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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:Right Into The Ground!
Text:CD 3/4 III:1-5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2001-08-19
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.


T - THE CORRUPTION OF MAN

Right Into The Ground!

 

Sermon by Rev S. Bajema

on Canons of Dort III:1-5

 

Scripture reading:

Romans 3:9-26

 

Congregation...

 

The LORD saves! We can’t help but have seen that so far in the Canons!

God the Father so loved the Church that He sent His one and only Son. But who does the LORD save?

Our reading from Romans 3 said that no-one is righteous. None of us has any part which is wholly good. Every one of us is under sin. The best we do, even by following God’s Law in the most detailed way, only condemns us more.

I’m reminded here of what one profession of faith student said to me. Realising the truth that the more he knew about God and His Word, the more accountable he was, he wondered if he should keep coming to class. ‘Perhaps it was best to stay in ignorance,’ he suggested.

But he knew, too, that we don’t learn to become better in ourselves. It’s not about our righteousness. Because it is a righteousness apart from ourselves that saves us. That’s what we get by faith in Jesus Christ. He’s the One we have to get to know more! That’s why the apostle Paul went on to say in Romans 3, verses 22 and 23,  “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Who does the LORD save? Why - He saves sinners! And sinners are, in the words of J.I.Packer, “men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot.”

Who does it? God does it! He does everything from first to last which brings us into His eternal pleasure.

In the 3rd Head of Doctrine, which is the T of the 5 Points, we see how dead we were. This is Total Depravity.

But because our sinful condition cannot be separated from how we were saved from it by the Spirit’s work, the Canons join them together. And this keeps us looking up. We’re not left to wallow in the mud of our own misery.

That’s what unbelievers live their lives doing. So their lives are long dead and buried before that even physically happens.

But in knowing how we’ve been brought to real life, we see our past death in the most completely different light!

 

Article 1

So we consider Article 1. An article about sin.

“Sin? What a laugh! You’re talking about ancient history! We’re right out of that old guilt trip. That’s all Old Testamental. We’re free now. Aren’t the fruit of the Spirit meant to be ‘love, joy, and peace?’Look - we’ve arrived! The Kingdom of God is about living in the power of His victory, not getting hung up with the burdens of the past. Hasn’t Jesus come? He sent His Spirit to empower the Church forever!”

And so we have church services where there is no confession of sin, no repentance, no assurance of pardon, and certainly no Ten Commandments! They tell us how dynamic, vibrant, and exciting they are! There’ll be balloons, and streamers, and party whistles. They’ll be dancing in the aisles. They’ll even be rolling in laughter on the carpet. They’ll be happy!

And they’ll tell you why. They’ll use the Old Testament then for the bit in the psalms about lifting hands up in praise. But they’ll forget what actually takes up most of the psalms - the sin that God hates, and the confession of those sins He truly loves!

Now, think about what such a perspective does for an unbeliever coming into that church. He’s warmly welcomed, or, as they say nowadays, “positively affirmed.” He’s surrounded with really friendly people. He’s cushioned with the same kind of musical entertainment he would hear from his secular radio station. There’s the same kind of engaging humour and personal advice that he gets from his job training and lots of other places. And somehow this guy called “Jesus” comes into things as “the best of”.

Never, though, is that unbeliever directly confronted with his deathly condition. He doesn’t get to hear of his desperate need of faith in the very Son of God Himself!

After a quite euphoric experience, he’ll go home all abuzz. But soon reality rears its ugly head. There’s the family he’s part of - whether it’s the kids or the folks or the ‘partner’. They’ve got all the material things - the latest gadgets. They’ve got so much, but yet they have nothing at all. And so church becomes just a cop-out from what life’s really about.

Instead, that man should be confronted with what Scripture tells us through Article 1. He has to see the blindness of his mind. He has to know that horrible darkness, the vanity and perverseness of what he’s doing. He has to realise how wicked and rebellious and stubborn his heart is. He doesn’t know how to love!

Unless we acknowledge that the fall into sin is our fall into sin, we don’t understand what God has done for us. And we definitely can’t start living in response to that.

That’s why the Church today is actually so powerless! Without sin, you don’t need a Saviour. And without the preaching about a Saviour, what kind of gospel do you have?

So, many are not getting to meet the One who really counts. You see, they don’t know what to wear in order to get in there! Like the man in Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22, who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes that the guests were given, you don’t get into heaven without the blood of Jesus Christ.

 

Article 2

In Article 2 we confess that the sin is ours. Much as we may loudly claim we’re not anything as bad as mass murderers, or bank robbers, or any of this world’s other criminals, unless we confess that this is our sin, we cannot dare to begin! In the words of Romans 3:12, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is on one who does good, not even one.”

Every one of us is in the same boat. Adam is the ancestor of us all. And you know something else about that boat - it’s not afloat! We’re all sunk!

 

Article 3

It really leaves us in a most desperate quandary! As Paul draws this even more grimly in the verses 13 and 14, “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

Article 3 shows this total inability to do anything that barely comes close to pleasing God: “All men are conceived in sin, and are by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto.”

