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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:Starting At The Top (II)
Text:CD 1 I:8-18 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2001-07-29
Added:2008-04-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


U - DIVINE ELECTION & REPROBATION

(Reading: Canons of Dordt I:8-18; Romans 9:1-24)

 

Starting At The Top (II)

 

 

Congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

There’s only one way we’re saved! The one way that’s the same whether you’re in the Old Testament Church, or the New Testament Church. And that way is by grace alone.

This is what bursts the bubble to any thought that the saints in the Old Testament were saved by following the Law. Something which many Christians believe. They draw a difference between the Old and the New covenants. That’s why many churches hardly use their Old Testaments - they think it’s a different gospel altogether!

The apostle Paul is absolutely clear that it’s always been by grace alone we are saved, not by works. As he says, in Romans 4:13, about one of the believers in the Old Testament, Abraham, “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”

 

Article 8

Article 8 is also definite about this. It says there is one decree regarding those who are saved. It says this because the way God does it stays the same. He doesn’t change.

Congregation, it’s the same theme we heard to the first seven Article of this First Head of Doctrine. God does it! No one’s going to get any credit out of this - whether in the Old or New Testament! The only merit is His.

Living in this knowledge changes everything. For while many will say it’s only when we can do something that we can be encouraged to do more, that belief actually becomes a curse. Because what about when we don’t do things?

 

Article 9

Article 9 shows how this happens.

And let me show you how this happens by tackling the belief that we make the decision for faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s say someone believed he made that decision for Christ. He will probably remember the exact time and place.

So how did he end up in that place - at that time? Well, he’ll have to admit, some Christian friends brought me there. They were praying for him. They went out of their way to get him to hear the gospel. And he was at a point where he was willing to go there. Even if he just came off the street, it was only because the Holy Spirit made it so!

You see, congregation, none of us would ever want to be saved! Quite the opposite! In ourselves we would go on rejecting the Gospel, if God Himself didn’t act. While it may not be the Damascus Road experience that the apostle Paul had, yet the way he was going pictures so well where each of us would be going.

Take the example of William Cowper. When he was 32 he went through a terrible crisis. He tried to kill himself with an overdose. He went to the river Thames, to throw himself into it, but something held him back. The next morning he fell upon a knife, but the blade broke and his life was saved. He then tried to hang himself. He was cut down unconscious, but still alive.

Then one morning, in a quite unexpected moment, he took up his Bible and read a verse in the Letter to the Romans. All of a sudden he received salvation. He rejoiced in the forgiving power of God.

Some years later, after he had grown greatly in his faith, and had become well-known as a hymn-writer, he summed up his faith. He write this about God’s dealings with him - a hymn we know very well, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm. Deep in unfathomable mines Of never-failing skill, He treasures up His bright designs, And works His sovereign will.”                  

Dear friend, any decision you thought you made to believe, was only made because God planned it that way. In the words of Article 9, “men are chosen to faith.”

The One who does the work is the only one who can make it work - God! In the words of God’s Son, in John 15:16, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.”

It’s all God’s grace! As someone described it, “God wants me to know, and God wants the whole world to know, that when He chose me, He was choosing what was foolish, and despised; yes, those things which are worthless. God wants me to know, and He wants the whole world to know, that it was only because of His sovereign mercy, and not because of anything which I have done, that He has chosen me.”

We’re not saved by any faith God saw we would have - but we certainly get to show faith!

 

Article 10

Article 10 confirms how much God loves it - saving people, that is! His good pleasure is exactly our best benefit!

The example of Esau and Jacob is given. Though one was the younger, he was the elect. And, while for much of his life he wasn’t a particularly fine example, yet he had been chosen by the LORD’s good pleasure alone.

Isn’t that just as well? Otherwise, who would be saved?

And notice - the focus is on God, not man. It’s His good pleasure, and not what we feel.

             

Article 11

And when God says it, He does it. Article 11 is short but strong. What God has planned is as unchangeable as God Himself is forever sure!

Though this seems so brief, it’s the hinge in the door unlocking the LORD’s will to us. Because it always will be exactly His will. This is the comfort we know from Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

So congregation, this is not only rock solid - this is the Eternal Rock, Christ Himself. On Him we can always depend - no matter what we’re feeling! And in fact, we should hold on to Him, in spite of our feelings!

 

Article 12

But there’s still more!

And forget comparing this with the shonky-looking guy on TV! The products he sells aren’t made to last. This one, though, will last for ever! You see the difference this faith makes! For not only is there that most precious gift of salvation itself, the LORD also gives His fruit to those who are His spiritual children.

Now - who would those privileged people be? Which people, amongst all the people who are living, or who have ever lived, could these be?

Believer - it’s you and me!

Isn’t it? I mean - don’t you believe in Christ? Don’t you have that tremendous respect for God? Aren’t you truly sorry for your sin? Don’t you have that hungering and thirsting for His way?

These things show how much you depend on God’s grace. They show us how true His Word is.

But there’s a warning, too. For while it is good to want to learn more, there is a type of learning which won’t help. This is the learning where you make yourself the teacher.

You see, when Article 12 speaks against inquisitive prying into the secret and deep things of God, it’s telling us our place. And our place must be the humble, lower place. That’s at the feet of the Master - not sitting in His place!

Congregation, we weren’t saved for ourselves. “The object of love is to serve, not to win.” This is no “win-win”, to use the world’s language. In fact, it’s not until we completely lose, that we begin to gain anything.

    

Article 13

It’s because of what we are in Christ that Article 13 goes on to show that we can’t help but reflect Him! As we’re aware of God’s election, then we’re assured of our faith through daily prayer, adoration, sorrow for sin, and that wanting to serve Him. We want to love Him who loved us first of all!

