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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:The Name above Every Name
Text:LD 11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-05-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 40:1,2                                                                                            

Hy 2:1,2,3

Reading – Acts 4:1-12; 1 Peter 2:1-12

Ps 115:1,2,3,4,5

Sermon – Lord’s Day 11

Hy 39:1,2,3,4,5

Hy 52:1,2

* 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, when parents are expecting a baby, they’ll often spend a lot of time thinking about what name to give. Baby name books, name websites, heated discussions—until finally a name is settled on. It’s a lot of effort for something that doesn’t mean much. For we might name our kids after Gramma or Grandpa, or according to the latest fad, but these names can’t determine anything about the child’s future path. In the end, it’s just a name.

But when God gives someone a name in the Scriptures, we have to take notice. The LORD doesn’t just give a name in the hopes that this person will amount to something—God gives a name effectively. For him, a name is given as a “guarantee.” What’s signified by the name will certainly become a reality! Think of Abram, who was renamed by the LORD to Abraham. His name went from meaning “exalted father,” to meaning “father of many nations,” which is exactly what the ancient, and at that time still childless, Abraham became by the power of God: the father of a multitude.

Today we give our attention to Lord’s Day 11 of the Catechism, a lesson that concerns a name. In this Lord’s Day, we’ll see that God gave a name to his Son, and a name with great importance. This single name “Jesus” captured what God was planning to do through his only Son: through him God would save his people! It’s the truth of Acts 4:12, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

There’s a lot to that name, then. It even comes with an exclusive claim, one that contradicts the beliefs of many others: “Salvation is found in no one else” (Q&A 29). With this name Jesus, we’re saying that we’re the only ones who have the truth. That’s uncomfortable. So for a long time, his name has been an offense. Back in the days of the Roman Empire, the church was persecuted for this reason. It wasn’t that they worshiped a different God, but it was because they said their God was the only true God! Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. So it still is today: Jesus is the only name, and the only source of salvation. We believe and confess with Lord’s Day 11:

The name of Jesus is salvation’s only source:

  1. his perfect qualifications
  2. his successful mission
  3. his only condition

 

1) his perfect qualifications: Once in a while, there’s a call for all religions to put aside their differences. “Stop the faith-based wars!” they say, “Enough religious violence!” Christians and Muslims and Jews and everyone else are encouraged to live at peace. And certainly God doesn’t want anyone to be killed because they don’t believe in Christ. God wants all people to be given a chance to hear the message of his Son.

So what makes Jesus so qualified to save, to bring people back to God? Let’s take some time to look at Jesus Christ next to the founders and leaders of those other religions. Does the only Saviour Jesus truly stand alone, in a class apart from them?

You probably know that the main religions of the world are said to be the Hindu faith, the Buddhist, the Sikh, the Confucian, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. And in one way or another, most of these religions had a main figure—a leader or a visionary—a person who did much to give the religion its content and shape.

Buddha, in about the 6th century B.C., taught the way of life known as Buddhism. A guru by the name of Nanak did the same for Sikhism, and the teacher Confucius founded Confucianism. Moses has been hailed by the Jews as the main (human) figure of their religion, and Mohammed is known as the greatest prophet of Islam. And Jesus of Nazareth, of course, is the so-called the “founder” of Christianity.

And when you read the various accounts, you see that every one of these religious “founders” had personalities and qualities which attracted many devoted followers during their lifetime. Each of them had a personal charisma, a formidable intellect, an inner strength and a boldness to lead others, which moved people to flock to them.

This charisma also led people to carry on their cause, even after these inspiring figures had died. For every one of them—Buddha, Nanak, Confucius, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed—each firmly believed that he had an enduring message, an important message. It was one that needed to be shared with coming generations.

