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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:Trust in the LORD with all your Heart
Text:LD 34 Part 2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 1st Commandment (God alone)
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-06-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 81:1,2,3                                                                             

Hy 2:1,2,3

Reading – Proverbs 1:1-7; Proverbs 16

Ps 81:7,8,9,14

Sermon – Lord’s Day 34, Part 2

Hy 13:1,2,3,4,5

Hy 77:1,2,3

* 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 the Lord, where do school teachers always begin their lessons? With the basics. When you get to Kindergarten, the teacher will start with those first and most important lessons about what you need to know: your ABCs, and your 123s. When you look back on what you first learned at primary school, it’s very simple—you probably can’t remember a time when you didn’t know how to read a book, or how to do long division. But it’s only possible because you learned those basics, the first principles.

The law of God begins in the same way, when the LORD says to us in the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is a building block for everything else—that we trust in God alone, and not in any other thing, or any other person, and certainly not in ourselves. There’s a reason that the first commandment is first, because in it God is telling us about the whole orientation of our life, that I must “forsake all creatures rather than do the least thing against his will” (Q&A 94).

If we learn that key lesson, the rest of the Ten Commandments make perfect sense. And our obedience to all the commands of the Lord will show that we in fact love Him more than anything else. It’s the starting point for the Christian life: God first, God all the time.

The lessons of the book of Proverbs begin in the same way, with the truth that nothing is more important than the service of the LORD. In this book Solomon is teaching his son, mentoring his child like every Christian parent should. And Solomon begins with the core lessons of faith. We see the template for living in 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” If you fear the LORD—if you have a reverence for his glory, submission before his power, and dependence on his grace—then you’ve got your bearing and direction for life. We said that it becomes a holy instinct: What is my Father’s will in this situation? What does the LORD require of me?

The first commandment of God’s law comes to beautiful expression in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. This is the core of what God asks of us, that we “rightly come to know the only true God, trust in Him alone, and submit to Him” (Q&A 94). I preach to you God’s Word as summarized in the Catechism on this theme,

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart”

  1. so many idols to seek after
  2. but only one God worthy of trust

 

1) so many idols to seek after: There really are only two ways to live! That’s a key teaching of Scripture, and in the book of Proverbs. You can go one way: the way of faith and obedience, leading to life—or you can go another way: following the track of unbelief and sin, leading to death. Solomon tells his son about these two ways early on, and he keeps coming back to it. Like in 15:9, “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but He loves him who follows righteousness.”

The same fork in the road is found in chapter 16, “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; he who keeps his way preserves his soul” (v 17). As often in a day that we’re confronted with temptation, we’re confronted with a choice about what way to follow: Shall I take the highway to sin—that broad, easy way? Or shall I preserve my way according to the will of God? The Holy Spirit keeps telling us that this life presents us with one opportunity after another either to serve the LORD, or to serve ourselves.

When you read through Proverbs, we’ll see this choice set out for us in relation to every commandment of God’s law. The first commandment is no exception—and here the two ways are even more clearly labelled on the road map for our life. Is there something “in which we put our trust instead of, or in addition to, the only true God who has revealed himself in his Word”? (Q&A 95). Is there another god that we seek?

Solomon knows that his son has troubles with his heart. All of God’s people have heart trouble! Our heart or our spirit is the centre of our life—and it’s always drawn to depend on created things, and to cling to idols. What do we give our heart to? What do we make our treasure, and where do we find our security? This is key in the first commandment. For the LORD wants us to “love, fear and honour him with all our heart” (Q&A 94).

So we hear Solomon say to his son, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (4:23). The heart is the source of so much that goes on in our lives. It’s within the heart that we make our decisions about what’s important to us. It’s within the heart that we set our goals, and consider what we’d like to accomplish. In the heart are the origins of everything else we do: “the issues of life.”

And if we’ll keep our heart for God, then we must keep it from idols. We must shield our heart from every false god and every counterfeit security. Now, whenever we speak about false gods, our first point of reference is probably the gods that we know from World Religions 101, the temples and mosques that you see in many places. And it’s easy to say that we’d never make the choice to adopt the Hindu religion, or to become a Buddhist, or a Muslim. In that respect, we think that we’ve got the first commandment well in hand.

I’m sure that when Solomon wrote his proverbs, he never expected that he’d give his heart to another god either. But what happened? First Kings tells us that “when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God… For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites” (11:4-5). He built high places, and took part in pagan liturgies. More than once, 1 Kings tells us that Solomon’s “heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel.”

That’s a sobering example, isn’t it? The man who exhorted us to “trust in the LORD with all our heart” ends up giving his heart to Ashtoreth and Milcom. And that doesn’t make his words in this book any less true or less reliable—rather, it makes his words even more of a caution and warning. Who do we give our heart to? Don’t presume to be stronger than the man of God who wrote the wisdom of Proverbs. If anything, be even more zealous to keep your heart with all diligence.

