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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:God is Our Almighty and Exclusive Saviour
Text:LD 11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-10-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 108:1,2                                                                                    

Hy 1

Reading – Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 2

Ps 118:1,5,6

Sermon – Lord’s Day 11

Ps 27:1,2

Hy 55:1,2,3 

* 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, have you ever been warned not to put all your eggs into one basket? They say it’s not a good idea. It takes just a slip of the hand, and you’ve lost them all. So it’s good to have at least a few places for your egg-storage. That way if one basket is ruined, you’ve still got the others.

Though it’s good advice for chicken farmers, and probably for other areas of our life, “putting all your eggs in one basket” is exactly what Lord’s Day 11 tells us to do! This lesson in the Catechism is about salvation, and where we expect it to come from. Both Questions and Answers use language that’s very black-and-white.

Consider the first Answer: “Salvation is not to be sought or found in anyone else” (Q&A 29). It’s saying, “Don’t bother looking elsewhere. Don’t try to leave your options open. There’s only one who can save you, and that is Jesus Christ.” Then the second Answer, “For one of two things must be true, either Jesus is not a complete Saviour, or those who by true faith accept this Saviour must find in him all that is necessary for their salvation” (Q&A 30). It’s saying, “If you’re going to believe in Jesus, then you have to believe in him all the way. No holding back. Put all your eggs in this basket, or leave the basket empty.”

All or nothing. We don’t like that, because we’re a cautious people. We want extra insurance, and like to have back-up plans. But that’s not faith. Do you believe that Jesus is the Saviour? Do you rest yourself completely in the promises of God? It’s the only way to salvation!

If God was imperfect in any way, we might be allowed to look elsewhere for help. If the LORD had ever been unfaithful to us, we could try rely on another saviour. But the truth is, God is worthy of our trust! He’s a Saviour who doesn’t fail. Because when it comes to our salvation, all three persons of the Trinity are involved. No one less than God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are collaborating on our redemption! What a certainty that gives us! We can put all of our trust in this one God, confessing on this theme:

The Triune God is my salvation!

  1. it’s a salvation given by the Father
  2. revealed by the Spirit
  3. and accomplished by the Son

 

1. this salvation is given by the Father: Our God is a saving God—always has been, and He always will be! We insist that God has always been saving people, because there are those who like to say that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. Read the Old Testament, they say, and you see a God who has “anger issues,” one who likes to zap people for their sins. The book of Judges or Kings is bad for that. God doesn’t look like He’s very patient at all. But turn to the New Testament, and suddenly God has received a make-over, taken on a different character. Suddenly, He’s a kinder, gentler God. “God is love,” the apostle John tells us.

Many people see this fundamental difference between Old and New. Back then, God condemned. But now, God saves. And we as Reformed Christians can make the same mistake too, if we’re not careful. For we always say that Jesus delivers us from the Father’s wrath. We say that He’s the one who stands between the Father and us. He’s the one who “takes the heat” for us and bears our punishment. That’s true. But if that’s all you say, then you end up with a skewed image of God. For the Father’s the bad guy, then. The Father is the one who is always angry at his children, and who needs to be pacified by Christ. Is that true?

One of our duties as believers is “to rightly know God.” We have to be correct in our knowledge of him. And if we’re going to know God well, then we shouldn’t skip over the Old Testament. Sometimes we do that in our devotions—skip over three-quarters of what God has revealed to us by his speaking, and just read the New Testament. But the Old Testament is way too much to ignore.

We see that back then, God the Father did destroy sinners in his wrath—we can’t deny that. For that’s who He is: He’s a God who won’t stomach any evil. But in the days of Israel, we also see that God was a God of steadfast love. God was a God who saved. He delivered and He rescued. That’s what He did. It was—and it is!—his holy specialty.

Just reflect on how often in the Old Testament that word “salvation” is linked directly to God: several dozens of times. If you check a concordance, you’ll see what I mean. “Salvation” is used nearly exclusively to describe the activity of God the LORD. Salvation is his work—it’s his brand and trademark.

What is the greatest salvation event in the Old Testament? It’s the deliverance of Israel from the land of Egypt. You remember that the people were stuck in captivity. And they had no hope of liberation. People who have been slaves for centuries are generally not known for being great soldiers—this is a weak nation, up against the strongest army on earth! They’re never going to get out of here alive.

And it’s not like the Israelites deserved any heavenly help. They weren’t especially zealous during those years of trial in Egypt. We learn that many had forgotten the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. With good reason, God could’ve let them stay there forever. But with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm the LORD brought them out.

That exodus event shows something important about God. He’s a Saviour. And this is the way that He’ll continues to care for Israel over the next several hundred years. Think of all He did… The LORD rescued them from their enemies in the wilderness. The LORD delivered them from the nations that lived around Palestine. He saved his people in times of famine and plague. They would run stuck, and God would rescue them again. Later, the LORD even redeemed them from exile in foreign lands—something that the prophets called “a new exodus.”

In short, God was always saving! It’s no wonder that God points to his track record in Isaiah 43, and He says, “I am the LORD, and besides me there is no Saviour” (v 11). This is what God does—this is what God delights to do! He saves.

Compare it earthly fathers. Dads usually like the opportunity to get their children out of some predicament. They like to be the hero, and rescue them from some danger. Even if it’s just being stuck on the trampoline and you can’t climb down, or it’s being stranded with a broken car, Dad will come and help. This is something he can do, because he’s strong, because he’s able—because he loves. He wants to be the rescuer.

How much more with our heavenly Father! If sinful fathers love to rescue, your heavenly Father does too, far more perfectly and far more willingly. Beloved, your Father’s desire is to help you. His joy is to save his children from our trouble. So you can call on him!

The saints have always known that. If you want deliverance, you have to look up: Look to God! We see it in Psalm 27. David had a world of troubles—evil men advancing against him, an army besieging him, war breaking out. If we faced all of that at the same time, I wonder how we’d do: crumble in terror. But listen to what David says: “The LORD is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” (v 1). That’s the opening of his prayer: it’s not a moan, not a deep sigh, but a confession that God can handle it. The LORD had saved before, and He’d save again.

“The LORD is my salvation.” Interesting way of putting it—when the Bible wants to make a point about what God is like, about his character, it will equate him with the thing that He does. It puts an equals sign between the two to emphasize how true it is—how good God is at something. For example, the apostle John says that God loves so much, and God loves so well, that God IS love. And David says that God saves so often, and God saves so powerfully, that God IS salvation! Without question, God can bring you deliverance in your trouble.

So David just wants one thing. He wants to remain with this Saviour God forever: “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD” (v 4). In Bible times if you were invited to someone’s home, you could rely on your host for practically everything. Your host was expected provide you with meals, but also to provide you with protection and shelter! As long as you were under their roof, you were their responsibility. So if you were in the home of a powerful king, behind the thick walls, you knew that you were safe. You could rest secure and sleep well, because your host was near.

That’s how David looks at it. On one side are the enemies who want to kill him; and on the other side, the God of redemption. It’s no contest, provided that David is under his Saviour’s roof—as long as David lives with him: “I want to dwell in the house of the LORD.”

Reflect for a moment on that word “dwell.” To dwell means to permanently stay. To inhabit a place for a long period of time. Dwelling is different than “dropping in”—which is sometimes how we treat the LORD. We drop in on God, when things are unsettled—we start praying earnestly, we start looking for texts that speak about our trouble. But David says he’ll seek God constantly. He wants to stay with his Saviour all the time, and not leave his shelter.

Brothers and sisters, would that be said of you, that you dwell with the Father? Do you rest in his strength, day by day? Do have you the conviction that you need him, every hour? Or do you leave him for days at a time, and then drop in? God wants us to dwell with him. And to those who do, the Father grants salvation.

Through Jesus Christ, David’s confidence in verse 13 can be our confidence: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (v 13). That’s what the believer can say: “Whatever happens to me, God will save. I don’t have to lose heart in prayer, for my sins are not greater than the Father’s mercy. My burdens can’t possibly outweigh his love. I’ll never fall beyond his loving reach.” Remember that this Saviour God has a mighty hand, and an outstretched arm!

 

2. this salvation is revealed by the Spirit: It’s not easy to believe in Jesus Christ. Sure, anyone can acknowledge that a man called Jesus of Nazareth once lived on this earth, gathered followers, taught them with some wise words, and then was killed by the Romans. There’s not much reason to doubt this. It’s a fact of history, like it’s a fact that James Cook first sailed into Botany Bay in 1770.

But it’s harder to believe that this Jesus is a Saviour. To believe that He was killed, but then three days later He came back to life, and He went up to heaven. To believe that with his death and resurrection He became the only way back to God… that’s a lot harder. To believe that in his short life He accomplished absolutely everything necessary for the salvation of the entire human race… that’s actually an impossible truth for us to accept.

Paul teaches this in 1 Corinthians 2. He says that all people lack a true understanding about who God is, or about what God has done in Christ. Though God has given his Word, none of this knowledge is agreeable to us—not a bit of it! This is how Paul puts it, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (v 14). The God of the Bible, the Saviour in Christ, cannot be known unless God helps you to know him! Until then, Jesus will be a stranger, and God will be a fairy tale.

Say there’s someone who knows the Bible better than most Christians. You sometimes meet people like that in university, or you hear them on the news giving their expert opinion: scholars who can read Greek and Hebrew, who have PhDs in Biblical studies, who can quote chapter-and-verse. Lots of knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that they love Christ. To them, what they’ve studied in the Bible might only be mythology, only literature, or one more “world religion.” This is because it’s all foolishness without the working of the Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, they overlook the Bible’s true message: the glad tidings of salvation in Christ.

So how blessed are those to whom God has given the Spirit! How different from those scholars is the 10 year old boy who simply believes God’s Word, or the 89 year old sister who stays steadfast in the faith. For this is what they’re allowed to know: “the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (v 7). By the Holy Spirit, we can know the secret of life.

And that’s a stunning reality. We take it for granted, yet salvation is beyond what any human can imagine. “As it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, no ear heard, nor have entered in the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him’” (v 9). We could never have dreamed it up. But the Holy Spirit has made this salvation known. Like Jesus told his disciples, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said” (John 14:24).

The Spirit tutors us in what we need to know. He impresses onto us that precious message of salvation. He makes sure that, even though we didn’t sit at Jesus’ feet during his ministry, we can hear his words as real and true. The Spirit tells us what would otherwise be unbelievable. He says, “Truly, salvation is yours. Truly, you are a child of God for the sake of Christ.” Through the Spirit, the work of Jesus goes from historical fact to personal reality. That not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins and everlasting life!

Not to say that we understand everything about the gospel of salvation. For who can comprehend what it took for the Father to send his own Son to die for sinners? Or who can grasp what it meant for Jesus to be rejected by God the Father? Or who can explain how three hours of darkness were equal to the eternal death of countless millions of sinners? Yet through the Holy Spirit, this gospel begins to make sense. We can understand it, and believe it. We can take it with us, and we can work with it.

Beloved, what’s the take-home message from this? It shows us the need to be well-rooted in the gospel of Christ. Keep reading the wisdom of God in his Word. Keep hearing the Scriptures proclaimed. Let the Holy Spirit write this truth on your hearts, that God is your salvation in Jesus Christ.

If the Word of God is closed, all we’re going to hear is the static of our busyness, or the moaning of our cares and worries. If the Word of God is closed, we’ll never hear the gentle counseling of the Holy Spirit. But it’s when we read Scripture that the Spirit is able to speak, firmly, yet gently, and powerfully. It’s when his Word is open in front of me, that the Spirit can say to me, “Don’t worry. God is with you.” Or He says, “Keep going this way—this is God’s will for you.” Or the Spirit says, “Don’t do this anymore—repent, and listen to Christ.” Open the Word, so that you can know the Word of your Saviour.

 

3. this salvation is accomplished by the Son: Sometimes you’ll see the gospel reduced to just two words on a billboard or bumper sticker: “Jesus saves.” And that is the mission of Christ. Even his name expresses that truth: Jesus means “Saviour.” Think of what the angel said to Joseph, “Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Though the Father is Saviour, and the Spirit is Saviour, it’s Jesus who leads the rescue operation. Jesus saves!

In 1 Corinthians Paul reflects on the power of this simple message. When we read Corinthians, we notice that Paul as a preacher felt like he didn’t measure up for the task. Other ministers were more charismatic. Others were better speakers. If Paul was an apostle, then surely others were “super-apostles.” And the Corinthians made sure he knew it.

But Paul goes back to the basics. He acknowledges to his readers, “When I came to you, [I] did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God” (1 Cor 2:1). Sure, others had more glamour, more talent. The same is true today, as one preacher has different gifts than another. But Paul reminds us of what is most important for any minister, the thing we have to listen for: the message that he brings!

For Paul ministering among the Corinthians, the message is simple: “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (v 2). That was Paul’s focus. As the servant of Christ, he would preach the gospel of Christ. It might sound like just a plain, nuts and bolts, no frills gospel. But he would always preach the cross: Christ and him crucified!

Why? Because Paul knew personally about the desperate need for salvation. At one time Paul too was lost in his ignorance and sin, yet God had mercy on him. Paul saw firsthand what Christ can do for sinners! He can save them, by giving them new life and restoring them. So he went and preached Jesus with all his heart. Paul writes to Timothy, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am worst” (1 Tim 1:15). Jesus came to save, and He came for me!

It’s like what John Newton once said. You might know John Newton as the author of the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace.” He was an Englishman in the 18th century who’d been involved in the African slave trade, as the captain of a slave ship. He had a part in sending many thousands of souls to the death, or into a life of misery. For anyone that would be a massively heavy burden of guilt to carry. But John Newton became a Christian, and this is what he confessed near the end of his life, “I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.” This is why Jesus came, to save sinners, “of whom I am the worst.” To save every sinner who puts their trust in him! That’s amazing grace.

We were doomed by our own rebellion, and powerless to help ourselves. Who would ever die for these ungodly souls? Who would ever die to save a people so ungrateful? Yet here’s the gospel: while we were still sinners, Christ dared to give his life for us. Because the Father asked him to, Jesus put us ahead of himself and made us children of God, so that you and I might live forever!

So after learning about our great and gracious Saviour God, what remains? What remains is our response. The Catechism is pointed about our responsibility: “Those who by true faith accept this Saviour must find in him all that is necessary for their salvation” (Q&A 30). There’s actually two parts to that: Accept this Saviour! Believe in him. Acknowledge what He has done for you.

And second, which is maybe the real challenge: Find in Christ all that you need! “All that is necessary.” For you, what’s your place of refuge? What’s the thing that gives your deepest pleasure and sense of meaning? Where do you get your sense of fulfillment and joy? It can only be in Jesus Christ. It needs only to be in him—we don’t need another Saviour—because He is big enough for us, strong enough, gracious enough: our mighty God!

Reserve your trust, all your love, and all your worship for him alone. Put all your eggs into this basket. You’re allowed to—you need to. Because it’s either him, or it’s no one. Salvation is through his Name, or there’s no salvation at all. Acknowledge that you can’t do it on your own, and receive the help that the Triune God will give you. Make Him your greatest treasure, your true dwelling, your only Saviour!  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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