Statistics
1524 sermons as of June 17, 2018.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
 send email...
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Our only comfort is in God's wonder-working love
Text:LD 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-01-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 30:1,2                                                                                                                                              

Ps 117  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – Romans 8:18-39

Ps 40:1,3,7

Sermon – Lord’s Day 1

Hy 35:1,2,3,4

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, I’d like to tell you about a most beautiful road. It’s the kind of road you never forget, because the scenery’s just so spectacular. It’s a road that might even change your life. And here’s the best part: You don’t have to go very far to see it! I’m speaking of what people have called “The Romans Road.”

The ancient Romans, of course, were famous for roads. Their smooth stone highways crisscrossed the Roman Empire. They were so well-built that still today you can travel on some of them. But the Romans Road is something different. It’s a way of explaining the gospel using Paul’s letter to the church of Rome. For Romans shows our need for salvation, how God provides salvation, and then the results of this salvation in our lives.

Along the Romans Road, the first signpost is Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This announces that we’ve all done things displeasing to God, that there’s not one who stands innocent before him. And right after it is the second signpost (at 6:23), which gives us more bad news: “The wages of sin is death.” Such is the punishment that we’ve earned by our sins: not just temporal, but eternal death!

Even so, the Romans Road is not a dead end. The third signpost starts to show the way. In the second half of 6:23 we read those wondrous words: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Here is the pathway leading to Paradise! But it is, only if we pass that checkpoint at Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and [if you] believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Only by faith in Christ can you enter in by the gates of the kingdom.

And where does all this leave us today? That’s the ongoing journey of thankfulness the Spirit begins to describe in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you… by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.”

In all this, the Romans Road covers some familiar ground. It’s basically the three-fold division of the Catechism, which tells us what we need to know for salvation: to know our sins and misery, to accept God’s way of deliverance, and to take up our duty to thankfulness. Along this road it’s familiar scenery, yet beautiful. Let’s marvel again at this landscape, looking at the beginning of the Catechism in the light of Paul’s letter to Romans. I preach God's Word to you as it is summarized in Lord’s Day 1, under this theme:

Our comfort is in the wonder-working love of God!

  1. it’s a love that’s not deserved
  2. it’s a love that cost him dearly
  3. it’s a love that calls for love

 

1) God’s love is a love not deserved: You know that when someone really loves you, it’s not so hard to love in return. We love our parents, because they love us. We love our spouse, because he or she shows us affection. But things can get a lot harder. What about when someone has treated you very badly? What about when they’ve rejected you? Loving is the last thing we feel like doing after someone’s hurt us. For us, showing love is so often tied to whether we’re receiving love. Yet God’s love is of a totally different character. For it’s undeserved. When it could hardly be expected, God loves us. When He could just as well treat us with anger and hostility, God loves us.

That’s the truth of Lord’s Day 1. It begins with us, and the business of our little existence: “What’s your only comfort in life and death?” It begins with us, but quickly shifts to God. For the truth is, we’ve got nothing in ourselves: we’re comfortless, hopeless, lifeless, loveless. But salvation is all about what Christ is doing: Our abiding comfort is that “He has fully paid…. He preserves me…. He assures me.” On us, lowly sinners, God lavishes his love.

And on the road of life, God is making sure that “all things… work together for [our] salvation” (Q&A 1). That’s the same thing that Paul declares so boldly in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose.” Now, if we’ve heard this text once, we’ve heard it a hundred times, at weddings and funerals and in sermons.

But let’s take a closer look. For when you carefully read this verse, there’s one question that looms large. What is the “all things?” Paul says that the loving God works for our good, in all things. And we want to say: Surely not everything can be used for good by God! Surely not everything evil and rotten and troublesome in this life can be turned to our benefit. What about cancer? Or being childless? What about our deepest regrets in life, and our loneliness? Yet that’s what Paul says. “All things”—anything and everything—can be the raw material of redemption. God can refine and mold all of it to achieve his purpose in us. That’s because “all things” are under the perfect control of our heavenly God.

Think of what we confess in Lord’s Day 10: “He… upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”

“All things.” We can be sure that when Paul says this in Romans 8, he’s not thinking mostly of nice and pleasant things, with maybe a side order of the bad. For Paul himself knew well the miseries of life. He wrestled intensely with the power of sin and temptation—just read Romans 7 for that. He endured much physical hardship—look at all the difficulties of his ministry. He was no stranger to trial, and he knew that brokenness is basic to our short life on this earth. Just a few verses before, in verse 18, he speaks of “the sufferings of this present time.”

That sums it up pretty well, doesn’t it? “Our present sufferings.” For Christians of every age, of every earthly position, of every character and country, along this road there’s going to be suffering. We can fully expect it, because that’s what this world is like.

Paul explains why this is in verse 20, “The creation was subjected to futility, not willfully, but because of him who subjected it.” The entrance of sin so long ago has left this world in a state of frustration and decay. There’s much strife that we face, illness and misery. As Paul says, “We know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now” (v 22). He says this world is like a woman in labour: crying out, wracked with pain, in despair that it’s never going to end.