Yet despite their individual appeal, none of these figures ever claimed to be divine, to be God—none but one. Despite having an obvious confidence in what they had to say, most of these religious founders went through a period of uncertainty, a time where they were searching for the truth. And again, almost all of these revered founders showed himself at times to be reckless or inconsistent. Buddha, Nanak, Confucius, Moses, Mohammed: each were prone to make mistakes of judgment. They all did things that their followers have had to explain away, or to brush over with a bit of embarrassment.

Now, I’m not saying we have to tear apart the beliefs of others in order to establish our own as true. Today we’re not weighing which religion or religious teacher is most believable. We accept our own creed, not because we judge it better than the creeds of others. Simply, we believe that the Bible is true, that it is God’s infallible Word, and we believe in the Triune God alone. Any critique of other religions and their founders can be made only in this light, the light of humble faith.

And so this is what we also believe: We believe that Jesus alone is qualified to save us, because He is God. Uniquely, He did claim to be God! He claimed this openly, and in ways that were more subtle. For He was worshiped, and didn’t object. He forgave people their sins. He described himself as the one who fulfilled the Old Testament. He even said that his name was, “I AM,” just like the name of the LORD God. He claimed to be God, and Jesus backed his claim up. Jesus calmed the raging sea; He opened the eyes of the blind; He raised the dead to life. And He showed himself as God by putting himself under God’s wrath, enduring it to the bitter end.

We believe that Jesus is perfectly qualified to save, also because He’s man. He revealed his humanity in many ways: born from a woman, circumcised on the eighth day, and one who had to grow in wisdom and stature. Throughout his life He dealt with the weaknesses of the human condition, like fatigue and hunger and thirst and anxiety. He was even tempted by Satan.

But though He was man, He never failed in his duty toward God or neighbor. That perfection qualified Jesus to stand in for us, to be a substitute for his fellow humans. As a true man, as a righteous man, He could die for humanity. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.” One God, one mediator, one Christ—who is God and man.

With good reason the Catechism says that Jesus is “a complete Saviour” (Q&A 29). He’s got all the credentials. He is fully certified to save. And He knew it. Maybe the founders of the other religions weren’t always so confident of their status or purpose—they all relied on other people to turn them into something more after the fact. But Jesus had no doubt at all. Jesus knew He was on this earth for one great purpose.

Listen to what He said in Mark 10, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v 45). This is why He came, and this is what He did. The cross was no accident, but it was planned for him. Or again, in his own words from John, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6). No hesitation there: this is who Jesus was. This is what his mission on earth was about.

 

2) his successful mission: There’s a basic problem that all the religions of the world try to address and resolve. It’s called ignorance. It’s called darkness. It’s called sin, or something else. But every religion believes there’s something in this life that we need to overcome. In one way or another, there has to be progress—a struggle, and hopefully a triumph. There needs to be a change of one way of life into something new. There’s probably no religion that says all things are just fine the way they are.

And it’s not difficult to see that this world needs a lot of work, that people have serious  problems. Just listen to the news, go looking around the internet, visit a hospital or a prison, and you’ll see lots of evidence of brokenness and depravity. We’re all agreed on that. But then the different religions go their separate ways. They disagree on what is this world’s real affliction.

Buddhism says that all of human desire (whether good desires or bad) is evil. Hinduism, on the other hand, says that the only evil is when people are ignorant of the divine power that is active all around us. Islam says that the greatest evil is when people do not submit to Allah.

And what about the religion of your unbelieving neighbours? What about one of the dominant religions in this country, the religion that is called materialism? Or what about today’s cult of pleasure, worshiping the gods of money and sex, bowing down in the shiny new temples of sports and entertainment? What do the followers of these religions consider to be the basic problem with life?

Today, a lot of people will say that anything that detracts from your personal happiness is evil. Evil is anything that keeps you from enjoying life, or having the things you want. Sickness then, is evil. Poverty is evil. Low self-esteem is evil. Things that stifle our freedom and keep us from expressing our true selves—that’s evil.

Now, we might even agree with some of the points that are made by other religions. We agree with the Buddhists that our desires can be sinful—indeed they can be, and often are—but surely not all our desires! Is there nothing right and good that we long for?

