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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Owned Completely, Owned Everlastingly
Text:LD 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-06-12
Updated:2016-10-09
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 116:1,7,9                                                                                         

Hy 1                                                     

Reading – Romans 14:1-13; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58                                      

Ps 139:1,7,8,9

Sermon – Lord’s Day 1

Hy 68:1,2,4,8

Hy 64:1,2

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


Beloved in Christ, probably all of us know something about ownership. There’s probably something of which you can say, “It’s mine.” Maybe you own a car, parked outside church. You own a house. You own a boat, or a collection of books. Even if you’re young, there might be a few things that you own: your bike, your phone, or the desk in your room.

When we own something, it’s ours usually because we paid for it—or we are paying for it. But for us, ownership has its limits. Our possession can be temporary. We could always sell our books. Our bike could be stolen. We also realize that physical stuff is fragile and temporary. Our new phone will soon become obsolete, our houses and investments could go down in value, and after a few more summers our boat is going to wear out. A lesson is that whenever we own something, we should hold it loosely. Possession is not absolute, and it’s not forever.

But God looks at ownership in a different way. When God owns something, there’s not anything that can reverse it. He won’t sell. He won’t surrender it to thieves, or lose it. And that’s a comforting truth. Because the people of God are called his “inheritance,” his special possession. We’re his! This is how highly God esteems us: you’re his treasure.

He owns us, because He paid the price for us. That’s the truth we see in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold… but with the precious blood of Christ.” You were redeemed—you were paid for—not with dollars that can always lose value. We are paid for, not with gold or silver that can be stolen. But you have been purchased with the precious blood of the Lamb!

And to unpack how completely we belong to the Lord, the Catechism emphasizes two points for us in Lord’s Day 1. We’re not our own, but we belong to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ in two respects, “in body and soul,” and we also belong to him “in life and death.” Let’s look at what that means, under this theme,

I belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ:

  1. in body and soul
  2. in life and death

 

1. in body and soul: We start with something difficult. We all know what the body is—it’s something we can see and describe, something that we can wash with soap—but what is the soul? How would you describe it? The Bible doesn’t give a definition, but it does mention the soul quite often. And we learn the soul is that invisible and inner aspect of a person. It’s what relates to an individual, especially in their identity and standing before God. It’s also called the spirit of a person. Like in James 2:26, “The body without the spirit is dead.”

Think of what Jesus said in Matthew 10, where He warned against those who can kill the body, but who cannot kill the soul (v 28). That means a person has an outer life, and an inner life. You have a body that physically walks this earth, but you also have a soul that’s behind our believing, and loving, and worshiping. After we die, the soul lives on. And when we die, it’s our soul that stands accountable to God.

When we think about the soul, or the spirit, our thoughts turn to how God first made us. In a couple Lord’s Days from now, we’ll learn how God created mankind “in his image.” He made us to be more than just animals. You might have some animals in your house: a dog, a cat, some birds or fish. They’re creatures of instinct; they so often simply react to the things around them, like that bowl of food. But a human has a far greater worth, a richer potential. God created us in his image, so that we’re able to rightly know him, heartily love him, and live with him.

But something else that we learn early on is that God’s good creation has been corrupted. Our natures have been twisted. Our spirits are deceitful. Evil isn’t just something we do, but evil is something that we are. For our conduct, our words and our choices as humans come from somewhere deep within us. That’s why we talk about “getting to the heart of the matter.” That’s getting to where the essence is: deep within. Sometimes you’ll even get the direct question from a person, “How is it with your soul? How are things really, with you and the Lord?”

So what about the soul? We said that it’s accountable to God. We’re accountable, and the reality is we deserve his punishment. The LORD says in his Word, “The soul who sins shall die.” He’s never changed that rule. And we have sinned. Attached to each soul is a long record of transgressions and shortcomings. Sometimes criminals have a big file down at the police station, a whole history of their charges and offenses. Well, there’s a file on us too, crammed full of our rebellion. Satan has seen the file, and he’s put a claim in on our souls. When we sees sinners, he sees people who just might fill his kingdom, who might have to join him in the lake of fire. Our souls are in deep trouble.

But here’s the truth of the gospel, taught in Lord’s Day 1: God takes complete responsibility for our souls. He won’t leave us to the devil’s clutches, but God does what is needed to clear our record entirely, to make forgiveness possible. The soul who sinned still has to die, and that awful punishment has been put on Christ.

What makes Christ so perfectly capable of saving is that He’s a man, through and through, in body and soul. Consider Article 18 of the Belgic Confession, where it says, “[Jesus] not only assumed human nature as to the body, but also a true human soul, in order that he might be a real man. For since the soul was lost as well as the body, it was necessary that he should assume both to save both.” He did, so that He could suffer and die like one of us. And He did suffer and die: “He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood” (Q&A 1). Christ owns us, in soul. He’s changed our identity, from God’s enemies into God’s friends, his children, his inheritance. When we’re joined to him by faith, we’re given a new standing in Christ. We are righteous, just as Christ is righteous. Holy, as He is.