That’s what we see around us in the world: decaying and groaning. We see brutal civil wars. We see racial violence, and moral depravity. And think about what we see in the church of Christ, where there is failing, there is dividing, there is drifting away from the truth. It’s what we see in our personal lives, as well: patterns of sin that are so hard to shake, doubts and fears, worries that simmer in our minds from morning ‘till night. Each day there can be a grief that exhausts your strength. There can be a guilt that chokes our joy, and burdens so heavy you despair. Scripture calls it “the sufferings of the present time.”

It’s possible that you can’t relate. Maybe your life’s been pretty easy so far, and you haven’t struggled too much. But be sure that the time for grief and hardship will come, and you won’t be immune. God has promised it. He says that we wouldn’t be his children if we didn’t suffer. For He disciplines those whom He loves. And no discipline seems pleasant at the time.

Yet when it does come, and when suffering continues, that marvelous truth stands glorious: our God is a faithful God, and He does no wrong. All the bits and pieces, the downs and the ups, come to us not by chance, but by his fatherly hand. Though it may look to you like a defeat, a setback, more heartache, and though it seems entirely pointless, God keeps working for our good. We can be confident that even out of the most rotten situations, out of all the mess made by our sin, the LORD can somehow bring blessing.

I realize that we can say all this too easily. Especially when we’re talking to the hurting and grieving, we might quickly throw out a cliché, “Everything happens for a reason. God will work all for good.” And He will. Only we don’t always see it. And we shouldn’t expect to. We may not see it at the moment, and sometimes we won’t see it.

For remember that He’s been accomplishing things before the foundation of the world. One event might be linked to another event in ways that we can’t begin to fathom. God is working on a schedule that is far bigger than our weekly planner, or our 80-year life. So in this life should we always expect to see the final product? Can we predict how God will work out this tragedy or this disappointment? Can we say with confidence why this good happened, or this evil? Sometimes we will see it, and that can be a beautiful thing. How an illness brings a person closer to God. How a failed plan leads to a new opportunity. How even a shameful sin can be the beginning of something better.

Sometimes we see the purpose, but let’s be humble. We’re just little children, after all, and He’s the only wise Father. But here’s the thing: we can trust him. He’s told us that He has good plans for us, that He’ll give us a future and a hope. For “the good” that He’s working on might well be beyond our time on earth. Think of what Paul said in verse 18: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” In us—little, sinful humans stumbling around on a groaning earth—God plans to reveal his glory. Maybe we have to wait for it, but it is coming.

And while we wait, we’re not alone. Even if you’re up to your neck in suffering, God the Father gives blessings to remind you of his steadfast love. God sends us his Holy Spirit, to give us a little more strength, and patience, and wisdom. In his goodness, God brings people into our life, to help us on the way. God does all this, because He wants us to know that we’re his. Not condemned, but already saved. No longer slaves to Satan, but being transformed to the likeness of God. No one has the right to expect such mercy. It’s a love that’s undeserved, and a love…

 

2) that cost him dearly: Love is one of those cheap words we sometimes throw around. We’ll quickly say about something, “I love this,” or “I’d love to go there.” Sometimes “love” just means we want something—until we lose interest and go on to something else. But God’s love is different. God’s love means He values us. He treasures us, because of what He paid for us.

And that cost is because our sin. Our sin first had to be punished to the fullest extent. God’s perfect justice demanded this price; He could accept nothing less. Without this payment for sin, there’s no Romans Road, and there’s no Lord’s Day 1. So our sin was punished. Our sin—including that stubborn evil nature, including all our sins of human weakness, including all our acts of outright rebellion, and all the things we didn’t even realize we did wrong, and all the ways we failed to do right—all of this was punished with the death of Christ. God said, “I love them. I will save them. But it’s going to take blood.”

In the words of Q&A 1, “[Jesus Christ] has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood.” If you get on the road to salvation, you’ll find it is stained red with blood. Christ’s blood is what saves us from death, and his blood redeems us from Satan’s deadly grip. That’s what it cost, for God to love us.

In Romans 8:32, Paul puts it this way: “[God]… did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” This was no small sacrifice. Paul puts it very plainly: God did not spare his own Son. His own Son, He was willing to give up for sinners, even for a people who were yet to be born or believe.

You don’t have to be a parent to stand amazed at such love. Jesus was the Father’s only Son. Jesus was his perfect Son. Jesus did nothing wrong, but everything right. Yet the Father was willing, not just to stand aside and let evil men vent their anger on him, but God took an active role in his own Son’s suffering and death.

He humbled his Son through the virgin’s womb. He burdened his Son with the calling to walk among the lowly. Then God sent his Son towards death, even moving one of his disciples to hand him over. God stirred up the crowds—his Son’s own tribe and people—against the Christ. The Father even made sure that the cross was chosen for Jesus his Son, as the means of a certain death, an accursed death.

And then, during the agony on Golgotha, the Father laid it on. There He showed the full power of his wrath. He would not relent, not have mercy, nor listen to the cries of his Son—not until the suffering was done and the price was paid. He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all. How dearly did God’s love cost!