We agree with the Hindu faith that ignorance of God, and being out of tune with the divine realm is wrong—but where and what exactly is that divine? How do we come to know it, and how can we connect with it?

The Muslims are right to insist that we need to submit—but who should we submit to? For what reason do we submit?

We can even agree with our fellow citizens that this world is full of nice things for us to enjoy, and that every individual has the freedom to make his own decisions. But where will we find true happiness? What is security that is going to endure?

We said that all religions recognize that something’s not quite right with this world—they see it, but only dimly. For they’re missing the one thing that diagnoses the problem exactly: they don’t have the Word of God! They don’t have the shining light of Scripture, which illumines the way. They don’t know Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Or Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” None of them have learned the elementary truth of Q&A 2, “I need to know how great are my sins and misery.”

The Bible’s view of the human problem is this: Evil is a terrible and wide-spread and deep-seated reality of life. It wasn’t always this way, for in the beginning God made us with the real potential to do good. Yet at Satan’s instigation, and by our own fault, we have become full of sin. Now we desire all manner of wickedness; we rebel against God, and we hate our neighbours. Therefore we ought to be punished by God with his just judgment, now and forever.

That’s the problem, in a nutshell. It’s not pessimistic, just realistic. For it accounts for all the terrible evils that we see today: genocide, sexual perversion, child slavery, corruption, on and on. And closer to home, this view of human nature accounts for the filthy things that you and I are capable of thinking and speaking and doing, each and every day. We have fallen far short of the glory of God!

And because no other religion recognizes the true extent of the problem, no other religion can address the core of the problem. At best, they try treat a few of the symptoms: desire, ignorance, pride. But Jesus deals with sin, excavating down to its very root, getting right to the heart! What He accomplished solves the human crisis that is basic to every human life. God demands perfect obedience from us—so Jesus gave it in his life. And God demands the full satisfaction for his wrath against sinners—so Jesus gave this satisfaction in his death, even eternally.

What does Jesus do, so uniquely and so effectively? The Catechism answers, “He saves us from all our sins” (Q&A 29). He rescues us from death, and He brings us back to God. Jesus restores our broken identity, makes us again the image-bearers of the Creator, children of the Father, partakers of the divine Spirit, and citizens of heaven. He gives true happiness, the blessedness of being saved from our sins and being bound for glory.

This doesn’t mean that salvation is Jesus’ idea, that it’s all his project. We should never consider Jesus to be the “founder” of Christianity. It’s not as if He woke up one day in Nazareth and decided that He was going to change the world… He’s not the founder, but He is the foundation. God has made Jesus the cornerstone of salvation, on which rests the entire house. “Now to you who believe,” says Peter in his first letter, “‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’” (2:7). It all depends on him.

And here is at once a hard truth—it’s the scandal of the gospel, as it has always been. For the same “saving stone” is one that causes men to stumble. It’s a rock that offends them (1 Pet 2:8). Many people today reject Jesus, and they ignore Jesus. They turn away from him, even as Jesus calls them to faith in his name.

 

3) his only condition: Every religion, we said, believes that there’s some kind of problem with the world that needs fixing. And every religion proposes some kind of fix. As you can expect, the supposed problem determines what the solution will be.

If the problem is our desires, then the answer is to suppress desire, and to escape it through meditation. Eventually you get to nirvana.

If the problem is our failure to submit to Allah, then the solution is to submit to his will, no matter what Allah commands us to do. Perhaps we’ll make it to Paradise.

And if the average person’s problem today is a shortage of personal happiness, then the answer is to focus our lives on no one but ourselves. The solution is to spend our resources and time and energy on personal interests and pleasures, and to let nothing hinder you. Then maybe we’ll spend a few happy years before we fade away.

Now, we’ve already spoken of what our real trouble is. We’ve also spoken about how God provides salvation in Christ. So then, what to do? How do we receive this wonderful gift as our very own? Beloved, we must believe—wholeheartedly, sincerely, actively, joyfully believe! Hebrews 11:6 lays it out, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” As it’s written in so many places, “The righteous will live by faith” (Rom 1:17).

