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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:Drink from the water that Christ gives and never thirst again.
Text:LD 9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Purpose
 
Preached:2004-10-03
Added:2005-09-07
Updated:2006-07-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 148:1,2.
Psalm 148:3,4.
Read: Psalm 91.
Psalm 74:8,9,10,13.
Text: Lord's Day 9
Hymn 28 or Hymn 41.
Psalm 139:7,8.
Hymn 57.

* 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 Jesus Christ our Lord,

This afternoon's sermon is not very distant from the Book of Job. In the chapters 38-41 God describes his own awesome creating power and his providential wisdom and might. We could have read anything from these chapters this afternoon. We could also have turned to the first two chapters where God and Satan interact. What can we learn about how God works today?

It is a puzzling thing for us with our little minds to understand that God controls and directs everything, that he is good, and that yet there is evil everywhere. How can it be? We all like to be little scientists and technicians who can figure it out. You see, when you figure something out, you usually have power over it. Knowledge is power.

But our confession in this respect is very simple: "I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." It is about our faith in the God whom we cannot figure out. We simply confess him as he is: an almighty Father who created all things. Because he remains almighty we also confess that he directs all things today. It is our purpose this afternoon to know more about how he directs all these things, for he does tell us quite a bit about this in his Word. We need to learn these things so that we really trust him as our Father. We need to attempt some explanation of how he turns all things to our benefit. This learning must lead us to accept his will and to acknowledge his love. If we do these things in some measure this afternoon, we will be blessed. I preach our faith in God the Father almighty under this theme:

God our Father created all things and directs them for our benefit:
1. He directs all the invisible beings for our benefit;
2. He directs all things through Christ for our benefit.


1. God our Father directs all the invisible things for our benefit:

The Nicene Creed begins like the Apostle's Creed: "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible." When I was young I thought that the minister was saying that we believe in one God, and we believe in all things visible and invisible. However, that is not what is said. Rather, what is said is that I believe that God is the Maker of all the visible and all the invisible things. It is a way of dividing up the world into two parts, the visible and the invisible. The point is that whatever things exist, seen or unseen, God is the One who created them all. Another way of describing the world is to speak of the heavens and the earth. One is God's invisible dwelling place, the other is our visible residence. Even though we cannot see the heavens in the sense of God's dwelling, we confess that God made them.

The invisible things are often described in the Bible. Sometimes God gives visions or dreams to his servants to see into another realm, the spiritual realm. Sometimes he simply opens the eyes of certain people to see what they normally could not. Think of Elisha in Dothan who had a servant trembling in fear because of the Assyrians (Arameans) who were surrounding their town. Elisha prayed to God to open the eyes of the servant so that he could see that, "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." We read that, "Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:17). Think of Balaam riding his donkey and beating it for refusing to move, only to have his eyes opened to see the destroying angel standing in the way to kill him had he gone further (Num. 22:31). Think of the angel leading Peter out of prison (Acts 12). Think of Daniel's dreams, Isaiah's visions, Ezekiel's prophecies, and John's visions in the Book of Revelation. Through them, we know much about what is invisible.

This spiritual world is as real as the material world. We are surrounded by angels as well as many demons. But in our scientific age, and following centuries of anti-supernaturalism, there are few people who think even daily about the spiritual world that surrounds us. A hundred years ago a theologian wrote that, "Angels, in our time, belong to children and poets [only]." (Wrede; see Warfield, v. 5:310n.53). And he thought that was the way it should be. Angels are just imaginary.

Yet as often as we confess that God created the heavens, we are affirming that he made a world invisible to our physical eyes. Because of our neglect of this confession, we ought to consider it more fully this afternoon.

Very often the LORD carries out his will through his angels. In fact, shouldn?t we say that he constantly does so? He certainly also makes things happen without the work of his angels, but at the same time he has thousands, if not millions or billions of angels who are his servants and are constantly busy in his service.

Did we not read from Psalm 91? "If you make the Most High your dwelling- even the LORD, who is my refuge- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone" (Psalms 91:9_12).

This passage fits the theme of this Lord's Day, where we confess that God upholds and governs all things for our good, or, our benefit. These invisible angels are under God's command to protect us. The Psalmist writes of them so that we will more fully trust in God who sends them.