A price so high it could never be counted, a love so great its dimensions could never be grasped. And in this wonder-working love is our comfort. When we see the price that was willingly paid, the love so generously given, we just know the Father will preserve us, always. For after doing all that, why should God give us up? After doing all that, why should He ever let us fall away? God considers us as worth every effort to save and protect.

This is true when we sin. It’s true when we stray. It’s true when we’re anxious about the future, and burdened with all the cares going on in our family. It’s true when we go through a time when the Lord God seems far away from us—because even then, we know that God won’t abandon us. He paid too much. He loved too much.

Yes, the immense love of God in Christ means our lives are fully secure. Consider verse 32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall He not with him also freely give us all things?” Did you catch the logic of Paul’s question? It goes like this. Beyond any doubt, God proved his love. He did so at the cross, where the LORD loved us to the greatest extent. Now we have his promise that together with Christ, He’ll give “all things.” And we know that promise is so reliable!

For if God has given so much already, what’s a little more? If God already gave you eternal salvation at the cost of precious blood, won’t He also provide you with wisdom? Won’t He make sure you have enough to get by? Now that you’re his, won’t He give you everything you need to serve him in the life where God has put you? He will. He will provide, when you ask in faith. The Father will preserve you in such a way that without his will not even a single hair can fall from your head.

In chapter 8 Paul wants to keep working out the consequences of this gospel to show how solid and firm is our position in Christ. So he asks a few more questions. Verse 33: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?” Implied answer: Nobody! Or verse 34: “Who is he who condemns?” Again, nobody! Or verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” No, none of these things shall separate us from the love of Christ! There will be much to oppose us. Much to drag us down, or pull us from God. And yet our standing in him is sure. He’s on our side. He is for us, and He is with us.

 

3) God’s love is a love that calls for love: When you show kindness to someone you care about, what do you expect in return? Say you’ve given your Mum a nice gift, or helped out Dad in a special way. What kind of response do you look for? Anyone would want to be thanked—we want a little recognition and gratitude. God is no different. He loved us, when it was completely unexpected. He loved us, and it cost him dearly. So what does He want from you in response?

In the first place, understand that we can never give anything to God in repayment. We can’t even show God that we were worthy of a little of his kindness. And God knows all this. If there’s no repayment scheme, it’s very simple, then: God wants our thanksgiving. He wants our trust. He wants our love.

It’s not too much to ask. Later on in Romans, Paul will work out our response to salvation, beginning in chapter 12, “Therefore, in view of his mercy, offer your lives to God!” But already now in chapter 8, Paul anticipates it. Look again at that spectacular verse 28, where the apostle adds a key phrase: “All things work together for good to those who love God.” That last phrase means it’s not a blanket promise, that everything in this life always works out for everyone. No, this is a promise only for those who love God!

The loving God calls us to live in love for him. And what is this love? Scripture always says that love for God is concrete: it’s shown by keeping his commands. True love will act. If we love God, we’ll show it by the way we go about our day tomorrow, and the day after, in the home, when we’re at school, and at work. We’ll show it by our thinking, and acting, and speaking, in all things, in whatever we do.

That’s also how Q&A 1 wraps up. After everything that’s been done for us—the Saviour buying us, the Father preserving us, the Spirit assuring us—after all that, what’s left for us to do? Those words ring out, “[I must be] heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

If you’ve known the love of God, then He wants you to live like the person you’ve  become in his Son Jesus Christ. Be what you are! If you have been made holy, you must be holy, and leave your sins behind. If you’ve been declared righteous through Christ, you must be righteous, and strive to keep every commandment of God. If you bear God’s Name by baptism, you must honour this Name every day.

All the while, we stand on that unchanging truth: We love God, because God first loved us. Paul slips that in, too: “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). Even before time began, God knew He’d love us; God knew He’d save us; God knew we’d love him in return. And that knowledge of God’s election doesn’t release us from duty, or give us a license to put it on cruise control. No, this teaches that it’s never about our strength or our faith. Rather, it’s all about what the Triune God is doing in us and for us and through us!

This gives us much comfort. For there will be much to oppose us. There will be much to drag us down in this life, while creation groans. Yet none of it can keep us from the Lord’s eternal love. Writes Paul: “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv 38-39). “I am persuaded,” says Paul. Convinced. We can’t always see it; we can’t always understand it. Sometimes our mind knows it, but our heart doesn’t feel it. We know it’s all true, but we still waver and worry. Yet we can be sure of it all the same, and count on it: God won’t let anything get in the way of his love for us.

The same should be true for us: Don’t let anything get in the way of your love for God! May there be nothing in your day that separates you from the Father, that prevents you from walking humbly with him by faith. Don’t let your love for God be stifled and strangled by your bad habits and idols, or by what’s happened in your past, or by the friends you’ve chosen. Don’t let your love for God grow cold because you’ve stopped praying or stopped reading his Word.

In his love, God has given us an everlasting salvation. And in response to this free gift, God wants our lives today—He demands nothing less than all that we are, all that we have, and every day that we live. Because you belong fully to Jesus Christ, may you be heartily willing and ready from now on, to live for 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 2018, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner