, and there is not one person within our purview who we have not offended in some way.
And knowing that our sins are so numerous that cannot even begin to be counted, we fly to you and hold only to the precious blood of your dear Son, who gave his life for sinners such as us. We have no grounds to ask even for the least of your favors, except by the cross upon which He died. Indeed, we would hold our tongues and submit to the just penalties of our condemnation had it not been for the gospel and the promise we have by it for full and complete reconciliation.
So God, with the hope of salvation that has been procured for us by our Friend and Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray that we might be restored to a right relationship with you. We trust that you will blot out all our sins and cast them as far as the east is to the west, never to be remembered again or counted against us.
We put our hope in your promise that you will cleanse us and fill us with the strengthening power of your Holy Spirit. And we look to you not just for the renewal in righteousness that we so desperately need, but also for the further affirmation of your saving love and tender mercy.
For all these things we pray in the Strong name of our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Acts 13:38
“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man—the Lord Jesus Christ—forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything.”
Father in Heaven,
You are gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. You have pledged to never leave us nor forsake us, and this you have done. You have kept your promises to the uttermost and not one word has fallen to the ground.
While you have shown yourself to be faithful, we have been faithless. We have not kept your commandments and we have fallen woefully short of our covenant obligations. We sin daily in thought, word, and deed, and we quickly turn aside to follow after idols and the corruptions of our hearts.
Your words describes us well when it says that a faithless man is as dependable as a broken tooth or a unsteady foot. And this is how we have been to you and to towards those around us. Indeed, Lord, we have failed you by failing one another.
We have been faithless in our friendships and in our marriages, in our business contracts and in our pledges as parents. Our yes has not been yes, and our word is sand because we have broken vows, reneged on promises, and spewed out lies in abundance.
Father, we confess that we are nothing and deserve nothing. You would be right to damn us for all eternity.
But we look to you because your compassions are great and your mercy never fails. Father, we confess that we depend solely upon the veracity of your covenant love and the promises that were sealed with the blood of your dear Son.
God we pray in this blessed hope, asking that you would pardon all our sin and renew us through the cleansing that only your Spirit can provide. For this we pray in Jesus’s strong name, Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV
“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
Over the last couple of weeks I have had some people come to me and point out sins in my life. I am deeply grateful for this. I am grateful to the elders who sat down with me and the few others in the congregation that have been kind enough to speak the truth in love to me.
I consider it a blessing that I have friends in the Lord who love me enough to rebuke and admonish me when I need it.
But I wanted to share these with you. I wanted to publicly confess these sins because, for one, I’d like your prayers for my sanctification. But I also recognize that, these sins are, to a great degree, public in nature. They are sins that might be perpetrated against you. Or, at the very least, they are sins that are done before you. And I want to make sure that you do not my mistakes or think that these transgressions are permissible in God’s eyes.
One of the sins that was pointed out was my lack of empathy. This is not something that was new to me. I have always known that this was a flaw in my character. For instance, when I was young I once asked my mother what she thought of me. I wanted her honest opinion of who I was. She said that I was aloof. And she explained to me that I have a tendency to be a little distant and that I don’t connect with people on an emotional level very well.
Later on, when I was in high school, I took one of those personality tests that were popular. It also revealed that one of my weaknesses was in the area of compassion. My mentor went over it with me and he said that when I got into ministry I needed to be sure to surround myself with people who demonstrate these gifts to help compensate for my lack.
Thankfully the Lord has provided good compensation. I think Mark and Jim do provide good compliments in that regard. Moreover the Lord has given me a wife who is oozing with empathy (and perhaps that’s why she can put up with me).
That still does not justify my lack of sympathy though. And I want to confess that this before you and acknowledge it for the sin that it is.
The other sin that was addressed was my levity. Those of you who know me know that I like to have a good time and be a little zany. I was told that this can be taken too far at times. I was told that there can be some undue levity that can detract from the gravity of God’s word. It sometimes make me out to be someone who people can’t take seriously. Or perhaps even cross the line into profaneness and blasphemy.