Only God does it!

And so the Article rightly concludes, “Without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, or to dispose themselves to reformation.”

Dear person in the pew, if you get the idea that on your own you’re done for, you’re not wrong!  As surely as the nails hammered into a coffin seal the fact that the body is dead; and as those shovels of dirt thrown upon the coffin seal off all escape; so you don’t have a hope!

This is the same Biblical teaching we meet in The Heidelberg Catechism, as it begins with our sin. Listen to its Questions 3 till 11: HOW DO YOU COME TO KNOW YOUR MISERY?; WHAT DOES GOD’S LAW REQUIRE OF US?; CAN YOU LIVE UP TO ALL THIS PERFECTLY? DID GOD CREATE MAN SO WICKED AND PERVERSE?; THEN WHERE DOES MAN’S CORRUPT NATURE COME FROM?; BUT ARE WE SO CORRUPT THAT WE ARE TOTALLY UNABLE TO DO ANY GOOD AND INCLINED TOWARD ALL EVIL?; BUT DOESN’T GOD DO MAN AN INJUSTICE BY REQUIRING IN HIS LAW WHAT MAN IS UNABLE TO DO?; WILL GOD PERMIT SUCH DISOBEDIENCE AND REBELLION TO GO UNPUNISHED?; and BUT ISN’T GOD ALSO MERCIFUL?

 

Article 4

Congregation, this is very, very serious. Things aren’t looking good. And Article 4 points that out more.

Not even the beauty of God’s creation can comfort us. That’s also terribly distorted - just like us! Nature is not anything like it was before the Fall.

Let me use the picture of a mirror. This mirror before the fall into sin was doing what any mirror is supposed to do. It reflected the image of whoever was facing into it. And mankind reflected the image of the Creator God.

Like a mirror reflects that part of whatever is facing it, so we faithfully showed God before the Fall. But the mirror fell! We desperately picked it up. What can it still show? It’s shattered! Though there’s still a reflection, it can’t show anything accurately anymore.

That mirror is still with us today. And the mirror has got no better. In fact, we keep dropping that mirror more and more. Mankind is getting further and further away from who God is, and what he’s meant to be. Like viruses which become more and more drug-resistant, so sin becomes more and more devious. Romans 3:20 is very frank, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

And in connection with creation Article 4 says, “so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge and to true conversion that he is incapable of using it aright, even in things natural and civil. “Nay, further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and hinders in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.”

 

Article 5

In Article 5 we see it’s the same with the Law of God. We can’t be saved through the Ten Commandments, even though many Jews today still persist in trying.

And some are extremely zealous. They have been very busy studying God’s Word in the Old Testament, and writing about applying it in many different ways. They certainly know their guilt.

But they can only answer it with either the extreme legalism of the Pharisees, or the liberalism of the Sadducees. It’s as Paul says in verse 20, “No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”

This draws to a close the teaching of the Canons on Total Depravity, which is ‘The Corruption of Man.’

Now, from this most desperate mire of misery, there comes an incredible pulling power. There’s this Irresistible Grace, which is the about our conversion to God and the way it happens.

Thank God! These are the life-liberating words of Romans 3:24, because we “are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

It’s as if our fallen nature, our wallowing in misery, is pictured as a man in quicksand. That man is in the most critical state. He’s trying to do whatever he can to get out. He thrashes away at that quicksand in the same way that people seek justification by following the Ten Commandments.

But do you know what happens when someone tries to struggle like that in quicksand? He goes down even faster! The more he tries, the faster he drowns.

Now, while that man is sinking in that quicksand, a procession of different religious leaders pass by.

First, we see Buddha walking by. The man cries out to Buddha to save him. Buddha replies, “You shouldn’t be scared. If you have lived well, you will come back reincarnated to a better life.

Then an animist walks by. He believes there are many gods, who are spirits all around us in nature. The sinking man cries out to him. He replies, “Don’t worry, you become an offering for the spirit of the quicksand. You make it better for the rest of us.”

Next, Mohammed goes past. By now the cry becomes most desperate. But for Mohammed, the answer is even easier, “It is obviously the will of Allah that you are in this quicksand. You must have done something wrong.”

You see, congregation, the world’s religions - which are only the ideas of men - don’t address the real problem. Each of them really only serves people themselves. They leave us in that quicksand of sin.

Finally, another man passes that spot. Now it’s almost too late. The man’s so weak he can’t even shout. There’s barely a croak from him.

But this man going by now is the God-man. He’s Jesus! The only One who can save! The Saviour says to him, “Your sin is forgiven you.” He pulls him out.

Has He pulled you out, too?

Amen.

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray...

O Heavenly Father, how much don’t we thank and praise You for the Son of Your love! In You we did reach out, and You have pulled us out of the eternal misery to which we are condemned ourselves. Don’t let us forget - ever!

And because we have been saved, may others come to see that they have to be saved, too. In the Saviour’s 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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