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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:My only comfort is in belonging to Christ
Text:LD 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2014
Added:2014-07-14
Updated:2014-07-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 121

Psalm 116:1,5,8,9,10

Hymn 64

Hymn 1

Hymn 71

Scripture readings:  Galatians 5:16-26, Philippians 1:1-11

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 1

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

This first Lord’s Day is all about belonging to the Lord.  Here we confess from the Scriptures that we belong to Christ.  We belong to him entirely – body and soul.  Our whole being is under his Lordship.  We belong to him always – in life and in death.  No matter what happens, Christians are in the good and loving hands of their faithful Saviour.  From these truths we find comfort.  Comfort means that we have strength because we are protected.  Our God is a rock, a mighty fortress.  When we are inside this fortress, we are safe.  Nothing and no one can harm us.  That’s what comfort is all about.  With Lord’s Day 1, we all say, “My only comfort is in belonging to Christ.”  We’ll look at:

  1. The roots of this comfort
  2. The benefits of this comfort
  3. The fruits of this comfort

One of the remarkable things about our Catechism is its personal nature.  Throughout the Catechism you find the first person singular being used.  It’s often, ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my.’  This not only contributes to the warmth of our Catechism, but it also faithfully reflects Scripture.  The Bible can and does often speak in the more impersonal first person plural or second person (you) or even third (he or she).  But it also uses ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my,’ especially at critical points where personal appropriation is in view.  We could think of the Psalms we’ve sung this afternoon, Psalms 121 and 116.  We could think of Romans 7.  At the end of Romans 7, Paul writes, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Saviour!”  The Holy Spirit gave us these words in this form not only to reflect Paul’s experience, but so that we would take Paul’s words and make them our own too.   So the Catechism reflects that kind of usage in Lord’s Day 1, “I am not my own,” and so on.  Now hold that thought, because I’m going to come back to this in a few moments. 

Another remarkable thing about the Heidelberg Catechism here in Lord’s Day 1 and elsewhere is the certainty with which it speaks.  There’s not a shred of doubt or wavering here.  What we find here is absolute rock-solid confidence.  Again, that reflects Scripture, doesn’t it? When Scripture says something, there’s no wondering or hedging bets.  Scripture speaks with authority and certainty.  Because our Catechism seeks to echo Scripture, it speaks the same way.  It reflects a confidence that there is public objective truth outside of ourselves.  There are things in this world of which we can be absolutely 100% certain.

One of those things is at the root of our only comfort in life and death.  It is that I have a faithful Saviour to whom I belong.  Jesus Christ is that faithful Saviour. 

He is faithful.  That means that you can count on him.  Second Thessalonians 3:3 reminds us that “the Lord is faithful.  He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”   He always delivers.  So he is faithful towards believers and their children.  But he is also faithful towards God.  With respect to his Father in heaven, he was and is always a loyal Son.  Hebrews 3:2 says that our great High Priest Jesus was faithful to him who appointed him.  His faithfulness towards God is important for us, because his righteousness is ours when we believe in him.  If you look to Christ in faith, you are counted as perfectly faithful yourself, obedient to God in every way.  That’s an important part of the gospel message, brothers and sisters.

So he is faithful.  And he is also the Saviour.  Here’s another important part of the good news.  He saves us.  Now it’s important that we always realize what we are saved from.  The Bible presents that to us in different ways.  In some places, we’re told that Jesus saves us from our sins.  Of course, this is true and no one is wrong when they say that.  But we do have to go further and ask, “Why do we need to be saved from our sins?”  The answer has to do with God and his justice.  Because God is just, he hates sin and therefore he will punish unrepentant and unbelieving sinners with an eternal conscious torment in hell.  Ultimately, this is what Jesus saves us from.  Jesus saves us from God’s never-ending wrath.  When we have Jesus as our Saviour, we are protected.

I was recently in an area prone to tornadoes.  This was in Louisville, Kentucky.  In the Louisville airport, I saw something I’ve never seen before:  a storm shelter.  In each of the concourses, there is a shelter for airline passengers if a tornado should threaten to hit the airport.  This is a safe room which I assume is underground.   If a tornado were bearing down on the airport and the alarm was sounded, you would want to be in this shelter.  You wouldn’t want to be up on the concourse where glass and debris are going to become deadly projectiles.  You want to be in the shelter.  Similarly, when God’s judgment comes, you want to be safe in Jesus Christ.  If you believe in him as your Saviour, you can be confident of safety when the deadly storm hits.  In his grace and love, God has given you a shelter in his Son Jesus Christ.

