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Author:Rev. George van Popta
 send email...
 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
 www.ancasterchurch.on.ca
 
Title:Belong, to whom?
Text:LD 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2002-12-01
Added:2004-03-02
Updated:2007-09-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs - Hy. 2:1,2,3; Hy. 2:4,5; Ps. 116:1-5, 8,9; Hy. 49; Ps. 56:4,5

Reading - 1 Cor. 3
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

To whom do you belong?
  • Soul...
  • Body...
  • Today...
  • Tomorrow...
  • Life...
  • Death...

I preach to you the comfort of the gospel under this theme:


THE ONLY COMFORT IN LIFE AND DEATH: BELONGING TO CHRIST BODY AND SOUL

  1. Its personal nature;
  2. Its exclusive character;
  3. Its assurance and effects.

1. The personal nature of belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is true-the Heidelberg Catechism, including LD 1, is the confession of the church.
It's the church's confession.
The church belongs to Christ.
Think of what Paul writes in Eph. 5 -- Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Eph. 5 finds an echo in Hy. 40 -- We sing there that Christ came from heaven and sought the church out to be his holy bride; and that Christ bought the church with his precious blood.
Through his death he came into ownership, possession of the church.

So, the confession that we belong to Christ is the church's confession.
There is no arguing that.
Peter said that we (collective / the church) are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people.
God has his covenant people.
Generation after generation, God remains faithful to the promises he made to Abraham and his seed.
Jesus came to save his people from their sin.
All of that is true and it is wonderful.
A person needs to join the church; one may not withdraw from the church-for there is no salvation outside the church.
When a person is excommunicated (because he refuses to repent of his sin) then he is cast outside the kingdom of God.
There is no institution on earth as important as the church.
The church is the bride of Christ.
Apart from the church, you do not belong to Christ.

But if we leave it at that -- if we stop after having spoken about how the church belongs to Christ -- if we stop after having spoken about how God has a people, a new community -- if we quit after having spoken about the work of Christ on the large scale --
-- as important, and biblical, and confessional as it is --
-- if we quit there we end up with a lopsided faith.
If we stop there we run the danger of hiding behind the skirts of mother church.
We try to hide in the community / congregation.
We think that being one of the crowd will save us / get us into heaven.

Our confession, while it is the confession of the church, realizes that.
It wants to get into the heart and out of the mouth of the individual member of the church.
LD 1 wants to be the personal confession of the individual believer / member of the church.

We can see that in the answer.
We cannot yet see it in the question.
The question is: "What is your only comfort in life and death?"
The word "your" could be interpreted as the plural your.
Your -- all of you.
"What do all of you rate as your only comfort in life and death?"
When it is asked that way, we can still try to hide in the crowd.
And when it comes time to sing the AC -- oh, yes, we will stand with the congregation and sing Hy. 1A -- even enthusiastically.

But if we think that's what Q. 1 is asking, we've missed the boat.
And on the last day we'll be standing there with our mouths open when Christ says: "And who might you be? I don't know you!"

Answer 1 undercuts our misguided attempt to hide in the crowd.
The words I, me or my are used ten times.
Ten times in four sentences.
  • I am not my own.
  • My faithful Saviour.
  • He has paid for my sins.
  • He has set me free.
  • He preserves me.
  • He assures me.
  • He makes me want to live for him.
Kind of hard not to miss, isn't it?

Each member of the church must make this his/her personal confession.
If you don't make this your personal confession, then what is spoken of here in LD 1 will not help you.

This is not the advocacy of individualism.
We are a congregation.
God has his covenant with believers and their children.
But, a congregation is made up of individuals.
Individuals who must make the good confession.
Children of believers who need to learn to know the Lord -- who need to embrace the promises of the covenant -- who need to take ownership of their baptisms.

There are many places in the gospels where it teaches that unless you personally confess faith in God, you'll not be saved.
  • John 3:16-For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
  • John 12:46-I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
  • Mat 12:50-For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister...."
  • Mat 16:25-For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
  • Acts 2:21-And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'
All these verses, and there are many more examples, speak of the individual.

And what is that personal confession which you must make?
That Christ has fully paid for all your sins, and set you free from all the power of the devil.
You confess how great your sins and misery are.
And you believe that Christ has delivered you from all your sins and misery.

