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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:It is possible only through Christ to know your sins and misery
Text:LD 2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Confessing Sins
 
Preached:2008-09-14
Added:2008-11-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing: Psalm 103: 1, 4

        Hymn 1B

        Psalm 105: 3 (Baptism)

       Hymn 7: 1, 9

       Psalm 145: 1

       Psalm 118: 8

 

Read: Philippians 3:2-16

Text: Lord’s Day 2

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


Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters:

 

In today’s sermon we will deal with one of the most difficult issues you'll ever have to face in all of your life. Some people, including those who call themselves Christians, never really face this issue. It is not necessarily because they don't want to, but it’s because they don't know how. The issue is to see ourselves the way that we really are; to see ourselves the way that others see us; and especially to see ourselves the way God sees us. By nature we think that we are not such bad people. We acknowledge that we make mistakes and we sin, but there are lots of good things that we do. We are not all bad. We have a lot of redeemable qualities and that's what we concentrate on. Other people however, and especially God, see another side of us.

 

But now we come to this Lord's Day. We're told in Lord’s Day 2 that we are inclined by nature to hate God and our neighbour. That is quite a statement. Hatred is a strong word. Do you realize what that means? If that statement is true, then we are told that we love only ourselves. We are told that we want nothing to do with God; that we do not want him to be a part of our lives; that we resent him. He is only a presence to be endured and we wish him out of our lives.

 

We think the same way about our neighbour. We do not seek his well-being. We do not care one iota about the interests of another person. We would rather kick them when they are down, and not lift them up. We can't stand anybody. We have no respect for anybody whatsoever. We are only interested in ourselves.

 

If an unbeliever were here sitting in the pews, then he would scoff at that notion. He would say, "What is this minister talking about? That's not a true picture of humanity. Oh sure, there are some sociopaths who may come close to that concept, but that's not true of the general population. Look at all the good things people do for others. There is a lot of love in this world."

 

And so we ask ourselves, does the Bible really say that we are inclined to hate God and our neighbor? Yes, brothers and sisters, it does. For example it says in Romans 3:12, "All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” And in verse 18, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 

Paul is not just speaking about certain individuals. No, he is talking about everybody, including himself. We are totally worthless. There is nothing good in us. We only seek our own welfare.

 

How can we say that? Brothers and sisters, and that includes you boys and girls, you can only make that statement if you know Christ. It is only through Christ that you can have an understanding of the true nature of man. Only he can make that clear to you.

 

The theme of today’s sermon is:

It Is Possible Only Through Christ to Know Your Sins and Misery.

To know your sins and misery is:

1. A difficult process;

2. A learning process.

 

Note well that when we began dealing with the Heidelberg catechism anew, then we began in Lord's Day One by speaking about Christ. We did not begin by speaking about our sin and misery. No, Lord's Day One stands separate from the rest of the catechism. It stands on its own. In so doing it gives us the theme for the whole catechism. Do you know what the main point of Lord's Day One is, and therefore also of the whole catechism? The main point of Lord's Day One is that we belong to Christ. We have to be aware of that theme throughout the catechism, especially now as we deal with our sins and misery. Christ is central. Only when you know Christ can you know the extent of your sinfulness.

 

That is clear from what we read together in Philippians 3. Paul describes himself the way he was before he knew Christ. At that time he was a member of the Sanhedrin, which is the Council of the Jews. That means that he was considered one of the most upstanding citizens of Jerusalem, indeed of all Israel. He was highly respected. He was a ruler, a prince of the people. Paul himself also figured he had something to boast about; that he had quite something to offer. He belonged to the tribe of Benjamin and therefore he was a child of Abraham. His genealogy went way back. He was circumcised showing that he had the sign & seal of the covenant and that therefore he belonged. He knew the Scriptures very well, and, as a Pharisee, he put them meticulously into practice. A Pharisee went beyond the law. He did more than what was required of the ordinary person. And so, no one would be able to find fault with him. Therefore Paul was quite proud of his standing. He had a great sense of self worth. Paul was someone to be reckoned with. He was a man of influence.

 

That was then. But later he got to know Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus. That encounter totally changed him. Whatever was important to him before was no longer important. He says in verse seven "whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ". In other words, “my standing in the community and my former sense of self-worth means nothing to me any longer. My former pursuit of self worth through my zeal and self-satisfaction led me nowhere except to destruction. I want nothing to do with that kind of thinking and that kind of lifestyle any longer. It's all evil. I have thrown it all away like yesterday's rotting garbage.”

 

Brothers and sisters, think about what Paul did here. It was not a little thing. It was very difficult. He grew up with a certain set of values as to what is important in life; as to what makes people admire you. He put a lot of effort into becoming what he did: a Pharisee, an upstanding citizen, a leader in the community. His family and his friends were proud of him. They were proud of the high standing that he received in the community. That didn't just happen to him; no, he worked hard for it. For the only way he could get to that position was through careful and meticulous planning and through perseverance. He had invested his whole life into becoming what he had become. And then just like that he threw it all away. He tells everyone that such a pursuit is totally worthless. How could Paul do that?

