Order Of Worship (Liturgy)
Songs: Ps. 121:1,2,4; Ps. 143:5; Ps. 139:1,4,5,6; Ps. 40:3; Hy. 58
Reading -- Hebrews 10:1-10; Gen. 3:1-15
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:
Where are you?
You might think, "Well, that's sort of a silly question. "I'm right here, sitting in church."
But that's not what I mean. When I ask, "Where are you?", then I mean, "Where are you in your life with the Lord?" I'm speaking in terms of faith and life. Where are you in relation to the God who came looking for you and who found you? Where are you in your life and walk with God -- who showed you grace upon grace, who established a covenant with you?
That's the question which comes to us this morning: Where are you?
I proclaim to you the Word of God under this theme:
THE LORD GOD ASKS, "WHERE ARE YOU?"
1. He asked the man; 2. He asked his Son; 3. He asks each of us.
1. This call of the LORD God comes in one of the very well known narratives of the Bible. Adam and Eve, our first parents, had disobeyed the LORD God. He had given them all the trees of the garden for food. They could eat from all of the trees, except one. The LORD God had said to the man that he was allowed to eat from every tree in the garden except for one -- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And the LORD had attached a serious warning to this command. He warned them that if they were to eat of that tree, they would die.
Well, the rest is history, isn't it? Satan came into the garden in the form of a serpent. He convinced the woman to try the forbidden fruit. He said, "You will be like God, knowing good and evil." And, like the Proverb (9:17) says, "Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." She stole some and ate some of it. She gave some to her husband. And he ate. And then their eyes were opened. They now knew the difference between good and evil all right. And they knew that they had done evil. They were filled with fear. And so they tried to hide. They tried to hide behind some fig leaves. They sowed some fig leaves together for clothing. They tried to hide from God and from each other.
But that wasn't enough. For when they heard the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, they ran in fear -- they ran for their lives from the presence of the LORD God. They went and hid among the trees of the garden. They were filled with deepest dread because they had disobeyed the commandment of God -- because they had broken covenant with God.
They were like little children who hide when they know that they have done something wrong. When they hear mom or dad, they hide because of a guilty conscience, and because of fear. That's how the man and the woman acted.
Man's world had fallen apart. All harmony was gone.
The straightforward way in which v. 8 says that the LORD came to the garden in order to walk in it suggests that this was not uncommon. That the LORD came more often, perhaps in the form of a man, in order to talk, to have fellowship, communion, with the man and woman. And this is not difficult to understand. After all, there was perfect harmony between the man and God, between Creator and creature.
But now that harmony was gone. There was only disharmony. The beautiful relationship was gone. There was now a separation between God and man, Creator and creature. A separation caused by man. Man had put an ocean of sin between himself and his God. And so, when he heard his God approaching, he ran in morbid fear.
Not only was there disharmony between God and man. There was also disharmony between the man and the woman. Fear of each other and shame entered the picture. That's why they tried to hide from each other behind leaves. The first marriage, thrown on the rocks! We see this later as well when Adam tries to pin all the blame for the terrible mess they together made on his wife.
Everything is wrong. All possible relationships have gone sour.
I don't think that we would have been all that surprised if the LORD God had said, "OK, that's it. I'm going to destroy this mess, and I'm going to start over. Man has proven himself to be disobedient -- to love himself more than me. I'm just going to wipe out this disaster man has made out of my beautiful creation. And I will start again."
It would not have been all that surprising if God had acted in this way in the face of what man had done. And we would not have had any reason to accuse God of playing unfair -- of being unjust.
But the amazing thing is that God did not act in this way. God did not wipe out his ruined creation in one fell swoop. And he did not destroy the man and the woman.
Instead, he came down into his creation. The holy God, came down into the unholy mess. The perfect Creator entered his ruined creation.
So often God acts in surprising ways -- in ways that we would not even dream of. Well here too God acts in a completely unexpected way. He comes looking for man.
God knew what had happened. Nothing is hid from his sight. He saw the woman eat some of the forbidden fruit. He saw the man eat some of it. He saw their desperate attempts to hide.
And he came to them. And when he came to the garden, they ran and hid. Perhaps we would expect the LORD God to say, "If that's how you want to be, fine!", and then to leave.
But again he did something very unexpected. He called for them. He called to the man, "Where are you?"
It's not that he didn't know where they were. As King David would write later in Ps. 139: Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I say, "Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with you.
And the trees could not hide the man and his wife. They, his creatures, were hiding behind trees he had made and were wearing clothes made of leaves he had caused to grow. Nothing was hidden from God. And yet he called to the man. He called out, "Where are you?"