By faith alone. And what’s involved in this single condition for our rescue? The Catechism puts it well, “Those who by true faith accept this Saviour must find in him all that is necessary for their salvation” (Q&A 30). All that is necessary. This means that we may not seek our personal refuge, or our deepest pleasure, or our sense of fulfillment or identity, in anyone besides Jesus Christ. Rather, our trust, our love, our worship ought to be reserved for him alone. He’s our reason for living! He’s our highest joy.

And if we compare this to the religions of the world, we see again how beautiful is the Christian gospel. In the end, each and every other faith places the burden of salvation on mankind. It’s up to us. For the other religions, the central question always comes down to this: What have you done, and what are you doing?

Buddhism asks: “Are you denying your desires, killing your passions?” Confucianism asks: “Have you faithfully done your duty toward your parents and your children?” The national gods of this country ask constantly: “Do you feel good? Are you being true to yourself?” Islam asks of its followers, “Have you done Allah’s will?”

Even our own hearts ask the question, don’t they? We hear that deadly whisper from deep inside: “What have you done for God lately, to be right with him? Have you been a good boy or girl? Have you worked hard enough? Have you done enough in the church, in your family, at your work? Have you prayed enough, to receive his blessing? If you haven’t, then why should God ever show his favour to you? You’re nothing.”

But God always asks another question. He asks not: “What have you for me? How have you deserved my love, or merited my kindness?” No, He asks: “What has Jesus done for you? What did He give for you?” And the answer: Jesus came down to this earth as a lowly man. He obeyed God’s law completely. He suffered, He died, and then He rose from the grave, and ascended into heaven. Jesus has done it: He’s accomplished salvation! And Jesus has done it for all who believe.

Ask that question. Ask it often. What has Jesus done for you? What has He given you? Why should God show his favour to you, and answer your prayers, and forgive your sins? Only for Jesus’ sake! Let this gospel answer bring you hope and assurance.

This gospel is for all people—it’s for all who believe! It’s for all, yet it does mean conflict. And in this battle, either we stand with him, or we stand against him. He is the only way back to God. There is no other name. At the last judgment, there will only be sheep, and goats; wheat, and weeds. These claims run against all that our tolerant society believes. But the demand of Jesus is 100% commitment, or not at all.

It’s the only way—and we know the way! That shouldn’t make us proud. Rather, it ought to make us deeply humble, that God has done all the work for our redemption. He did it all, because we had no idea, and no ability, nor even the desire. Having received everything by grace, we ought to be eager to embrace Jesus ever more, zealous to grow up in our salvation, now that we’ve tasted that the Lord is good. Cherish this name, and be grateful for this name, hidden from many but revealed to you.

And then there’s something else about this exclusive name. Knowing the name of Jesus, and knowing how powerful it is, and how true it is, should make us eager to share this name with others. Teach it to your children. Tell it to your neighbor. Spread it to the world. For if we don’t tell them about the only name, who will? And if they don’t come to know and believe in this saving name, what will happen to them? We know what will happen to them.

So many people who are very near to us live in ignorance of the true God and the way of salvation. So many of our neighbours and fellow citizens are enslaved to false gods, and are trapped in religious systems that offer no true hope. So many are in desperate need of the saving name of Jesus Christ.

In these last days, we must do the work that Christ left us to do, making disciples of all nations and teaching them everything that He commanded. This is what the Spirit exhorts us in Colossians: “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (4:5-6).

Think about those “who are outside,” and make use of the opportunities that God gives. Take the opportunity to speak a word of grace to your neighbor. Take the opportunity to witness to Christ’s power. Give an account of the hope that is in you. In Jesus, there’s a glorious and saving name that we are allowed we know—and it’s not one to keep to ourselves. If you know his name, then share his name, to the glory of his name!  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

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