This is where we come back to the personal element in the catechism.  The roots of the only comfort in life and death are in the faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who he is and what he has done for us and in our place.  But…there is a call for each and every one of us to embrace that faithful Saviour.  For us to speak about comfort, there has to be a personal taking hold of Jesus.  You must say, “Jesus Christ is my faithful Saviour.”  You must say that, not only once at some point or other in life, but always, every time you hear it.  We’re all prone to “gospel amnesia,” we so easily forget the good news.  Therefore we need to hear that message preached to us regularly, every week.  And when the gospel is preached, brothers and sisters, lay hold of Christ as your faithful Saviour.  When you hear him speaking to you in the proclamation of the Word say to yourself, “Yes, that is my faithful Saviour.”

Having Christ as your faithful Saviour leads to several benefits.  Our Catechism describes four of them.  More could be mentioned, but these four give us a good overview of some gospel essentials. 

The first one is payment for sin.  As I mentioned a moment ago, we have sinned against a holy God and provoked his wrath.  Something needs to be done about that.  Payment needs to be made to God’s justice.  We could try to do that ourselves, but it would result in an eternity in hell and it would never be finished.  Our sin is that serious.  The other option is to have Jesus Christ make the full payment for us with his precious blood.  That’s what he’s done for believers on the cross.  Christ said in Mark 10:45 that he came to “give his life as a ransom for many.”  Ransom there refers to payment.  Christ made the payment to God’s justice on our behalf.  Knowing that this has been done is one of the benefits of belonging to Christ.  It’s a great comfort to know that you will never have to pay for your sins.  It’s all been done for you.

The second benefit is freedom from the power of the devil.  Satan has no control over us.  According to 1 John 3:8, Jesus came “to destroy the works of the devil.”  One of those works is enslaving sinners and trying to keep them enslaved.  In some instances, Satan even goes so far as to possess individual human beings.  Demon possession happened in the days of Christ and we have no reason to believe that it can’t happen today.  But the good news is that Christians are free from Satan’s power.  Christians cannot be possessed by Satan or his demonic forces.  They might still be oppressed or attacked by Satan, just like Jesus was, but they cannot be possessed or owned by Satan.  He can’t possess or own Jesus and so he can’t possess or own those who are in Jesus by faith.  It’s simply impossible.  So we’re free from his grips and that’s also a great comfort.  In Christ, we are safe and protected from this roaring lion who seeks to devour. 

Then the Catechism introduces that wonderful doctrine of God’s providence.  This doctrine is so important and so comforting that it gets introduced right in the very beginning of our confession.  We’re assured that our heavenly Father preserves us in his love.  Matthew 10:30 is paraphrased here.  Hairs fall from your head every day.  They say that an adult typically loses up to 100 hairs every single day.  Some of us more, some less, and perhaps some of us have gotten to none at all.  The thing is we don’t usually think about something so insignificant as a single hair.  But Christ says that even such insignificant things like hairs are in the hands of our Father in heaven.  He controls them.  When he tells gravity to take hold of that little strand of hair, there’s no stopping it.  If the little things are in his hands, we can trust that the big things are too.

You could also think of what we read from Philippians 1.  I want you to take special note of verse 6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Notice first of all again the certainty.  “I am sure of this,” says Paul.  The Catechism echoes that kind of certainty, “all things must work together for my salvation.”  All things must, they will work together.  “I am sure of this.”  Then Paul goes on to say that God began a good work with the Philippian believers.  He came to them with the gospel.  He worked faith and repentance in their lives.  He started with them and he will faithfully finish what he started.  He has a plan to preserve true believers, to keep them in his care until the day Christ returns.  In his commentary on Philippians, William Hendriksen says that Paul’s teaching here of God’s preservation harmonizes with the entire Bible.  Because the Bible teaches us about:

  • A faithfulness that will never be removed (Ps. 89:33, 138:8)
  • A life that will never end (John 3:16)
  • A spring of water that will never cease to bubble up within the one who drinks of it (John 4:14)
  • A gift that will never be lost (John 6:37,39)
  • A hand out of which the Good Shepherd’s sheep will never be snatched (John 10:28)
  • A chain that will never be broken (Romans 8:29,30)
  • A love from which we will never be separated (Romans 8:39)
  • A calling that will never be revoked (Romans 11:29)
  • A foundation that will never be destroyed (2 Timothy 2:19)
  • An inheritance that will never fade away (1 Peter 1:4,5)

You see, when we belong to Jesus Christ, we can be confident of God’s providence in our lives actively ensuring that we will be preserved to the very end. 

That naturally flows into the last benefit mentioned in the Catechism.  The Holy Spirit “assures me of eternal life.”  Assurance is a powerful and wonderful thing.  It was something that the Reformation recovered for us from the Scriptures.  You see, consistent Roman Catholics cannot have assurance.  They are taught that there’s always the possibility of committing a mortal sin, dying in a state of sin, and then ending up in hell.  But listen to what 1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the Name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”  There again is the theme of certainty.  You may know that you have eternal life, you can be confident of it, when you believe in the Name of the Son of God. 

Roman Catholics are not the only ones who maintain that believers cannot have assurance.  In the Canons of Dort, we have the articles that state the Reformed doctrine positively.  But there is also a section called “Rejection of Errors” after each chapter.  Please turn with me to Rejection of Errors 5 in chapter 5 – you can find it on page 579.  Let’s read that together.  You see, Arminians also hold that you can have no certainty, no assurance of future perseverance to the end.  What that really means is that you can have no absolute certainty about your eternal life.  But, as the response shows, this is not what the Bible teaches.  The Holy Spirit does give us assurance of eternal life and this is one of the benefits of belonging to Christ.  It’s a great comfort to know for certain that our present and future lives are firmly in his hand.

The same Holy Spirit who works assurance in our hearts also works the fruits of belonging to Jesus Christ.  He is the one who creates in us a new heart that not only believes in Christ, but also loves Christ and wants to follow him in obedience.  Our Catechism says that the Spirit “makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.”  To live for who?  To live for Christ!  The Holy Spirit creates in us the desire to live lives devoted to Christ.  In this way, we not only belong to him in principle, but also in our lives it shows that we belong to him.

What we read from Galatians 5 underlines this.  Paul speaks of the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit.  In every believer, there is a battle going on between these two.  I feel it every day and I’m sure you do as well.  We have the remnants of our old nature drawing us back to sin.  But there’s also a different voice we hear.  It’s the voice of good sense.  It’s the voice that says, “Sin is not attractive at all.  The wages of sin is death.  Don’t go there!  Listen to your Lord and Saviour!  Instead of sinning, hate that sin and kill it.”  Because we have the good Spirit of Christ dwelling in us, more and more we do flee from sin.  It doesn’t happen all at once, but slowly we put those works of the flesh to death.  Gradually, we see the fruit of the Spirit taking hold in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Even when we wrestle with sin and fall, that desire to live for Christ always comes back.  The Holy Spirit graciously ensures that it does.

But we must note something here.  It’s in Galatians 5 and it’s in the Catechism too.  In Galatians 5:25 it says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  Then Paul follows up on that with some ways that gets practically worked out, not being conceited, and so on.  In the Catechism it says that the Holy Spirit makes me heartily willing and ready so that I live for him from now on.  You see, the fruit here is not exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit.  He works through the believer.  He makes Christians come alive in regeneration and then empowers them so that they can begin living a God-pleasing life in good works.  But there is a role for you and me here.  When we talk about the roots and the benefits of our comfort, we’re focussing on what God does, and the only calling for us there is to turn from sin and believe.  But here we are called upon to live for him and through the power of the Holy Spirit, this is not only something we must do, it’s something we can do.  We can’t yet do it perfectly or consistently, but we can begin to do it in growing measures. 

Brothers and sisters, our only comfort truly is in belonging to Christ.  In him we are safe and secure.  You have every reason to continue trusting in him, loving him for his benefits, and living for him every day with a willing and ready heart.  May God give you his grace to do exactly that.  AMEN.                                          

                            




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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