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Worship - January 2022

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Putting together this year's Christmas Night of Worship was an absolute joy.  In particular, thinking through and meditating on the gospel and how we wanted to communicate it during the course of the evening was a tremendous blessing and encouragement to me personally. Everyone did an incredible job, and I was so happy with how we were together able to focus our eyes on Christ and what He has done. But what I found as I was putting all the pieces of the program together was that there was so much more I wanted to say! If you were not able to attend, or have not had a chance to watch the video recording, you can find it at www.vimeo.com/oakhillbc or you can contact the church office and get a DVD copy. I am not saying all of this as a way to pat myself on the back or to say “look how good we did,” because all we did that night was say “look how awesome God is!” and I believe it will be an encouragement to you. 

We of course set out to communicate throughout the entire program that Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and that it is only through His atoning work that we may be saved. I believe we were able to communicate this truth in a very powerful way, but, as I mentioned, there is always so much more to be said about Him. Throughout this entire process I was reminded of a truth that we do not necessarily think about when we talk about Jesus being the only way to heaven. Any good Baptist will, at a moment’s notice, be ready to affirm that salvation is only found in Jesus! But the truth I want to remind each and every one of us about today is that Jesus is not just the only effective Savior, He is the only possible Savior! And the way in which He went about redeeming His creation is the only possible way in which we could have been saved! 

This truth is hinted at in Revelation 5, which we very briefly looked at during the course of the Night of Worship. Within John's vision he sees that there is a scroll in the right hand of God the Father, who is seated on the throne. All we can do is make guesses about the contents of this scroll, but what we do know is that God’s plan for all of creation is dependent upon this scroll being opened. The problem is that the scroll can’t be opened. John writes, “And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.” (vv. 3-4). As far as John can tell, God’s redemption plan has been stopped in its tracks because nowhere in heaven or on earth or under the earth can someone be found who is worthy to open this scroll. Not one person or being. 

Then one of the elders directs our attention to the Lamb, “standing, as though it had been slain” (v. 6), and the elders tell us some amazing things about this Lamb. First of all, we are told that the Lamb “has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”  In other words, this Lamb is able to open the scroll because He has conquered something. Secondly, the four living creatures and the elders sing, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God” (v. 9). Some translations read, “because you were slain.” There is a clear cause and effect that has taken place because the Lamb of God has died and has conquered. Without these two things taking place, death and resurrection, there is no conqueror, there is no one worthy to open the scroll, and creation is not redeemed.  If even one of the elements of the gospel is missing, then no one will ever be worthy to open the scroll and to enact God’s redemption plan. Remember that no one else, “in heaven or on earth or under the earth” was found worthy to open the scroll. It had to be the Lamb, the Lamb had to be slain, and the Lamb had to conquer death. 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just the only way to heaven because it's the one option that just so happened to work. The blood of Jesus was the only possible means of forgiveness, and it was all part of God’s plan from the very beginning.

Posted by Derek Niffenegger with

Worship - December 2021

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The Christmas season is now in full swing, and I’d love to take a few minutes to tell you about our upcoming Christmas Night of Worship. Last year our theme was “God With Us,” and we focused on the fact that God who is transcendent, mighty, awesome, and holy has chosen to dwell among His people forever. We focused on how Jesus (Emmanuel) was much more than just physically  with us during His thirty-some-odd years on earth, but that His incarnation, birth, life, death, and resurrection are all part of God’s plan to establish His dwelling place with us for all eternity.  

This year, I have entitled our Night of Worship Come And See What God Has Done.  Just like every Christmas, we are remembering how the Son of God took on Human flesh and was born in a manger. And just like every year, we are proclaiming the fact that this helpless baby was actually the Lord of all creation, and the Savior of the world. What we are focusing on and celebrating this year during our Night of Worship is that this salvific operation, this careful and strategic design, this story is all about What God Has Done. And that is significant because through this meticulous plot God has done for us what we could never do for ourselves! 

When thinking of God’s provision through the birth of Jesus I am reminded of the story of Abraham and Isaac (which is itself just one of the many pieces of God’s careful plan!). God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be innumerable, and that through them the entire world would be blessed! (Gen. 12:1-3, 15:4-6). We recognize now that Abraham’s children would be the people through which God would send the Savior of the world. But Abraham had no children (and when Abraham took it upon himself to bring God’s plan to fruition it resulted only in more broken relationships and more heartache! Gen. 16:1-16, 21:9-16). 

However, after what I am sure seemed like an eternity to Abraham and Sarah, God miraculously gave them a son, and God did it in such a way that made it perfectly clear that He was the One who gave them this child.  Fast forward now to when this child, Isaac, is a little older and we see that in that span of time Abraham has learned a thing or two about God’s provision.  In Genesis 22:2 God instructed Abraham to do the unthinkable: to take Isaac to a mountain and sacrifice him as a burnt offering to the Lord. With wide eyes we read that Abraham obeyed this seemingly heartless command, and he struck out for the mountains, Isaac in tow, with the intention of killing and burning him as a sacrifice to God. Hebrews 11:19 hints that Abraham must have believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead after the slaughter. But what I want to point out as it relates to the Christmas season is found in Abrahams words of faith recorded in Genesis 22:8.  

At some point in their journey, Isaac has caught on to the fact that they have brought with them fire and wood for the burnt offering, but no animal to sacrifice on the altar. Isaac asks Abraham, “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (22:7). Abraham
responds with these words which echo down through every page of Scripture and open our eyes to the magnitude of God’s salvific plan. “God will provide for himself a lamb” Abraham says (22:8).  God will provide for himself a lamb. I can’t help but wonder if Abraham knew that those words would mean the difference between life and death for every single one of God’s people from the beginning to the end of time. But God has done exactly what Abraham said and believed he would do, even if Abraham didn’t know how or what that would look like. In the story of Abraham and Isaac, when God saw that Abraham was following in obedience, just when Abraham was about to slaughter his son, God stopped him, and “Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket  by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide’” (Gen. 22:13-14a). 

This Christmas season we are celebrating the fact that the Lord has indeed provided. He made a provision not just for Abraham and Isaac, but for you and I and every believer who ever came before us and will ever come after us. God has provided what we could not provide for ourselves. God has completed what we could not do for ourselves by providing the Lamb for a sacrifice, once for all, in the only possible way  that we could be saved. If any person was ever going to be forgiven of their sin and be restored to right relationship with God, it had to be God’s way. It had to be God’s doing. It had to be God’s Lamb.

Posted by Derek Niffenegger with

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