In Hebrews 1 we learn of their position. They are ministering spirits, sent from God to benefit those who are to receive salvation. But none of them are to be worshipped. They do the work of God, yet they are not God. They speak in the name of God, yet they not to be feared as God. They are even called "sons of God" in Job 1 and 2, but they are not nearly so great as the Son of God. When God brought his first-born into the world, he said, "Let all God's angels worship him." And they did. The heavenly choir was sent with a heavenly song to lift up the hearts of the poor shepherds. Angels are spiritual beings, real spirits who carry out the will of God. Hebrews 1 calls them "ministering spirits."

The angels were created by God as part of the heavens, and usually it is thought that they were created on the first day, for in Job 38:7 God asks whether Job was there when he laid the foundation of the earth and all the angels shouted for joy. Angels have more power than human beings, for Peter speaks of them as being greater in might and power than we are (2Pet. 2:11). They are called authorities and rulers and principalities, yet they are not omnipotent (Col. 1:16). Angels have more knowledge than we do, but they do not know everything. In the Bible they always appear as men, and Jesus said that the angels do not marry or reproduce. Their number was fixed by God in the beginning.

These angels walk around us. They can move from place to place quickly. They are able to .appear in human form. Their assistance could come in any conceivable situation. They come and act at the command of the Lord. The angels may therefore be described as the hands of the Lord. He carries out his will through them. Angels should not be thought of as having their own power or their own glory. All they have is given them by God who upholds them just as he upholds us.

God's works are done by angels as though he himself did them. They are at his command in such a way that whatever they do is the work of God. One might indeed say that they are his hands. "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways." His power and wisdom and love often are expressed through his angels as they do his work. God does not need the help of angels. Just as he created the world out of nothing, so he can immediately make his will done as he wishes. And no doubt the Lord does so, for he does not send angels into our hearts to work faith. He reserves that work for his own Holy Spirit. His angels serve in external ways while God himself goes right to our hearts.

In the Bible God specially used angels to deliver messages, both warnings and promises. This was a special time of revelation. Now we have this revelation in written form, all over the world. So the role of the angels is more restricted to guarding and defending God's children, and helping them in their time of need. In the time to come they shall help gather the nations for the Day of Judgment. They will come with Christ on the clouds.

Because these angels are found all through the Bible serving the saints, we should be assured that still today God directs them for our benefit. They are defined in Hebrews 1 as ministering spirits, sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.

Do you have your mind and heart open to the LORD's protection by means of his angels? There are times when believers have experienced superhuman feats. Maybe a man lifted a car off of a child. Were angels helping? Someone else pushed a ladder back into place when it was falling with a person on it. Were angels helping? Why do we hesitate to affirm their help? We ought to thank God for sending his angels and keeping us safe. Let us do so for the glory of God who sends them. As those who know his Word and take comfort in his work, the promise of his angels in Psalm 91 should encourage us. We should take courage regarding the little ones he gives us. Each one has a host of angels available for protection, under the command of the Lord. Scripture does not teach that each one has a guardian angel, but that every believer has the protection of God's angels all the time. These are the very angels who behold the face of God (Mt. 18:10).

We need their help all the more because the world is also filled with evil angels, called demons. Did God create them also? Yes, we confess that he created the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them. But God did not create them evil. He created them good. Peter and Jude teach us about the fall of the angels. Our Lord said that the devil did not hold to the truth (John 8:44) which means that he had the truth but turned away from it. When we confess that God directs these invisible beings for our benefit as well, we come to something harder to understand.

But the book of Job is a great help to us. There was Satan, the Accuser, accusing Job before God. Satan complained that God had hedged Job in so that Satan could not touch him (1:10). That is a comfort, for God can hedge us in as well, protecting us. God then gave Satan the permission to take Job's possessions, and later, to attack Job's health. It seems that Satan was also permitted to influence Job's wife and his friends. But all of this took place under the watchful eye of God. The amazing thing is that while Satan was breathing lies and fully engaged in destroying Job, God was using Satan to create the right circumstances in which Job would cry out for his Redeemer. God was setting everything up for himself to step in by chapter 38 and reveal his mighty power and wisdom. Satan acted with one purpose, with evil intent. God guided everything under another purpose, with intent to bless and benefit his people.

