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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:What does the Triune God promise you?
Text:LD 8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Trinity
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-09-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 89:1                                                                      

Hy 4:1,2,3  [after Athanasian Creed]                                                                       

Reading – Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 28:1-20

Ps 105:1,2,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 8

Ps 138:1,4

Hy 7:1,2,3,4

* 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 the Lord Jesus, Catechism class is a privilege—it’s a privilege to spend an hour each week learning about the riches of the Christian faith. But every once in a while, there’s a class that presents a real challenge. It’s not the students. It’s the subject matter. For sometimes we need to talk about a thing that’s very difficult, something mysterious.

It’s Lord’s Day 8, and the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s the truth that our God is one divine being, who exists in three persons. This is one of our basic beliefs, something every Christian has to believe if they’ll be saved. And when it comes to the Trinity, you can know all the right terms. You can point to dozens of proof texts. You can say why all of the old heresies are wrong—yet even so, explaining the Trinity is not easily done. You usually end up with a strange-looking diagram up on the whiteboard.

And the Trinity can seem like an abstract doctrine, something far removed from the “nuts and bolts” of everyday life. In this service we confess our faith with the Athanasian Creed, and its language seems at times unusual and unreal. The creed is wrestling with what God says about himself in the Word. Still, what more can we say about who this Trinity is? How we can make this doctrine more real?

The Catechism hints at the kind of direction we should go: Emphasize what the Trinity does! What are his works? The Catechism speaks of how God the Father creates, how God the Son redeems, and how God the Spirit sanctifies. If you think about that, it means the Triune God is involved in every aspect of our lives.

This afternoon we’ll look especially at how God promises great things to us at our baptism. For believers and their children are baptized into the Triune name: “I baptize you into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” That’s the outward mark that we belong to the Triune God himself. What then will this great God do for us, his people? I preach God’s Word as summarized in Lord’s Day 8:

What does the Triune God promise you?

  1. as Father
  2. as Son
  3. as Holy Spirit

 

1) the promise of the Father: “I baptize you into the name of God the Father.” With those words at baptism, God announces the beginning of a beautiful relationship. It’s one that started already months before, when that little boy or girl was conceived—but now it’s confirmed, through that act of sprinkling water on the child’s head. This is a covenant child!

The Form explains it, “When we are baptized into the Name of the Father, God the Father testifies and seals to us that He establishes an eternal covenant of grace with us.” That’s the first thing that’s promised, because it’s the framework of every other promise—the covenant, that living relationship of love between God and us.

God desires a people that are his own. That’s how it’s always been. Remember how long ago God came to Abraham and He called him to leave his hometown of Ur. He had to leave, because God wanted him to go to a new country, one where Abraham could serve God alone. So he left for an unseen land that God promised would be his.

And the land was only the beginning of God’s promises. He vowed rich blessing, and abundant children, ever-present protection, even a people who’d outnumber the stars of the sky. Abraham and all descendants were the special recipients of God’s love and favour. Not because they were so special, but because God wanted this, a relationship of love.

God’s bond with Abraham was then marked with the circumcision of the flesh. This mark showed that he was set apart by God: set apart for holiness, and set apart for blessing. Though God the Father created out of nothing heaven and earth and all that is in them—though He’d made a marvelous universe filled with galaxies and stars, oceans and rivers and deserts, fish and birds and bugs—with humans alone God desires communion. For reasons we can’t understand, God wants to fellowship with his creatures. And the result is this: you and I are allowed to know “the one, true, eternal God!” (Q&A 25).

With believers and their children, “God establishes an eternal covenant of grace.” Now, this covenant today isn’t precisely the same as it was for Abraham and his children. We don’t have to pack up and go to a strange land. We don’t have to circumcise our sons. We’re also not promised a territory that flows with milk and honey, countless children and grandchildren, and kings as our descendants. This is NOT promised anymore. Should we be disappointed?

No, because what we’re promised is so much more! God promises us not a prosperous life in the present, but a life that’s blessed for eternity. God promises not a piece of real estate here on this earth, but a glorious and perfect dwelling with him. Abraham had a glimpse of some of these blessings, but we see them, with eyes wide open. For we’re people of the New Testament—the New Covenant!—the covenant made in Christ and his blood.

In Christ, God the Father “adopts us for his children and heirs.” That’s a truth that should boggle our minds, shake us up, and amaze us: God makes us his own dear children! He not only forgives our sin, overlooks all our unworthiness, but He accepts us as his own.

Consider this: God never called Abraham his child, never called him his son. And this was Abraham! Sure, the Lord called him his friend. Abraham walked closely with God, and talked with him intimately. He was a friend of God, but not a son. Today we like the word “friend” better—“friend” sounds more familiar, someone that you’d like to spend time with. So we like the idea of being a “friend” of God. But a son is actually closer. For a child of God, the bond is deeper, and the privileges are greater.

For when your life comes to an end, who do you give an inheritance to? You give it to your son. Even as years pass, and people come and go out of your life, who do you embrace with a love that doesn’t waver? Your son, your daughter. Even when many other things change, with whom do you enjoy a tie that can’t be broken? That’s right: you’ll love your child. You’ll always have a place for them. And that’s our privilege with the Father: “He adopts us for his children and heirs.” God says that in Christ we can receive all the blessings of being the members of his own dearly loved family.

Brothers and sisters, what does the Triune God promise you? Being his child means that you can always call on him in prayer. Wherever you are—heading down the highway, out for a morning walk, at your kitchen table, at your desk, and in your bed—wherever you are, you can call on this God as “Father.” He’s the one who won’t turn you away. In the shame of your sin, or in your very worst trouble, you can ask the Father for his mercy, and you can expect to receive it.

“When we are baptized into the name of God the Father, God the Father… promises to provide us with all good and avert all evil or turn it to our benefit.” Because our Father is the Maker of everything, He is able to give us whatever we need for our bodies. These are his resources! And because our Father is Lord of the universe, He’s able to keep us from every harm; He’s able to protect us from the attacks of the devil.

Even when it’s the Father’s will that we enter hard times, He can turn it to our benefit. We need to hear that. When there is constant unrest in our mind or in your life, you’re still his child. And when there is physical pain that can hardly be relieved, when there are years of grief, your Father is able to make sure it works out for our good. He has promised that He’ll have something good in it for us! In our suffering there will be always something that sanctifies and grows us. We might not see it right now, but we can be sure of it—we can trust the Father to do it. He’s able, because He is Almighty God. And He’s willing, as a Father of steadfast love. At baptism, God the Father put the seal on our adoption. God confirmed to us: “You’re mine. You’re now my child.”

And what about us, beloved? How do we receive this gift? This gift calls us to be good children of our Father. Obey him, says Jesus, “so that men may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16). The fact is, children bring either shame to their parents, or they bring honour. By how they live, by what they say, by their choices, there’s a message about Mum and Dad that’s being heard through daughters and sons. It’s true with God the Father as well. Do people glorify our Father in heaven, because of us? Do we bring him shame, or honour?

God wants us to serve him according to his Word. And that doesn’t need to be a burden on us, but a joy! Compare it to how children can be so happy to serve. Children love to be Mom’s little helper in the kitchen, cutting up vegetables. Or to be Dad’s helper in the shed, fixing the trailer—that’s fun. For children, it’s a joy to contribute! It’s exciting to do this work. Why? Because they love Mom and Dad. And even if they get in the way, or do things not-quite-right, Mom and Dad should be pleased. They can be happy with this help, because they know that it’s done out of love.

It’s that way with our service to God. Because you love him as Father, you can be glad to serve: glad to give your firstfruits, glad to sacrifice your time in the church, glad to live in obedience to him in whatever you’re doing. Your and my efforts are imperfect, in all we do. Sometimes we just get in the way of what God is doing. But know that the Father accepts our labours of love, for they bring him glory! 

           

2) the promise of the Son: “I baptize you into the name of the Son.” When these words are spoken, we’re pointed to the one foundation for our entire fellowship with God: It is the Son. Without Christ, there’s no bond. Without Christ, there’s no baptism.

On that note, it’s interesting to read in the book of Acts how the apostles would go about baptizing people. On several occasions in Acts, the baptisms of new believers are described. But it never actually says that a person is baptized into the name of “the Father, Son and Spirit.” Instead, it usually says that someone is baptized “in the name of Jesus,” or “in the name of the Lord.” The early church took a while to get some things figured out. Also for baptism it seems they hadn’t worked out Jesus’ words from Matthew 28. Still, they knew what is the heart of baptism—it’s the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They baptized in his name!

For when a person is baptized, it’s not about that water being splashed onto the body. It’s about how through the act of baptism, Christ is promising that He’ll cleanse this sinner. He’ll cleanse her, just as our evening shower cleanses the body of its odours and grime.

Recall what the Form says, “When we are baptized into the Name of the Son, God the Son promises us that He washes us in his blood from all our sins.” There’s power in the blood! For it is Christ’s blood. It flowed in the veins of a true and righteous man. Because He shed his blood, we don’t have to bear any of the punishment for our sin. That little child is covered—he is covered, from the moment of conception, even to the day it’s time to leave this earth and go home to the Father.

When a baby is baptized, probably not many of those present are thinking of sin or death. Baptism is a joyful and optimistic event. Babies look so pure and innocent. Yet the Bible tells us the truth: even newborns have dirty hearts. The human heart needs washing, otherwise we’ll die in our sin.

At baptism then, let your mind wander for a moment to the future. Try to think ahead. What will happen as this baby grows up? Christ will be there, all the way. When this child is wretched to his siblings, Christ the Redeemer will be there to forgive her. What about when he becomes an adolescent? When he talks back to his parents and aggravates them to no end, the Saviour will be willing to forgive. What about those teenage years? When she gets mixed up with the wrong crowd and does things she shouldn’t, the Lord Jesus is ready to forgive. Even when that child becomes a parent, and enters middle-age, or retires, Christ will be there with his abounding grace. Because his promise is sure and steady. Though the water was merely touched to the forehead, that sure promise of cleansing remains.

Like the Form for baptism puts it, “And if we sometimes through weakness fall into sins, we must not despair of God’s mercy.” That’s something we can take with us: God’s promise for life. As the Lord also says in Jeremiah 31, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (v 34). It’s something you can count on, for as long as live, how God says in Christ, “I will forgive you.”

But there’s a consequence too. We can’t forget it. If your heart has been washed by Christ, then from now on you need to avoid all the grime and all the pollution. If you’ve been washed, you can’t keep splashing in the muck. Your baptism obligates you to live differently. “We must not despair of God’s mercy… nor continue in sin.” If there’s a sin in your life, Christ says it’s time to stop. If there’s a wicked habit, it’s time to break it. If there’s any slavery to evil, you’re called to leave it behind. Don’t cover yourself again with filth—you’ve been washed!

Count on it: you’re going to be tempted, tempted by things that are so easy to give in to, so pleasing and enjoyable. But remember this: remember that God has made an eternal covenant with you. Remember that you’re in a relationship already—one with the Lord Christ! In those moments of testing, the water’s no longer on your forehead. But it was there. The water says you’re set apart for God. The water distinguishes you from this wicked world. The water reminds you that Christ has died for your sin. He died for it, so you don’t have to live in it any longer.

Though it was a long time ago, it’s true: We’re baptized into the name of God the Son. He said that all of us can be “freed from our sins and accounted righteous before God.” To each and every one of us, Christ promises forgiveness of sins through his precious blood, shed on the cross. This is what the Triune God did for you. He’s rich in love, abounding in grace! Doesn’t that make you want to lead a life of praise, and trust, and adoration? And He helps us give it, through his Spirit.

             

3) the promise of the Holy Spirit: “I baptize you into the name of the Holy Spirit.” With those last words, we hear how the Triune God is going to transform us: “When we are baptized into the Name of the Holy Spirit, God the Holy Spirit assures us by this sacrament that He will dwell in us.” The heart which is filled with sin—even at the moment it first begins to beat, deep within the mother’s womb—God promises that this heart will be filled with something else, something new and beautiful: the Spirit.

According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit has always got one main task: to make known the Lord Jesus. The Spirit is always the spotlight that shines brightly on the cross. That’s the Spirit’s promise at our baptism too. He promises to “make us living members of Christ.” He promises to connect us to him by faith: “The Spirit imparts to us what we have in Christ: the cleansing from our sins and the daily renewal of our lives.”

It’s a long process. The Spirit’s project, started in us (already as children) continues, year after year. And in the life of a Christian, there can seem to be many delays and setbacks. Just when you think you’ve established a good habit of reading the Word, it falls apart. Just when you’ve gone four weeks without giving in to that certain temptation, it comes back with a vengeance. On the other hand, a believer might go months, even years, when your prayers seem so lifeless, your heart so empty. Where’s his presence then?

But even then, do you remember what the Triune God promises you? Do you remember what He said? He said that He’ll finish what He started. He’ll perfect what has been begun. Already at our baptism, when we’re just a couple weeks old, we’ve got our eyes on the horizon. We look ahead to “[when] we shall finally be presented without blemish among the assembly of God’s elect in life eternal.” That’s the goal: To be among “the assembly of God’s elect in life eternal.” Far in the past is our baptism—and far ahead is our final goal. But know that it’s true. He will dwell in us, and He will impart to us what we have in Christ.

As with the other promises, this final one is a call to action. “We are, through baptism, called and obliged by the Lord to a new obedience. We must not love the world but put off our old nature and lead a God-fearing life.” If you’ve been promised the Spirit, now you have to keep in step with the Spirit. Go with him. Follow his leading. Hear his Word.

In closing, let’s think for a moment more about what happens at baptism. Seeing their children baptized into the name of “God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” parents should realize they’ve got a lot of work to do. They’ve just promised it: to raise this child to know not just fairy tales, but the very truth of God’s Word. To raise this child to know not just about animals and numbers, but to know Jesus Christ as Saviour. To know not just the power of trucks and tools and typhoons, but to know the power of God the Holy Spirit. If we said “I do” at the baptism of our children, we’re called to an immensely serious task. It’s not an easy job. There are many regrets. Lots of mistakes. Parents too, need the forgiveness that God promises!

We also know that not all God’s covenant children come to love him as Father. Those promises are left unclaimed, it seems—though so rich, the words are ignored and unloved. There are families in our midst that know the deep disappointment of children who reject the promise. Such things cause great heartache. But despite all the shortcomings of parents, and despite all the sinfulness of children, the Triune God remains God of the covenant.

Which is to say that even a hardened sinner is never out of the reach of his love. God is there for those who seek him. He is there, for all who turn to Him. We know this from his precious promises, those things He said at our baptism. The Word He spoke always keeps its potential, always maintains its power. It’s the Word that can save. As long as there’s life, his promise endures. The soil in some hearts seems to us to be rocky, or hard, or choked over with thorns. But it might well be soil with a rich potential. God knows!

So we pray for parents, who all struggle with their task. We pray for children who haven’t yet embraced the LORD’s promises. We pray for all covenant children, that we might answer faithfully the Triune God, to accept in faith all that He has done. This amazing God who is one being, yet three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—this great Lord has vowed, “I will be your God, and you will be my people!” So walk in fellowship with this Triune God, with faith and love, now and always!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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