God saw the sin and the misery into which man had plunged himself. He saw that man was now in the grips of spiritual death -- that he had made himself completely miserable. And not only that, but man had consciously chosen the side of Satan, God's enemy. He chose to be the best friend of the devil. And he took over the sneaky, lying, shady behaviour of the deceiver.
And yet God did not write man off. He came looking for him. And even when the man ran from God, trembling with fear, even then God did not turn his back on man. He did not surrender man; he did not give man up to slavery to Satan and to fear. He intervened in the midst of man's distress. He called man out of his hiding place.
When God called the man, then the first thing God wanted was for man to come to an understanding, a recognition of his sin and of his misery. That's the first thing the Word of God does. If we open our ears and hearts to that Word, to the Voice of God, then it cuts us to the quick. It convicts us and convinces us that we are sinners. It reveals to us our misery.
True, some are a long time in coming to a recognition of their sin. Some people don't acknowledge that their lives are miserable because of sin and that they need something to make things well in their lives. And that's no wonder. Look at Adam. Even when God called him from hiding among the trees, he didn't fall down before God in repentance, confessing his sin, and asking for forgiveness. He started making all sorts of bad excuses. "I hid because I was naked." And then: "It's all the fault of that woman you gave me."
And many of Adam's children imitate their first Father. They make excuses for sin. They blame it all on others -- husband, wife, parents, church community, consistory. They don't want to take any responsibility for their own foolish behaviour. Blame it on some one else -- that's easy!
But the children of Adam who open their ears and their hearts will not act in such a ridiculous way. They will repent. They will say, "Lord, I have sinned; forgive me my sins."
As I said, the first thing which God wanted to do in calling the man was to bring him to a confession of his sin and his misery. However, we must also see this call of the LORD as an act of grace. Contrary to everything man deserved -- contrary to anything that man could expect -- God, in his grace, called him. The Voice of God sought man out. God refused to leave man lost for eternity in his sin and in his alienation from God. He came to man who would not, indeed, who could not seek God.
It had become impossible for the man to seek God. In his unwillingness to turn to God he had descended to an inability to seek God -- an inability for which he was 100 % responsible. And yet God, in his pure grace, came to man and called him.
How sad that God must raise his Voice in order to call the man. Never before had man run and hidden from his God. And yet, there is grace, love, and tender mercy here. For it is only through the call of the LORD that renewal and restoration can take place.
God always takes the initiative. He is the one who comes to man who deserves his curse with the gentle words of the gospel. He is the one who comes to rebellious man with the promise of a Saviour.
2. And what a Saviour we have. We have a Saviour who, as God promised Adam and Eve, has crushed the head of the tempter -- of Satan, the horrible deceiver. We have a willing Saviour. A Saviour who came willingly in order to rescue us from the abyss of sin.
When God the Father called His Son Jesus Christ to repair what man had destroyed, then the Lord Jesus did so willingly. When God the Father called upon His Son to be the second Adam to do what the first Adam refused to do, He did so willingly.
When the LORD God called to the new man, Jesus Christ, "Where are you?", then he did not run and hide. He didn't make all sorts of excuses. He said, in the words of Psa 40:7, 8, Then I said, "Here I am, I have come -- it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."
It was King David who first said this. He wrote Ps. 40. But ultimately and finally it was the Lord Jesus Christ who said this. It was the Spirit of Christ speaking through David as David wrote Ps. 40. We know that from Heb. 10. In Heb. 10:5 we read, "When Christ came into the world, he said, [and then v. 7], "Here I am -- it is written about me in the scroll -- I have come to do your will, O God."
God called, "Where are you? Second Adam, where are you?" And the new man, Jesus Christ said, "Here I am. Your will is my desire, your law my delight."
From his youth on, the Lord Jesus was very conscious that his Father had called him to do his will. When he was twelve years old he said to Joseph and Mary, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
And later (Jn 6:38) he said to his disciples, "I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." And again (Jn 8:29), "He who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." And in Jn 17:4 the Lord Jesus said, "I have accomplished the work which you gave me to do."
The Father gave the Son a task. And the Son did it, willingly. He didn't hide like the first Adam did. He said, "I have come to do your will."
He did the will of God by coming into our human existence. The eternal Son of God, entered the area of creation. The eternal Word of God was made flesh.
Just like God came into the garden of Eden, into the creation man had ruined -- in order to seek man and to call man back to himself, so the Lord Jesus Christ came into creation -- even into human flesh -- to seek man and to call him to repentance. The incarnation -- coming into the flesh of Jesus Christ -- is the fulfilment of the coming of God into the garden.