If your heart doesn’t go astray at the local mosque, or at a Hindu shrine, where else is it likely to leave the path of God’s commands? There’s so many side-streets where our hearts go off course. For interest, I did a quick concordance search in the book of Proverbs, just to see where our “heart” is first mentioned in a negative context. It comes in chapter 6, where Solomon is warning his son against the power of the sexual temptation.

This chapter is helpful to study in relation to the seventh commandment, but for now we can note that Solomon is describing the charms of the godless woman. He’s doing so in a way that still very much resonates in the 21st century, with website pop-ups and free porn just a click away. Solomon says, “Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you” (v 25). Notice how this very physical sin of adultery has its deadly roots in the heart. That’s where it begins. When we look at pornography, or when we lust after another person, we’re giving our heart to another.

And this means that at its most fundamental, it is idolatry. Giving in to sexual sin means that God isn’t coming first for us anymore. Instead we’re listening to the power of our own desires, submitting to our strong urge for pleasure. When we watch those images, or when we enter into that dangerous relationship, we’re looking for something. We’re expecting good and satisfaction to come from someone other than God: it’s idolatry.

What about trust? We’ve seen that the foundation of the first commandment is Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart.” So what else might we trust in? Another search of Proverbs reveals that the first time “trust” is mentioned in a negative way is chapter 11, “He who trusts in his riches will fall” (v 28). That’s a text that connects well to the eighth commandment of God’s law, all about his will for our possessions. But here too, it’s plain that the first commandment is Lesson #1 for life, that we give our trust to none but God. Yet what we possess can so easily become a refuge; as it says in Proverbs 10:15, “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city.”

It’s hard not to do that, to depend on those things that we see and have. It’s hard not to walk a little taller and to feel a little more confident, just because our bank accounts are full, our possessions are brand new, and we’re the envy of our neighbours. But when we make wealth our strong city, and when our priorities always take first position on the budget, we’re not living anymore in the fear of God. We’re giving our best to an idol, and we’re denying the LORD and his claim on us.

Sex and money—these are two idols that so many of God’s children bend the knee to. What’s another, according to Proverbs? Instead of loving God with all your heart, you might love to party. You love a long line of drinks, the idea of finding escape at the bottom of a bottle. You love the excitement of being with friends and letting loose. This is where you feel accepted, and free, and safe. But when you give your heart to a party every weekend, it’s idolatry. It’s not submitting to God’s law, or expecting good from Him alone. And like all disobedience, it’s going to end in misery: “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (21:17).

There’s another idol that Proverbs say we seek after. It’s called “approval,” or the fear of man. It’s the constant concern over what people think of us. It’s where having their positive opinion makes us secure. This is what the Spirit says in 29:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”

It’s always been true that other people can exert such an influence on us. Solomon will warn his son about how the godless might lead him off the path of life with their sly suggestions and temptations. But it’s not just the wicked that we might cave into—it might be the brothers and sisters sitting in the next pew. Because we want their approval. We’re worried about how they view us. We don’t want to do anything that offends them, so we make sure that we’re as agreeable as possible with as many people as possible.

This is a real idol. It is, because it too, is a matter of trust. We’re trusting in what other people can give us: their appreciation, their favour, their acceptance—that’s what gives our sense of security (short-lived as it is). We are expecting good not from God alone, but from those around us. We’re doing things for them, not for the LORD. The fear of man—what a sad counterpart to how we should really live, in the the fear of the LORD!

In this point we’ve mentioned only a few of the many idols that are available. There are many more—remember how our heart is a wellspring of so many desires. So how do we know that we’re putting our trust in something more than in God? How do we know when our heart’s dependence is on another person or a thing, and not on the LORD? Ask yourself: Who am I trusting in for this next month? What’s my hope during this anxious time? Am I full of confidence in myself, or in other people, or in some other thing? What’s bringing me joy these days? Where is my heart? Am I at rest because I’m looking to God, and to Him alone?

 

2) but only one God worthy of trust: We’ve talked about the one way to live, when we pursue the idols that are fashioned by this world, the ones so attractive to our hearts. What about the other way? Remember again what is the “highway of the upright:” it is following the LORD, and living by his commands.

And that journey begins and continues and ends with trust. This is why the Catechism says in its lesson that we must learn to “trust in Him alone,” which is itself an echo of Solomon’s words in chapter 3, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart” (v 5). We know about trust: it’s a down-to-earth attitude of reliance, a confidence that we can depend on this person.

Just think about the kind of attitude that a husband and wife can have towards each other. In most normal circumstances, there is this strong undercurrent of trust. They just know that the other is going to be dependable, in every way trustworthy. From day to day, there’s no reason to expect differently. So if someone brought a false accusation, and they said, “Your wife has been unfaithful. She’s been with someone else,” trust means that the husband doesn’t even listen. These are words he can’t accept. Based on what he knows about her, based on what he’s learned from years of life together, he trusts her deeply and implicitly. It’d take a lot to shake that trust.