This relationship of God to Satan is found in many places in Scripture. Satan does nothing but breathe out lies and seek the destruction of all that is good. With everything he does he intends to oppose God. Every impulse of his heart is in conflict with God, yet God makes him do what God wills. Because God created Satan as a creature with a will, God causes Satan to do God's will in such a way that Satan is always and everywhere determined that he is carrying out Satan's will. He is always lying, always angry, always destroying, always conniving, always vengeful. Yet at the same time he is always doing God's secret will. Satan is under God's will. He is not independent, even though he acts and thinks like he is. God uses Satan to test the righteous and to punish the wicked. And all the while God himself is never stained by sin.

It may be hard to understand how God can have decreed this sin and yet not be stained by it. The best explanation that I know of has to do again with intentions or goals. Every work is rated as good or evil according to the intention of its author. Whatever God does has the goal or intention of benefiting his elect and glorifying his own Name. Whatever Satan does has the intention of destroying the work of God. Therefore, because of his evil intentions, Satan must bear the guilt of all the evil he does whereas God makes use of Satan's evil to benefit his elect. When God uses Satan, God remains untouched by evil. Calvin compares it to the sun shining on a piece of meat and making the meat go bad. The sun and its rays are not affected by the meat, nor does the purity of the sun make the meat good. Just so God's holiness does not make good the evil in Satan nor does Satan's evil taint God's holiness.

What does all this mean for us? It means that we worship a holy God who is completely sovereign. No being acts apart from the decree and will of God, yet God remains holy. It also means that God directs all these things for our benefit. He is able to direct the troubles in our lives so that they do not destroy us but they serve his kingdom. God, "will also turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this life of sorrow. He is able to do so as almighty God and willing also as a faithful Father." These things teach us to have a healthy understanding of the greatness of our God.

These things also teach us to pray. For when we know more about how God works in this world, then we must also realize that our prayers form an important link in his work. He requires of us that we pray. He commands his angels in response to prayer. He does not need prayer any more than he needs angels. But he ordained prayer just as much as he ordained angels. Therefore we must be faithful in prayer as often as we believe that God will work all things for our benefit. We must pray not to enter into temptation. We must pray that he will surround us and our children with his holy angels. We must pray that God will destroy all the works of Satan. We must pray that by his eternal council and providence he will continue to uphold heaven and earth and all that is in them, for his glory and our benefit.

2. God our Father directs all things through Christ for our benefit:

All these promises of the LORD that no harm will befall us are conditional. The condition is this: "if you make the Most High your dwelling, even the LORD, who is my refuge" (Ps. 91:9). The place of God as our Father is also conditional. He is our Father only for the sake of Christ his Son. To make the LORD our refuge we must seek refuge under the wings of Jesus Christ, in the shade of his cross. To have God as our Father we need to have the Son as our Saviour. No truth about God as our Father directing all things for our benefit can be complete without the Name of Jesus Christ.

God governs the entire universe now through Jesus Christ his Son. Therefore all these angels are under the command of his Son also. As for the good angels, we read that Christ is the head over every power and authority (Col. 2:10). As for the evil angels, we read that the Son of God through his cross triumphed over them, disarmed them, and made a public spectacle of them (Col. 2:15). God the Father is directing all things through Christ. He is now crowned with glory and honour, though for a while he was made lower than the angels in his humiliation (Heb. 2).

When we now hear the promise that he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, then we must hear it as a promise of the Father given in the Name of Jesus Christ. Only because Jesus Christ died on the cross to overcome Satan does God now post his angels the world over to watch over believers in every land. For a long time God left the nations to their evil ways and ignorance, but now Christ has come. Now God's mercy extends to all as he commands all people everywhere to repent. Jesus Christ has his own in every place, and he will bring them to faith through the message of the cross. In the cross we learn that God has acted for us infinitely more than he ever has through his angels. By means of the cross he restored us to himself not just physically but morally and spiritually. Now all the various helps we receive will be aimed to improve our spiritual well-being, our trust in God the Father through Jesus Christ his Son.

He directs all things in the name of Jesus Christ his Son. We still do not fully understand how God works in this world, but if we will believe that in the cross of Jesus Christ God acted in the most decisive way right in this world, then that should be enough for us. We see that in the cross God decreed the death of Christ - the most heinous and evil deed ever committed in the world, and yet God himself was neither the author of that sin nor was his holiness tainted by it. They meant it for evil. He meant it for good. Through it he brought our salvation.

Let that be enough for us to trust that the almighty God is our Father, full of faithfulness and love.

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 2004, Pastor Ted Van Raalte

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