The Lord Jesus performed the will of God by being obedient to his Father in all things. He offered up the obedience the first Adam did not. He was obedient even to death on the cross.
And while he was on the cross, he could not enjoy the very relationship he had come to restore. He came to restore harmony between God and man. And while he hung on the cross, he himself could not enjoy that harmony. The relationship between God and the Lord Jesus was thrown into disharmony. It had to be in order for the relationship between God and us to be restored. The Lord Jesus had to suffer total alienation -- separation from God -- for us to be received again into favour. He had to suffer the wrath which we deserved for us to be able to enjoy again God's favour.
And that's why God did not answer when the Lord Jesus cried from the cross out of the deep darkness which had descended upon him, "My God, where are you?" "Why have you forsaken me? My God, where are you?"
God did not answer. The heavens remained silent.
Why did God the Father not answer his Son? This was all part of the task the Father had sent his Son to do so that the Son might redeem for his Father a people.
There were really only two possibilities. Either abandon Adam and Eve, and all succeeding generations, forever, or abandon his Son. Either remain in heaven, take a look at what Adam and Eve did there in the Garden, close the doors of heaven and let the darkness descend upon mankind, or close the doors on his only beloved Son, and let him suffer in darkness.
Well, in his grace and love for us, God freely chose to abandon his Son, Jesus Christ. There, in the place of death, at Golgotha, the place of the skull, Jesus Christ was left for a few hours by his Father. The Lord Jesus suffered that for us. That we may have life. There at the place of death, we receive life. Everlasting life in Paradise, the heavenly and eternal Eden.
Christ was left alone to call out: God, where are you; so that we would never need to call that. So that the broken relationship between God and us would be restored.
3. Let us see finally that God who called us already in Adam and who saved us in Christ, today calls each of us to himself.
God sought us in Adam. We were hiding together with our first parents in among the trees. We were right there with them. There's no getting around that. That's the sad truth.
But the happy truth is that God came looking for us. And he called to us. He asked, "Where are you?"
And in Jesus Christ, he came looking for us.
And the Lord Jesus Christ, by way of the preaching of the gospel, has come looking for us. He sent the good news into all the world in order to gather in all of God's chosen ones.
God re-established the relationship. He takes the initiative. We don't. We don't take the first steps towards God. While we were enemies of God, friends of Satan, God came towards us with his arms opened wide and called us to himself.
Our baptisms are very graphic reminders of the fact that God takes the initiative. Our baptisms are signs of God's commitment to us. Of how he draws us into covenant with himself. Of how He began a new work, a good work in us.
God came to us and now he calls, "Where are you?" Those words of God come to each of us personally, individually. They come to us this morning. We cannot hide. We cannot hide behind the person sitting in front of us. We cannot hide behind closed eyelids. We cannot hide behind the fact that we were born into the church. And there's certainly no hiding behind flimsy excuses for disobedience.
The LORD asks, "Where are you? Are you going to listen to my voice? Are you going to respond in love to the love I have shown you?" Are you going to follow the Lord and obey him?"
Let's give up on our poor excuses. Let's give up on trying to blame others for our poor behaviour. Let's listen to the voice of the one calling us.. Let's go to him and ask him to forgive us our sins, to heal us from our unwillingness to obey him.
The question of "Where are you?" goes with you. It will be there again this afternoon. Tomorrow the question will still be there. Where are you? As you go to work; as you entertain yourself -- every day, all day: "Where are you?" Are you walking in the ways of the Lord? It comes to each of us, old and young.
"My child, where are you now?" What are you doing? Where are you headed -- in life? Where are you going? Are you with the LORD; or with the world -- those who hate the LORD?
Answer God with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Ps. 40: "Where am I, LORD? "I'm right here. "Lo, I now appear; "To do thy will, O God, is my desire. "Take thou my life and mould it. "Thy will is my delight; "I cherish day and night "Thy law in heart and soul."
Don't be afraid to go to the LORD. Don't be afraid to give your life to God who loved you before you even knew him. Don't be afraid, no matter how great your sin. God doesn't turn anyone away. He calls us to him, doesn't he? Would he then turn anyone away?
Leave your fear behind and respond to his question in love. As the apostle John said at the end of 1 Jn 4, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment."
The Lord Jesus has borne the punishment we deserved. And so the reason for fear is gone. There is only reason for love. For answering the LORD God's question, "Where are you?", with a firm and confident answer which says, "Here, LORD. Please, forgive my sins for Jesus' sake. Accept me, for Jesus' sake. Fill my life with your Holy Spirit, for Jesus' sake. Amen."
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service. Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.ancasterchurch.on.ca/sermons/jan3000.html
(c) Copyright 2000, Rev. George van Popta
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