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Author:Pastor Ted Van Raalte
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 Canadian Reformed Church - CanRC
 
Preached At:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.redeemer-canrc.ca
 
Title:Trust and Obey: But How?
Text:LD 34 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 1st Commandment (God alone)
 
Preached:2003-12-21
Added:2004-03-08
Updated:2007-08-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy 3:00 p. m.
Psalm 86:1,2.
Psalm 86:3
Read: Psalm 16.
Psalm 27:1,4.
Text: Lord's Day 34
Hymn 43.
Psalm 86:4,5,6.
Hymn 58.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ,

The prophet Amos asks, "Do two walk together unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3). We all know that if two people are walking together down the sidewalk they must have something in common, for they we see them talking with each other. Amos asks the question in a series of questions that are designed to bring out the obvious: that there is a relation between these two things. Two people don't walk together unless they've already decided to meet and walk together. If they are walking side by side, then we automatically know that they have something in common.

This year Immanuel Christian School chose a theme for the year. It is "Walking with the LORD." At the opening assembly the pastors were invited to preach a sermon on this topic if they so desired. The school would focus on it in various ways throughout the year. The Lord willing, I hope that we will apply the Ten Commandments to ourselves under this theme of walking with the LORD. I will try to bring out this theme in the coming Lord's Days.

The first commandment is, "You shall have no other gods before me." The LORD means that nothing can have a higher place in our life than he has. Nothing may take his place at the top. In the summary of the law, the same is taught, for we are commanded: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." That summarizes the first four commandments. It means that we serve him with an undivided heart, we will serve him until the last drop of life is squeezed out of us, and we will use for his service all that he has given us. Such commitment is biblical love. It is exclusive and total. I have summarized our calling to obey the first commandment, as follows:

Walk with the LORD, in true love:
1. How to walk in trust;
2. How to walk in obedience;
3. How to trust and obey.

1. How To Walk In Trust:

The very idea of walking with God is astonishing! As Amos said, "Do two walk together unless they are agreed?" And who can say that they and God are in total agreement? Who is without sin that he may walk with his Creator? We are not just talking about walking with your friend. We are talking about walking with your God. He made you. He gave you a purpose. You answer to him. He upholds the whole world. He will judge it all in the end. How can we claim to walk with him?

The idea goes back to the Garden of Eden. Just after sin entered this world we read that the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). They hid in fear because they had sinned. But the fact that they recognized the sound suggests that God had already walked with them in the garden. In a certain way he had been so near them as to walk with them. The two were fully agreed, and the walk was delightful.

Already then it was amazing that God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. The partners were totally unequal, yet they walked together.

Sin broke this up. We fled from God. We could not walk with him any longer. His holiness came against our sins. Fellowship was broken.

When we speak about walking with God today, we are using a phrase that brings our minds back to the Garden. In a way, we are going back to the Garden. Once again, we are claiming that the two are in agreement, God and us, God with us, God walking with us, we walking with God. It is a claim that even though we are sinners, it is possible to walk with God. Somehow the sin has been taken care of.

Everyone has to understand, then, that walking with God is the exclusive privilege of a Christian. Restored fellowship with God is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ. This will never change, because God is holy. For someone to walk with him, they first need the reconciliation that comes through the cross of Jesus Christ. This is the foundation.

For this reason the idea of walking with God belongs particularly to the last of the three sections of the Heidelberg Catechism. In the first section we confess our sins, which sins break our fellowship with God. In the second section we express our faith in the Triune God. He provided reconciliation to give a new foundation for fellowship. Only then are we ready to walk with God, the third section, called "our thankfulness."

Walking with God is about exercising fellowship. If faith is about establishing fellowship then walking with God is about exercising fellowship, living in it, being near God and showing it. People ought to see that you are walking with someone and that you are in agreement.

How can one do this? One can only do this when he or she has put their trust in the LORD. We would need to rightly know him and then we ought to be able to trust in him alone, as we confess. Trust is always based on things that make a person trustworthy. Thus we read in Psalm 115:9-11, "O house of Israel, trust in the LORD- he is their help and shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD- he is their help and shield. You who fear him, trust in the LORD- he is their help and shield." God is to be trusted because he is trustworthy. He has two important qualities - he is their help and their shield. God had said to Abram, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward." (Gen. 15:1). Instead of saying "Do not be afraid," the LORD might have said, "Trust me, Abram!" The first thing about walking with God is that we need to trust him, and the first thing about trusting him is to know how dependable he is. Isaiah proclaims, "Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal." (Isa. 26:3-4). The LORD is a Rock that will not be moved. He will not change. You can put your trust in him to deliver you and he will always be able to perform it.

Our trust in the LORD is always strengthened by reading his Word. Why is that? It is because we read there of the great things he has done before. These great things make him trustworthy. After reading these things, we want to walk with him all the more.

When the LORD commands that we shall have no other gods before him, then he declares that nothing else shall take his place as God. Do not believe that you can succeed in life in any other way, says the LORD. Do not believe that you will win the battle with anyone else's help. Only I can fight my battles. You just walk with me and see what I will do! I will fight for you. You do not need any fortune-tellers, witches, or other superstitious helps. We confess that idolatry, witchcraft, and superstition are things that we need to avoid at the very risk of losing our salvation if we don't. When we turn to them we deny our trust in the LORD. We try to manipulate the events of our lives without submitting to the will of God.