This fruit comes to those who least expect it, because they’re busy in His Kingdom. You don’t look for it on its own.

Or, at least you shouldn’t. Those who do try to look for this fruit on its own actually become of very little earthly use.

Like the Thessalonians. They became so completely preoccupied with the reward that came with Christ’s return, they were breaking up the church! They weren’t busy - they were busy-bodies!

Some argue, however, that it’s this doctrine of election which makes people lazy. They say this is a kind of fatalism.

In other words, because God has decreed whatever’s going to happen, we don’t need to do anything. What’s the use then?

The truth is that the more we realise the amazing thing God has done in Christ, the more we’re inspired to love and serve Him. You don’t lose the more you give the LORD - in fact, you gain, incredibly! And most of all - you show that much more what really matters!

Who looks at the time when they’re with the one they love?

 

Article 14

The Canons in Article 14 tell us how important this point is! This is a doctrine clearly stated by Scripture. A doctrine which gives God the honour He rightfully deserves, and keeps us in our place! A doctrine which, if denied or muted to some degree, gives rise to the kind of situation which brought about the Synod of Dordt!

But these Canons also warn against teaching this with a wrong attitude. You see, this article speaks of a “spirit of discretion and piety”.

We could have a false pride in this teaching. It then becomes a type of superior knowledge, a knowledge which other unenlightened people lack.

If anything, though, this should make us the exact opposite! Knowing that election is all in God’s hands should make us realise the great comfort the church has. It’s for us - here! And it’s for us here - right now!

That’s what we should sing! We sing with the apostle Paul, as when he drew out for the Roman Christians this very doctrine, we sing, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!” (Rom.11:33)

Starting at the Top, we see the glorious blessings of God coming down. And they’re pouring down - on us!

 

Article 15

Now Article 15 picks up a thread it left back in Article 6. You see, the subject is again ‘Reprobation’ - those passed by as God does His saving work.

This is also, not surprisingly, another of the Articles the G.K.N. denomination in Holland has made optional. And that precisely proves the point of this article!

When it speaks about half-way through of “the common misery into which they have wilfully plunged themselves”, it could well be describing the way the G.K.N. has left God’s way. This once solid biblical church has now united with the most unbiblical churches, and openly endorses the most unbiblical practices. It is no longer a Christian church!

It’s so sad that many of those churches which condemn this biblical doctrine once stood firmly upon it. And when there is future revival back to God’s Word in these churches, at least some go back to this biblical doctrine - and others. Then believers aren’t sceptically questioning God’s Word. They’re too busy believing!

 

Article 16

Article 16 says something to every one of us - whether we believe or not. If you don’t believe, this doctrine is, to quote the end of this Article, “justly terrible to those who, regardless of God and of the Saviour Jesus Christ, have wholly given themselves up to the cares of the world and the pleasures of the flesh, so long as they are not seriously converted to God.”

If you do believe, then no matter how weak you feel your faith is, this doctrine tells you that those who “make use of the means which God has appointed”...”ought not to be alarmed.”

Why not? Because those means are what we heard of before - believing in Jesus, praying to Him, listening to His Word, and serving Him.

When you live with the Lord, He looks after you. And He looks after You even if you’re just an interested seeker, too.

For this doctrine doesn’t chase people out of the Church. Instead, our “merciful God has promised that He will not quench the smoking flax, not break the bruised reed.”

That’s the gracious promise of God in Isaiah 42:3. Think you’re lost? He’s found you!

Are you down and out? He turns it about!

Don’t think you can make it? He made it, and He’ll help you to make it too!

In the words of the third verse from Cowper’s hymn: “You fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds you so much dread are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.”

This covenant is one of grace, dear friend! God does it! And you can’t help but believe it.

 

Article 17

This is shown clearly in Article 17. For the most helpless people of all, the little people - our children - become helped by the covenant of grace.

The faith their parents have been given, is theirs too, though they die before they profess anything.

It’s their parents, after all, who are responsible for them.

This is a subject which has caused considerable discussion amongst Reformed Christians.

I have met sincere members of our churches who were in anguish as to where their deceased children now were.

Well - they’re with God!

And I don’t say that because of that belief this world has that all babies and all children go to heaven.  I believe it because of this covenant of grace. A covenant that God said wasn’t only with us, by faith, but also with our children.

And where God makes a promise we have to believe it. More than that - we have to live by it!

Cowper has the words again in his hymn, in his 4th verse “His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour. The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.”

    

Article 18

We’ve come to the last Article now in the “U” of Unconditional Election. And here we’re put in our place absolutely.

“To those who would murmur at the free grace of election,” it begins. As if we could look a gift horse in the mouth? As if the kettle could call the pot black? As if the clay could question the potter?

That’s absolutely incomprehensible. You just cannot understand how that could be!

At least, not if you have received this amazing grace. The wonder of that simply overwhelms you!

And I want to end with getting you to think personally about it. I mean, who brought you here? Who put you in a position to be able to respond to this grace?

If the Lord Himself hadn’t been working with you and guiding you by His Spirit to put you in that place, would you now know Jesus Christ as your own Saviour and Lord?

The final verse of Cowper’s hymn sums this up: “Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain. God is His own interpreter and He will make it plain.”

Dear friend, tell me - Who does it? Amen.

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray...

LORD God, please may we be reassured of our faith with this teaching of Your Word. You did it!

We didn’t, and we couldn’t - not one tiny bit of it! It’s exactly because You planned it that we have real comfort.

We don’t have to doubt. In fact, we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loved us.

Thank you LORD, that nothing will ever separate us from your love in Him. In His precious Name we pray, Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2001, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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