That word “trust” in LD 34 means much the same. We can have confidence in Him. We should know that He’ll be faithful, no matter what happens. No matter how much time passes, we trust that our Father won’t let go.

And just like in a relationship of husband and wife, that trust is based on a personal knowledge. We know God. We’ve seen Him in action. We’ve experienced how He keeps his Word, that there’s no reason to expect differently. Notice how the Catechism puts that near the beginning of its explanation, that this is something important for putting God in the primary place, that we “rightly come to know the only true God” (Q&A 94). The knowledge of God is at the heart of our confidence in Him.

So what do we know about God? To help us understand how great He is, Scripture makes many comparisons. The LORD God is compared to a protecting eagle with its young. He is compared to the life-giving sun, and to the refreshing waters of a fountain. He is compared to a steadfast rock, and a high tower in a storm. He is a strong shield, and a formidable fortress.

And even better than Solomon knew in Proverbs, we know that we can trust in God with all our heart. For we’ve experienced his amazing grace in Jesus Christ! We have been adopted into his family as children of the Father, and we’ve learned that God is ever faithful. For the sake of Christ, we can have a unwavering confidence in the LORD, sure that from Him we can expect all good things!

So if we will trust in God, we must know God. If we will know God, we must be in his holy Word. Listen to how the Scriptures are tightly connected to our attitude of confidence in the LORD in Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” Do you see how that follows? If everything that God says is reliable—if all his words are flawless and infallible and cannot be broken, then surely we can put our trust in Him! He will keep his promises to you. He will work out his purposes in you.

It’s when we trust in God that we begin to experience the depth of his blessing. Listen to how Solomon describes it in that chapter we read, “Whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he” (16:20). Now, to understand that, we need to unpack what it means to be happy. When we trust in God, will we never have a bad day, and will the sun always shine? Will we always get what we want? No. But whoever trusts in the LORD can enjoy all the security and all the joy and all the hope of walking with Him. To feel that we know nothing, that we can do nothing, that we have nothing, but that we can still look up to God as our faithful Father—that’s a reliance that will not disappoint.

In this life we can be worried about so many things, with so many fears and perplexing thoughts. Will God really be with me during this time of stress? Will God strengthen me to handle my health problems, or will He make sure that we’ll have enough money this month? Does God Almighty in heaven really see these worries I have about my job? Yet we’re confident that we, and everything we have, are safely in his care. This is what Martin Luther once said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all. But whatever I have been able to place in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

When you believe that God is faithful and good, when you hold firmly to that truth, then something happens to your worries and anxieties. They receive less fuel, and they slowly die. The greatness of God can take the place of our feeble thoughts, because we know God reigns over all. Let his faithfulness overwhelm your worry. Let his reliability conquer your lack of faith. Let his steadfast love drive out your fear.

In the first point we listened to the wisdom from Proverbs 29, “The fear of man brings a snare…” It’s good to remember how that verse continues. “The fear of man brings a snare but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.” It’s always faith that frees the soul from fear, whatever that fear is.

For example, instead of that anxiety of people-pleasing, we just want to please our Father. Instead of always needing to perform for the audience that is all around us each day, we are free to focus on bringing glory to the audience of one: the only true God in heaven above. He is whom we want to please! We don’t ask, “What will they think of me?” But we ask, “What is the right thing for me to do?” It doesn’t matter whether the world smiles or frowns, because we are safe, secure, beyond its reach. Fear always brings us into a snare and trap, but faith carries us to the strong tower of the LORD.

For as long as we live, we’ll probably continue to look for an earthly security and refuge. In the first point we said that it’s so easy to make riches your strong city, or to make one out of our reputation, or our career, or our pleasures. But the child of God has a different security, because we know that the stuff of this earth will always disappear. All of it is hopelessly temporary. By contrast, those who trust in the LORD are safe.

In Proverbs 3 Solomon describes the blessing on the person who trusts in Him, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught” (vv 24-26). What a beautiful picture of total security! Waking or sleeping, staying or traveling, the LORD God has you covered. Whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he! For the LORD will be your confidence—He has promised it in Christ Jesus!

Beloved, here’s the fundamental lesson for our life. Present everything to God, and pray to Him with your whole heart, “O LORD, in my life, may you come first.”

By obedience to His commands, learn to forsake all creatures rather than do the least thing against His will.

Be in the Scriptures and read them day by day, so that you may know this faithful God, and that you may come to trust in Him more.

Have open eyes for what the LORD God is doing, so that you may learn to expect all good from Him alone.

Love, fear and honour God with all your heart. For then you’ll be greatly blessed in Him.  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 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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