Unless you, personally, as a man, a woman, a young person, make that confession, you will not be saved.
You'll not know true comfort.
There is no comfort to be had with hiding in the crowd.
There is only comfort to be had with confessing your sin and receiving the washing away of your sins by the blood of Christ.
No one can do that for you.
No one can confess your sins for you.
Someone can intercede for you / can pray to God on your behalf.
But only you can confess your sins.

Take this seriously / personally.
I'm belabouring the point somewhat because too many people are on automatic pilot without giving it a thought.
It does not work in the matters of salvation.
Going through the motions, thinking everything is OK, that they'll get into heaven along with the crowd.
It will not work.
You will not know the comfort of belonging to Christ without a personal and living faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul tells us in Rom. 10 that individual people must make personal confessions.
And that if they do not they will not be saved.

Rom 10:9ff ... if you (singular) confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For [a] man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." ... For, "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved."

It's all in the singular.
There's not getting around that.
And so each of you need to make personal confession of sin and personally embrace Christ for the washing away of your sins.
Yes, he owns his church.
He owns this church / congregation.
But you are individual members of this congregation.
Individual brothers. and sisters.
And Christ would have a personal relationship with individual brothers. and sisters.

This relationship Christ has with those who believe in him is an everlasting relationship.
It will provide you with comfort in life and in death.

In this life we have many problems.
We get wound up.
We worry about things.
We have frustrations, pains, sickness.
We are tempted to sin.

Well, listen, Christ is the comfort for believers.
He is your comfort in life.
He will preserve you.
He will place you in the hands of his and your heavenly Father.
And not even a hair will fall from your head without the will of the Father.
Give yourself entirely to him.
He will preserve you and work everything for your good.
For your salvation.

Seek your comfort in him.
Too often we seek comfort in earthly things -- in worldly amusements.
In wealth.
In the pleasures and treasures of this world.
It's useless.
On the last day, all those pleasures and treasures will be burned with fire.
And then where will your comfort be?
What or Who will be your comfort?

Seek your comfort in Christ today.
He will be your comfort in life.

And Christ will continue to be your comfort in death.
Death is a frightening thing.
It's called "the last enemy."
But we need not fear death.
For Christ is our comfort today, and he will continue to be in death.
When believers die they go to be with Christ.

Romans 14- None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Is Christ your comfort today, in life?
And what about later, in death?


2. The exclusive character of this (personal) ownership.

The ownership which Christ has over you is exclusive in that he owns you body and soul.
That means that you belong to him.
If you belong to him, you will show that in your daily life.
Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - ... your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God ... You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Christ has ransomed us from the futile ways we have inherited from our fathers -- ransomed us with his own precious blood.
We inherit sin, original sin, from our parents.
We are born in sin.
We are born sinners.
But Christ has ransomed us from that.

By ransoming us, we become his possession.
His property.

What are the implications of that?
What does it mean that we belong to Christ?
That he bought us?
That he paid for us?
That he owns us?
Does that mean anything?

It ought to.
We ought to get beyond the theoretical aspects of this.
That Christ has ransomed us, paid for us with his precious blood -- that on the cross he destroyed the works of the devil -- it ought to be more than just a matter of doctrinal reflection.
Thinking about the doctrine is good and important, but the good news which the doctrine proclaims must translate into how we act and live.

It is good to talk about sin, but if we do not confess our sin, all of our talk about it is useless.
It's good to talk about the power of the blood of Christ and the effect and extent of his work on the cross, but if you do not embrace the work which he has done -- if you do not give yourself over to Christ (body and soul) then all your talk will haunt you in hell for ever.
We must confess our faith in Christ, embrace his person, and then follow him.
Obey him.
Serve him.
Do his will.

We must be thankful for how he has delivered us through Christ.
And we must show our thanks in godly living.
In obeying the Ten Commandments and Prayer.

We have just finished the part of the Heidelberg Catechism that deals with the 10 commandments and prayer.
10 sermons on the 10 commandments.
About as many on prayer.
We've got to work with that.
All our talk about the 10 commandments is useless if we don't begin obeying the 10 commandments.
If we do not make any progress in our obedience.
All our talk about prayer is just that -- talk, talk, talk -- if we don't work with it and learn better how to pray.

It is as we make progress in obeying God and as we develop a healthy prayer life that we show that we do belong to Christ, body and soul.
That he has exclusive ownership of us.