I will admit that this kind of took me by surprise. But I want you to know that I’ve taken these admonitions to heart. I do not want any undue levity becoming a barrier to my ministry or, worse yet, becoming a means to your own stumbling.
Prayer of Repentance
We bow before you in order to confess our besetting sins. A of us have sins that are personal and particular to our given personality. We all have weaknesses in our character wherein we fall short. And we also have strengths which can be abused and not put to the proper use.
Just as you created each one of us as a unique individual, we each have our own besetting sins which are unique to us. And we look to you now for pardon and ask that you would overlook the multitude of them for the sake of our dear Savior, Jesus Christ.
Father, I especially acknowledge to you my own flaws and confess my iniquity before you. Forgive me for not being like unto the Lord Jesus whose is filled with compassion and continually sympathizes with his people. Pardon me for the times I have not connected with those who were hurting or have been deemed to be emotionally detached.
Lord I pray that you would fill me with love and make me to love more genuinely. I pray that you would help me to be gentle with my own children, tender towards my wife, and attuned to the needs of this congregation.
I also beseech you for your grace in regards to any undue levity I have displayed. Please forgive me for allowing any profaneness to intrude upon your worship or mar your honor.
Moreover, I pray that this congregation might be purged of any and all evil that might be the result of my doing. Let not my stains be their undoing and let not my iniquity penetrate into their lives.
We thank you God for your abundant mercies and for the promise of full salvation in the cross of your precious Son. And we pray that through the gospel we might have reason to rejoice and pursue new life with greater zeal.
For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
Assurance of Pardon: 1 Timothy 1:15
This is a trustworthy saying and deserving of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Lord, forgive us for our lack of peace. We so frequently let the diverse attacks of Satan disrupt us and set us on edge. Instead of holding to your promises and trusting the firm truth revealed in the Scriptures, we listen to his lies and believe his false accusations.
Lord, we bring our doubts and lack of assurance to you. We know that we are feeble and frail, often permitting our circumstances to dictate our moods. Instead of recalling the many times you have shown yourself faithful and blessed us, we let ourselves fall into despairing thoughts and feelings of hopelessness.
Lord, we have failed to see ourselves in Christ. Indeed we’ve counted the multitude of our sins and have mentally stared deeply into that grotesque pile of wretchedness. Yet we have not stared at Christ and remembered that the books in heaven have been cleared of every sordid sin and shortcoming.
Lord, we pray that our unrest would be put to rest. That we would not dwell on what could be or any other hypothetical situation that we can conceive with our wicked minds, but rather we pray that we would rest in the coming of Christ and the certain triumph of your eternal decree.
Let us, O God, be at peace and strive with all our might to maintain this peace. Let us be diligent to resist the devil and hold tightly to the shield of faith so that his fiery arrows might be extinguished.
Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and may it be lodged there so fully that it never loosen. For we ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace himself. Amen
Assurance: Is. 53
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Your law condemns us. It is the constant reminder that we have failed to uphold what is good and just. It shouts at us and convicts us that we have no hope in life apart from your saving grace.
In your law your holiness is proclaimed, by it our sins are exposed for the detestable things that they are, and through it we realize that we are justly damned.
But yet the good news of the gospel gives us hope. In it your mercies are declared, by it our souls find hope of redemption, and through it we gain eternal life.
We praise you that you did not leave us in our poor, miserable state to be lost forever. We thank you that you had compassion on us and have opened for us a way of salvation through your Son and through His cross.
And we do turn to you now, acknowledging our sins and confessing the evil of them. And we do so not because we wish simply to obtain good things from you. But because we want to make amends. We are saddened because by our sins we have ruined our relationship with you. It grieves us that we have upset you, insulted you, and acted so treacherously against you.
O God, we are sorry, not that we have been caught and not because we the threat of death looms over us—No, we are forlorn because we have slighted the Most High God. We have disgraced ourselves because we have not honored you and given you the glory and the reverence that you deserve.
And it is this that we confess this morning and this is why we plead your forgiveness. This is why we ask you for cleansing and mercy: because we have profaned your name and failed to please you as we ought.
And we take our confidence in this one thing: that you have sent your Son into this world on our behalf. Our only hope is in the one who died in our place and rose with healing in His wings.
Our faith rests solely upon the infinite measures of your grace and the pardon that you pledge by it.
"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Isa 55:1-3 ESV
In these verses we are told that the Lord is the worst salesman that ever lived. The Lord is pictured at the market offering to sell his wares for no cost. In other words, he’s offering to give it away for free and without any expectation of getting anything in return.
A friend of mine in business once said that the way you calculate a price for your goods is take what you paid for it, double it, and then add 99 cents. That way you are ensured a profit. Even if you have a monstrous sale and offer 30, 40, or even 50% off, you still make a good return on your investment.
But here in this passage we see the Lord defies all commercial sense. His advertisement is an absolute failure from a marketing point of view. He simply gives his wares away.
Call to Confession
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breaths out lies will not escape.”
This past week Brian Williams, a man who usually reports the news, was in the news. It came out that Williams had completely made up a story about coming under attack while in Iraq.
Yesterday NBC announced that Williams will be stepping down from his position. Not only though has this man lost his job, he has become the butt of many jokes and many of his news reports have come into question. All in all, this man’s reputation has, in a matter of days, completely bottomed out.
Brian Williams stands as a vivid example of what this Proverb states: God will not allow a liar to go unpunished.
Moreover, these events remind us of our need to be honest about the lies we have told. He who breaths out lies will not escape, and for this reason we must seek the mercy of God for all the ways we’ve been dishonest.
Prayer of Repentance
We come before you confessing that we have not dealt honestly with the truth nor given the it its proper regard.
We admit that we are quite fluent in the devil’s language. It is our native tongue. We cannot even begin to recount how many times we have exaggerated the truth, embellished it, and inflated it in order to gain some advantage or make ourselves out to be better than we are. Yet, at the same time, we have twisted it, minimized it, and withheld it so that we might advance our own reputation or fortune.
We confess this because we know that no liar will enter your presence or inherit the kingdom of God. But every one of them will find their place in the lake of fire. Knowing therefore that we deserve eternal damnation we plead for your mercy and ask that you would pardon us for the ways we have cheated the truth.
We know that we have lied to others. But we acknowledge that we have first and foremost lied to ourselves. We have deceived ourselves into thinking that the truth is not important. We have tricked ourselves into believing that we could create our own reality and fabricate a world where we are exceedingly great.
But the greater deception is that we have thought that we could deceive you. We were foolish enough to actually think that your all seeing eye would not take notice of the ways we have misrepresented ourselves and others. We believed that our shams could be hidden from your sight and that you would not hold us accountable for having broken your commandment not to bear false witness.
God, we acknowledge the depth of our evil and the greatness of our depravity. And we know that we would only be furthering our doom if we did not come forth and admit the truth of our lies.
Here now, in this time of repentance, we know that our only hope is in the gospel and the God of all truth; the one who continually holds forth the promise of grace and salvation. We know that you will not take back your word, but you will fulfill it to the very end.
And to that end we trust in Christ for our deliverance, and it is in His strong name that we pray, Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: John 6:47
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”
I was asked to participate in today's Election Day Prayer event that is being held downtown. It is put on by Southview Church and the Coalition, a conservative political group here in town. My segment of prayer is to focus on the topic of families. Here is what I plan to say...
As we bow our faces before you we acknowledge that a renewal in our country requires a renewal in our marriages and families. We know that we cannot have the former without first having repentance and reformation in the latter.
We confess that our nation is broken because our homes are broken. We suffer oppression from Pharaohs and Caesars because we have not first had godly mothers and fathers.
So we pray that you would grant us renewal at the grassroots level. May there be a reformation in our land, where we take to heart what it means to be united in the covenant of holy matrimony. May we begin to see that there is nothing more patriotic than the fidelity of a husband and his wife. May you grant us fathers and mothers who, instead of slaying their children, will instead love them and cherish them all their days. May these parents then take up their responsibility to train their children them in the fear of you and not further the decay of our country by handing them over to schools where atheism and relativism are the rule.
As we stand here today, we pray “God save the home.”
But yet, we know that as the king goes, so goes the nation. And for this reason we pray not just for a grassroots revival, but we also pray for our leaders and the policies that they make.
Lord, we ask that you would grant that those who would win out these elections would be restrained from instituting policies that further the destruction of marriage and family in our land. Instead, may they be made to do what is just and promote what is in accord with rule of King Jesus.
We pray that policies that strike against godliness would be revoked. You know how our nation permits (and even encourages) things like divorce, sodomy, and abortion. Moreover, our leaders continue to wrap the chains of debt around us. They oppress our families with heavy taxation. They rip apart families with their welfare programs. All this leads only to death at every level.
So we pray, like our forefather’s before us “God save the king.”
Finally, We pray “God save the church.” Where is the light to be found for our families? It is not in the pure preaching of your word and in the revelation of Biblical Truth. Father, we know that families will only rise out of the ashes when you unleash the gospel and unveil the fullness of its saving power. So we pray that you would raise up godly men to preach your word and send them throughout our nation as heralds of Your eternal kingdom.
All this we pray in the strong name of our King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Call to Confession
Reformed theology is unique among the different strands of Christian belief because we have a particularly low view of man and our depravity.
We will often confess that man is morally incapable of doing anything good apart from God’s grace. But that is not all that we will say. Reformed theology goes further to confess that man is wholly dependent upon God to restrain us from perpetrating the full potential of our evil. In other words, we are not as bad as we could be—and that is only because God is actively holding us in check and preventing us from further sin.
This doctrine is found in many places in Scripture. For instance, in Genesis 20 we read about how Abraham gave his wife to Abimelech. And it says that God kept Abimelech from touching Sarah. The idea is that God restrained Abimelech and prevented him from doing what he had every intention of doing with Sarah.
This past week in our Sunday evening study we came across that passage in David’s life where he was snubbed by the wicked man named Nabal. We read how his wife, Abigail, ran out to meet David and attempted to keep him from coming and slaughtering Nabal’s household. And in that passage it says that the Lord prevented David from doing that.
We could cite a number of New Testament passages as well. The foremost among them is Romans 1, where it says that “God gave them over to their sinful desires.” The idea there is that God punishes us by removing his hand and the restraints he places on our evil propensity.
Well, this morning I wish to lead us in a prayer of repentance, and I will be dealing with this theme of God’s gracious restraint. So I’d ask that you bow your heads and agree with me in prayer as we come before the Lord.
Confession of Sin
Apart from you we can do nothing. And before you we are nothing. For we are sinners who are desperately lost and powerless in and of ourselves to rectify our moral condition.
Father, we confess that, were it not for your restraining hand, we would have long ago plunged headlong into every sort of grave and grievous sin. Yea, had you not held our nature in check we would have destroyed ourselves, our neighbors, and every good thing in our path. For we do not just have a vulnerability for being tempted, but we are predisposed by nature to all that is evil and we do earnestly yearn for the vile pits of ruin and misery.
Lord, we thank you that you have not let our depravity follow its natural course nor let it escalate to its full potential.
And this day we do confess our desperate need for your pardon and saving power. Our sins will not be diminished in one least bit if you do not intervene and renew us in righteousness. We can no more change our heart’s disposition than a leopard change his spots. Our only hope of reformation lies in the effectual power of your grace and the inward working of your Holy Spirit.
So we pray that your mercies may fall upon us and quicken us. Put to death what is unrighteous in us and bring to life any and all godly affections. May you, through the shed blood of our Dear Savior, forgive all our thoughts, words, and deeds that have violated your law, and may you crucify them there with Christ once and for all.
God we know that even this prayer does not find its origin in us. That we even look heavenward is owing to your kindness. And we count it but a token of what you may do to revive us in newness of life.
We only ask that you would continue to override our hearts and let the Spirit of grace rule in us.
Assurance of Pardon
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.