Clearly, God puts a great value on the soul. But what about the body? There is a long tradition of accentuating the soul above all. Some of the Greek philosophers, for example, said that compared to the soul, everything else was far inferior. Material, physical things don’t matter so much. When we die, the soul lives on in immortality, and the body just turns back into dust.

We’re not philosophers, but we might have taken over some of that thinking. If Christians ever talk about what heaven will be like, and what we’ll do for eternity, we might picture spirits floating around in the clouds. No bodies, just ghostly beings, enjoying good music played on the harp. No sign of the body in heaven, just the soul. But is that the truth? When we talk about what really makes us human, is the body just secondary? Is our body like some yogurt container, that we simply throw out once we’re done with the contents, the important stuff?

The body is much more. The Bible describes the body as a work of art from God’s hand, like in Job 10:8-12, “Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity… Did you not clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews? You have granted me life and favour, and your care has preserved my spirit.”

We see this too, when we return to the beginning. The LORD created the body of mankind in a special way. God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into him the breath of life. Also the woman’s body wasn’t thrown together haphazardly, but was formed from a rib that God had taken from man. God made our bodies with all the attention of an artist.

Sin, of course, has wreaked havoc on everything. Sin has corrupted the soul, and it has broken the body. Now we know limitation and fragility; from the day of conception, our body is a vulnerable and fading thing. Consider how Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 describes the earthly life, and our earthly body. He uses words like corruption, dishonour, and weakness. Our bodies show the passing nature of life. We become ill and soon get tired. We break bones and have to deal with pain. We get wrinkles, and some of us lose our hair, and go grey. We develop arthritis, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Someone once commented that a minister must have to learn a lot of medical terminology. A minister becomes familiar with a whole range of different illnesses and treatments and procedures: diabetes and insulin, cancer and chemotherapy, on and on. And why? Because invariably, people in the church get sick, get injured, or have to deal with difficult physical conditions. It just becomes part of our journey on this earth: sickness and disability—sometimes in the background, other times front and centre, when just dealing with the symptoms of an illness can dictate all of our days on earth. 

And there’s no exception: each of us has a body that’s bound for decay. For a short while, you’re growing and getting stronger, and enjoying full reserves of energy. But then you reach your peak, and you realize that your body’s only going to wear out, and that the aches and pains will only get worse.

Yet for all that, the body isn’t some worthless container. Consider Psalm 139, where David sings of the LORD’s creative work, “You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (vv 13-14). God gave us a life here on earth, and with our bodies we can do the activities that He’s called us to do. With our bodies—weak and limited as they are—we get to live as holy instruments of God.

And Christ died for the body too. He took on the body, to save the body. For this very body, God has a glorious plan! Paul speaks of that in 1 Corinthians 15, how we’ll be changed, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (v 52). The body is so much a part of what it means to be human that at the resurrection our body will be reunited with our soul. God doesn’t want us floating in the clouds. God wants our feet on the ground, and our hands in the dirt, enjoying a recreated world. Creation will be remade, and our bodies will also be remade. He will transform what had been dishonourable, and glorify what had been corrupted and weak.

What a rich hope we have! Especially when we see our bodies afflicted by illness, strained by pain and the wearing down of our joints. Or when we witness how the human brain can lose its power to remember, and to make decisions. There’s so much faltering, but we’re not done with these bodies. Because they belong to Christ! He gave his own life to buy them. Christ promises to give us bodies like the one He has today: bodies that are incorruptible and immortal. As Paul says, “[Once we bore the image of the man of dust], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (v 49).

What does all this mean for our bodies today? Our bodies don’t belong to us. So we shouldn’t use our bodies for whatever activity we like. God looks at us as whole persons, and He says that even our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, it’s important to God, what you do with your hands. It’s important to God, where you go with your feet on weekend  nights, it’s important what you look at with your eyes during the week, what you listen to with your ears, or what you take into your stomach. If your body belongs to him, then Christ wants the whole body devoted to his glory.

So our bodies must become tools of righteousness. This is what it says in Romans 6: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God… and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness” (v 13). With our bodies, there’s a lot of sin we can participate in. But there’s so much righteousness too. Use your hands to help fellow saints and neighbors. Use your eyes to take in the beauty of God’s creation. Offer your ears to listen to the sorrows or concerns of someone else. Sacrifice your mouth to speak uplifting words to others, to sing praises to God in church and at home! Use your body to do your daily work, as service to God.

And then think once more about your soul. How is it with your soul? How’s your spirit before God? If you belong, even in the very deepest place, to the Lord God, how are you drawing closer to him these days? Every day you feed your body with food and drink. You wouldn’t skip meals for very long at all, because you know what would happen. Well, are you also feeding your soul? Taking in a balanced diet of his Word? Do you take in the food of the Spirit, through worship and prayer?