 

He makes that clear in verse seven: “For the sake of Christ.” Christ gives you everything that you could possibly ever need – free of charge. Paul formally thought that through the keeping of the law he would find favour with God and with man. He thought that he would earn something. But when he learned about Christ he learned that without Christ you are nothing. You have nothing to offer of yourself. Whatever you do have to contribute is not really a contribution. It is only a token of thankfulness.

 

You've all heard the word self-righteous. A self-righteous person is someone who puts his nose up in the air, as if he is better than someone else. It is someone who does not think he or she needs correction. That's what Paul was like before his conversion. But now he says in verse nine that he does not have a righteousness of his own, but a righteousness that comes from God through faith.

 

When are you righteous? You are righteous when you are in a good or right relationship with God. Righteousness ultimately refers to "peace with God". It's a peace given to you. It is not a peace that you earn. Who gives that to you? The Lord Jesus Christ. When you know him then nothing else matters.

 

For when you know the Lord Jesus Christ you have everything that you need to be happy. Then your reputation doesn't matter so much, but the Lord's reputation is what matters. For in him you have everything that you need. He has given it to you. Your identity is with him. As Paul says, when you know the Lord Jesus Christ then you are given the power of his resurrection. That means you are given a new life. And that also means that you will be able to share in his sufferings. In Christ you are able to do that. For you know that no matter what you are alive in him.

 

The Lord Jesus Christ had grabbed hold of Paul. He had him in his grip.

 

I heard a story about a man who became a Christian at a later stage in life. In his earlier years he swore and drank and pursued an empty lifestyle. His wife, however, regularly started going to church. She wanted her husband to join her but she knew that he was a stubborn man and that you could not push him. So she bided her time. She hardly mentioned anything to him about church. His little daughter, however, did. When they came home from church she would tell him in glowing terms about the church service. He would have to stop watching football for a while and listen to his little girl. This went on for a few years.

 

Then one time his little girl asked him to come along to a special missionary service on a weeknight. The man did not want to go but for his little girl’s sake he went. He walked into the church building with his wife. She proceeded to walk all the way to the front of the church where she normally sat on Sundays. He did not want to do that. He sat on the back pew, ready to make his escape any time. Then the preacher began to preach. The man recounted, "I was riveted to my seat. It was as if the preacher was talking right at me. It was as if that preacher knew everything about me. I wanted to get out of the pew and leave. But somehow I could not bring myself to do it." Finally the church service was over. And the man was furious. He met up with his wife and said to her, "What have you been telling that minister about me? How come he knew everything about me?" She said, "I don't even know who this minister is. He was a guest preacher and I've never seen this man before." Now this man was intrigued. He went again the next evening. And again he was totally riveted by what was proclaimed from the pulpit. But he rebelled against it with every fiber of his body. For through the preaching the minister convicted this man of his sin and pointed him to the need for redemption. The man wanted to get out of that church as quickly as he could but he couldn't. The Holy Spirit had grabbed hold of him.

 

That was some 30 years ago. After his conversion the man continued to go to church regularly. On Sundays he would have to go past the pub where he had often spent time with his drinking buddies. Now they would see him go by in a suit and tie and with a Bible under his arm and they would laugh at him and ridicule him. But he would say to those men, “Boys, I'll be praying for you.” He wasn't ashamed of his new lifestyle. He threw his old lifestyle totally away. Why? Because he had learned Christ. That was the only way that he could acknowledge his sin and misery. It was only Christ who could make his stone heart a fresh heart.

 

Now you may say to yourself, "Well, it is a good thing that I was brought up in the church, and that I was brought up as a believer. At least I don't have to go through this. At least I don't have to discard my old friends, and my former way of life, because I never lived a life like that." Well, brothers and sisters, then think again. We, all of us, have to throw away our former way of life time and again.

 

Some people, including those who regularly go to church, are especially oblivious to their own sinful ways. They stubbornly hang on to their way of living and thinking. They continue to go in their own direction, no matter what. They are blind to the way others see them and blind to the way God sees them. They have a certain perception about themselves which no one and nothing can change and they have a goal in mind from which they will not deviate. They pursue their selfish ambitions with all their heart and mind and soul. In so doing they feel that they are doing absolutely the right thing. They feel that they are among the most righteous persons on earth. They will also tell you that or in some way communicate that to you: I am okay. I'm doing fine. Actually I'm doing better than most. Therefore they are beyond criticism. They will not tolerate dissent. If you do criticize them then you are in big trouble. And that is because they do not want their bubble to be punctured. That's too painful. It's much easier to point fingers at others. They complain about everybody and everything but see themselves as examples of godly living. Yet, they profess themselves to be Christians. But most people know that that person is totally blind to his or her own sins.