People turn to superstitious things out of fear. But the opposite of fear is trust. People also turn to superstitions because even when we trust the LORD the outcome is not always what we hope for. The LORD did not guarantee us everything we want; he gives what we need - salvation first. Sometimes this is not enough for us. But trust in the LORD is only real when we keep on trusting even though things are going badly. What is trust when it is never tested? Who would call it trust when God is like an ATM machine? You punch in the numbers and out comes the money. It doesn't take trust to get money out of an ATM machine. Our trust in the LORD, however, is only genuine when it holds onto the LORD even when he hides his face, even when he seems not to be walking with us in that sense, when he seems far away.

Consider the answer of the three young men to King Nebuchadnezzar: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Dan. 3:16_18). Their faces were set. Come what may, they were prepared to trust in the LORD. If he did not deliver their lives from danger, they were still determined to trust him because they knew who he was.

Since we know so much better than they did what God has done through Jesus Christ, we ought to trust him even more firmly. The troubles of life should not make us think that God has changed. If we would follow this first commandment and rightly come to know him, then we could indeed do the rest. We could: "trust in him alone, submit to him with all humility and patience, expect all good from him only, and love, fear, and honour him with all our heart." He is our help and shield.

If this is the way in which you are determined to trust in the LORD, then you have the right heart for walking with him. Micah asked, "What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8). We could just as well answer his question: To trust him, to love him with our whole heart, soul, and strength. Could you honestly say that with a helicopter hovering over you shooting, with a minefield under your feet, and hardly a weapon yourself? Could you still trust in the LORD? If it depended on us, no. But let it depend on the LORD, the one you walk with. Let it depend on his works in the past. Let it depend on him being your help and shield, your very great reward. With such trust, you will be enabled to obey him. That is the second point.

2. How to Walk In Obedience:

Why did the three young men refuse to worship Nebuchadnezzar's image? Because they knew God's command not to have any other gods before him. Why did they persist in their decision even though they were threatened with death? Because they were determined to be obedient to the LORD. They had learned the lesson from the punishment of Israel in exile. By God's grace they had determined to forsake all creatures rather than do the least thing against his will. Their trust showed itself in their obedience.

The least thing against the will of God is disobedience. Disobedience practically amounts to idolatry because it shows a lack of trust. Disobedience is like saying, "Yes, the Lord says to do this or that, but if I follow that I will have some kind of trouble. I know a better way." But who are you trusting when you know a better way? Are you trusting God? Or are you trusting yourself? You are making an idol of your own ideas and plans. You are putting your trust in yourself instead of, or in addition to God.

To walk with the LORD in love involves more than saying, "I trust him, I trust him." The Israelites repeated, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD" (Jer. 7:4) but the prophet Jeremiah rebuked them for this. Speaking as though they trusted the LORD was meaningless so long as their hearts were not committed to obeying him. Walking with the LORD is therefore regulated by the Ten Commandments, for starters. But the Ten Words are meant as a summary already, and thus we may rightly say that walking with the LORD is regulated by everything in his Word. For this reason we confess that "idolatry is having or inventing something in which to place our trust instead of, or, in addition to, the only true God who has revealed himself in his Word." "Who has revealed himself in his Word" means that the whole Word of God is our guide for what is obedience to the LORD.

We should forsake everything he created, rather than do the least thing against his will. It is for this reason that we include in our confession of faith such things as the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. God gave them for the good regulation of our lives. Because we do not want to do the least thing against his will we also confess the matters of church government, the sacraments, the good order in the church, and the marks of the church, in our Belgic Confession. We count all these matters to have been decided upon by the LORD in his Word. Salvation is more central to the Christian life, but all these other matters also belong to what God has revealed. We must not treat them indifferently. We must not put our own ideas in place of them.

Remember how the song goes: When we walk with the LORD, in the light of his Word. That is walking with him, when his Word is respected. Never fear, only trust and obey.

When you are under pressure to compromise these things, remember the promises he has made. He promises to deliver his people and to walk with them. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." This is according to his promise, Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." People have gone through these rivers and fires. They are right now. They are being tested not simply because they have some vague feeling of trust in their hearts, but because they are expressing their trust in clear terms by their obedience.

3. How to trust and obey:

To trust and obey the LORD while walking with him, shows that he is the senior partner. He is much greater than we are. To both trust and obey him at once can be summarized as loving him. To love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and strength consists in trusting and obeying him. This shows our love.

The more we trust him, the more we will obey him. You can have the most difficult things that the LORD wants you to do. Often we will say we cannot do these things. Love like that is too much for me! But then he asks us whether we will trust him as we do what he asks. Do we have enough trust to say, "Lord, you commanded me to do this. I'm afraid of what will happen, but I will do it, trusting that you will uphold me"? Where is our trust? The more we trust, the more we will obey.

On the other hand, the more we obey the Lord, the more evident it is that we trust him. Even trusting him is a matter of obedience, in some sense. For, in Scripture, he actually commands us to trust him, "Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD." (Ps. 4:5). "Trust in the LORD and do good." (Ps. 37:3). "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge" (Ps. 62:8). This does not mean that trust is obedience. To trust and obey are two different things, but they always belong together. Both are needed for us to walk with God in true love.

For those who live in this way, the Lord Jesus holds out the promise he gave to the church of Sardis in Rev. 3:4, "Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy." Put this Lord Jesus Christ before you. Remember his walk on this earth, how he came to live among us and walk with us. Walk with him now, and you will walk with him in the New Jerusalem, in a way that cannot be broken as it was in the Garden. Walk with him today. He will never fail you. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2003, Pastor Ted Van Raalte

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