 

2. in life and death: We belong to our faithful Saviour in body and soul. And we belong to him in life and death. It’s a basic question, but what is life? It’s our existence on earth, “under the sun.” There are certain things that make up our life here. Life means that we breathe. We move. We have brain activity. Life means that we build and work and grow.

Scripture describes life as our “coming and going.” Life is whatever befalls us, good and bad. It’s the choices we make, and the relationships we have. It’s the things that belong to us, and are important to us. Life is our future, and it’s our past. And the stunning thing is that for all this life, we belong to God, through Christ Jesus our Lord! There’s not a hair that falls from our heads without our Father’s will. We’re so completely in his hands that without his will we cannot so much as move, but He directs and keeps us always.

In Romans 14, Paul talks about this glorious truth. He’s speaking about how we deal with one another in the church, also when there’s brothers and sisters who have a weaker faith and who struggle with the conduct of other members. And Paul urges us to be accommodating of one another, to be mindful of each other, that we do not cause each other to sin. Which is a good and necessary exhortation.

Then the basis for right Christian behaviour comes in verse 7-8, “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” There you have Lord’s Day 1: “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” It’s a remarkable truth. The Lord God, Christ as King of the universe, is interested in what we do here on earth. Jesus cares about your life, about the job you’re in right now, and about where you’re going to go to university. He cares about your friendships, and about your struggles with weight, or with anxiety, or loneliness. He cares about where you’re going to move, and who you might marry. We belong to him, in our smallest moments, our most private moments. Our life is his, if we’re going for a walk, or taking a flight. He claims our life—every little bit of it—and He says that it’s his own.

And what’s the beautiful reason we belong to him? Paul says, “To this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Rom 14:9). We belong to him, because He died for us. He redeemed us with his “precious blood.” He paid out the price for our whole life, from the moment of conception to the day that our soul departs.

When you believe in Christ, your life is his. And that means He takes responsibility for us, fully. You can rest in his care. You know you’re worth much more than the birds of the air or the grass of the field. And how much are you worth? He poured out his life, for your life.

Because you’re his possession, you also have a purpose, a goal. That’s important to remember, because we question sometimes what we’re here for. Maybe we’re just kids, or teenagers, or young adults, and our life seems little more than going to school. Or life seems little more than holding down a job. Sometimes elderly folks wonder about this too: life has changed, the children are long gone, and the body and mind are getting weaker. So why are we here? What does God call you to do? Psalm 146 gives the answer, “Praise the LORD, O my soul! While I live I will praise the LORD; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (vv 1-2). 

While you have your being, praise your Saviour! Your service of God doesn’t have to be impressive, public or official. It’s the prayers that an elderly sister offers all week, prayers for her family, for her church, for this world. It’s the work that a man or a woman carries out in faithfulness, in the home or the office. It’s the young person’s faithfulness to the LORD, even in a world that’s gone crazy. These can seem like little things, but when they’re done for Christ, they’re important. When it’s done with eyes fixed on God, it’s valuable. That’s what He made us for. While I live, I will praise the LORD!

Natural life, of course, has a beginning and it has an end. There comes the day when a last breath is taken. Maybe life ends resting on a hospital bed, after a long struggle with illness; or maybe life ends out on the highway, strapped into your car. But it will end. The process of dying can be described, and the moment of death can sometimes be predicted. Yet for all that, we weren’t created to die. It’s not what God intended for this world.

But we die. And facing death too, we have a sure knowledge and firm confidence. For in death, we belong to Christ. “If we die, we die to the Lord.” Even if hundreds of people die every minute, our death doesn’t get overlooked or forgotten. All the days of our life were written in God’s book, before even one of them came to be.

And more than just knowing about when it’ll be, Christ claims us at death. He doesn’t leave our souls in limbo, waiting at the departure gate. For those who believe in him, life continues—just not here. As Paul once wrote, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. ” It’s gain, because at death we enter the presence of God our Saviour.

That makes it an all-important question. Today, while we have life, are we in him, united to Christ by faith? Do we put our trust in his death and resurrection? Christians in an earlier time wrote about preparing to “die well.” They spoke about the need to get yourself ready for that hour, so that you can have peace instead of fear. Maybe we’ve forgotten that concern for “dying well.” Maybe because we live longer, and it seems like death can be held at bay through all sorts of measures. Yet the fact is, we still never know when our end will come, whether it will be this week or in fifty years. So we shouldn’t avoid that question. Today, can you really say, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”?

If we belong to Christ in life, and death, we know there’s more in store. There’s more than that casket of a loved one descending into the earth. That’s not the last word. For the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. For Christ has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. He’s reversed the effects of sin, He’s taken away the sting of death. “Death has been swallowed up in his victory” (1 Cor 15:54).

It all rests in Christ’s blood. He paid the price, He owns us in full: in body and soul, in life and death. So once more, that should make us think, with four questions. First, what are you doing with your body? Second, how is it with your soul? Third, right now who is your life for? And finally, if it came today, could you meet your hour of death with a sure comfort?  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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