Does he own you, body and soul?
Then show it, in how you live.
Glorify him in your obedience and in your praying.
Work at it.
Being a servant implies work.
If you are Christ's servant, work at serving him.
We want it to come so easily.
We don't want it to be any effort.
And so we slip and we slide, and we take the path of least resistance.

If, after having heard the word of God proclaimed on the Lord's day, but Monday morning we just continue indulging ourselves, indulging the flesh, not making a real effort to serve the Lord and to live with him / to follow him -- well, what's the use of it all?
If you, on Monday morning and all week long, just continue in your old sins, then you prove that you are not a servant of Christ but you are a slave of sin.
Jesus warned in John 8 that the slave will not continue in the house forever.
Only obedient children will receive a place in the house of God forever.

Has the Son made you free?
Then worship him and serve him in that freedom.
Show that you belong to him, body and soul.

You cannot belong to yourself, and to Christ.
You cannot belong to the ways of futility inherited from your fathers, and to Christ.
You cannot belong to the world and to Christ.
It's Christ or nothing.

Romans 6:13 -- Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

Ephesians 5:8-10 -- for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

It is only as you give yourself completely to Christ -- it is only as the Lord Jesus Christ exercises his exclusive ownership over you -- that you will know true comfort.
Then when you are uptight or wound up about life, then you will know where to go / to whom to go.
He will comfort you with his Holy Spirit.
And things will be well with you and for you.


3. How can you know that you belong to Christ?

That's something that God's people often struggle with.
Assurance.
How can you know that he has ownership, even exclusive ownership, over you?
How can you know the comfort, the real and true comfort of knowing that you belong to Christ, body and soul in life and in death?
We've got to know it to have the comfort.

Christ works the assurance in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
"By His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life."

Paul wrote about this in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians.
God establishes us in Christ.
And then he puts his seal upon us and gives us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Similarly in Ephesians 1:13-14 -- ... [we] have heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, wh[o] is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it....

The Lord Jesus Christ takes ownership of you by ransoming you with his blood, and then he lets you know it.
He lets you know that he owns you by giving you His Spirit in your heart.
We speak about this assurance in the Canons of Dort, Chapter V.

In chapter V of the Canons we speak about how the Lord preserves us by the Holy Spirit.
This preservation does not mean that we are yet, in this life, free from all sin.
We still fall into sin, but we are not enslaved to sin.
And believers can be certain of this preservation of the saints unto salvation.

CD 5:10 - This assurance is not produced by a certain private revelation besides or outside the Word, but
  • by faith in the promises of God, which He has most abundantly revealed in His Word for our comfort;
  • by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, witnessing with our spirit that we are children and heirs of God; and, finally,
  • by the serious and holy pursuit of a good conscience and of good works.

If we go on in ch. 5 of the Canons of Dort, we say that this assurance is not always felt.
Believers struggle in this life with many temptations and doubts.
But God, the God of all comfort, will not let you be tempted beyond your strength.
He will provide the way of escape.

This assurance, this knowledge that we belong to Christ forever and ever, does not make believers lazy in their Christian lives.
Rather, the knowledge of it makes us want to serve the Lord.
It makes us more and more diligent in obeying the Lord and praying to him.
The Holy Spirit-wrought assurance of salvation and knowledge of the comfort that we belong to Christ body and soul in life and in death is a real incentive to godly living.
It does not make us careless.
It makes us careful in serving the Lord, in following Christ, in obeying the commandments of God.
It's got to.

And so, if you witness in your life the desire to obey the Lord, then you can be more and more assured that you belong to Christ.
Because the only reason that anyone has a desire to obey the Lord is because the Holy Spirit is working in that person.
It is the Holy Spirit alone who makes you heartily willing and ready to live for Christ.
Without the Holy Spirit working in you, you would not be interested in serving Christ, following him as Lord, and obeying his commandments.

As Paul said in Romans 8:14 -- For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
If the Spirit of Christ dwells in you, it will show.
It will show in how you live.
It will be seen that you are a son, a daughter of God the Father.
A brother, a sister of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Make this confession your own, beloved.
Your own personal confession.
Don't let it just be some academic thing.
Let it get into your heart and then let it come out of your lips.
"I belong to Christ, body and soul, in life and death."
Let that be your confession.
Let that confession shape your life -- every aspect of how you live.
And be comforted by the blessed assurance that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, today, forever.

Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.ancasterchurch.on.ca/sermons/dec0102pm.html

(c) Copyright 2002, Rev. George van Popta

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