 

But that does not apply to just some people – this is about you and me. Although some people really do stand out as being blind to their own sins, we must confess that we all have difficulties with that. We all have difficulties seeing our own sin and misery. We don't see ourselves for what we are. We too are afraid to be criticized. All of us want to create an image of ourselves to others that only shows our good side.

 

Brothers and sisters, throw away your own self-image and be an image bearer of Christ. Don't be a worldly person. For that is what an unbeliever does. A person of the world seeks to satisfy him or herself alone. He wants to make a name for himself here on this earth. They may perform acts of kindness, but ultimately they do it for their own good or for the good of the world itself. It is always done out of selfishness. The catechism is right when it says that in the final analysis we don't care about others. By nature we hate God and our neighbor.

 

Take a close look at yourself. Do you realize what a sinner you are? You can only know that if you also already know that you are a child of God in spite of your sins. Therefore you must keep a clear conscience before God by daily examining yourselves and by acknowledging your sins and expressing your thankfulness for your redemption. When you do that, your focus in life will totally change.

 

Then when you lose something near and dear to you, such as your earthly possessions or your reputation or friends, or whatever is important to you here on earth, then you will be able to go on in the knowledge that your relationship with the Lord God is the most important. Therefore you don't have to impress people. You don't have to be right all the time. You don't have to fight your own cause either. Nor do you need your big house or your nice shiny car. That doesn't mean that you are not allowed to own luxury items but your happiness and your life should not be tied up in those things. Someone who has thrown away his former lifestyle has tied up his whole life with his Saviour Jesus Christ. All other things are rubbish.

 

Knowing your sins and misery is difficult. It may be harder for some than for others, but it is difficult for all of us. Therefore Christ has to grab hold of you time and again so that you can change for the better. So that you can throw away your self-righteousness and your smug complacency, and your dependence on earthly goods. So that you can throw away your former way of life and put on the new way of life.

 

Brothers and sisters, and that includes you boys and girls, that is an ongoing process. It’s a daily process. Paul also acknowledges that further. For he says in verse 13 that he does not consider himself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing he does. He forgets what is behind and he strains forward to what is ahead. In other words, behind him is his former way of life. He says, forget about it. Think about what is ahead, about your new way of life in Christ. And so, he says, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. But, you have to learn to do that. You need a teacher. You need the Lord Jesus Christ. We come to the second point.

 

2. You cannot do any of this if you do not know Christ first of all. He has to teach you. That is why Lord's Day One comes before Lord's Day Two. You first have to know that you belong to Christ. It is not so, as some people think, that you first have to know your sins and misery and that only then can you be joyful about your redemption. That seems logical. But that is the wrong order. Paul first experienced the mercy of Christ. Otherwise he would not have turned from his former way of life. The same thing happened already in paradise. After the fall into sin God did not begin with a curse on mankind. Oh yes, he cursed. He cursed Satan. He condemned him to destruction. But he came with a promise to Adam and Eve. He promised them that he would send a Redeemer.

 

In this way our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, has been our teacher from the very beginning. He taught us to know God. He taught us to know him through his great mercy. He taught us to know him through his great love. That is why he sent his one and only Son in the flesh. He was the greatest teacher that ever lived. He taught with word and deed perfectly. He taught us perfectly the love of God.

 

Look at how the Lord Jesus loved us. Even though we are blind to our sins, and sin against God's law all the time, he still loves us. He showed his love for us through his death for us miserable creatures who continue to live in our sins. The death of the Lord Jesus was not an ordinary death. Everybody dies. But his death was unique in that he, the perfect man, allowed himself to be abandoned by God and by man. That is why they strung him on a cross, so that he would hang between heaven and earth, indicating that heaven and earth have forsaken him. That is the ultimate death. The ultimate death is to be in a state where absolutely nobody cares about you. The Lord Jesus suffered in a most terrible way, in a way of which we can have only a little understanding. He gave everything that he had with his Father in heaven for our sakes. He did not consider his former glory something to be hung on to.

 

That, brothers and sisters, is the love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In Lord's Day Two we are given a summary of what Christ teaches us about how we should love God and our neighbour. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus tells us that we may not break even one of God's Commandments, ever. He teaches us that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. We must love like he does.

 

Think about it. Do we really have something to boast about in that regard? Do we love God all the time? When you love God you have to seek his will and keep his law. We don't do that, do we? Consistently we don't do that. And what about your neighbour? Do you consistently deny your own comfort so that you can serve others? Do you have compassion on those less fortunate than you? Do you go and visit those people of the congregation who are sick or needy, and yet whom you don't like? Do you go out of your way to make other people comfortable at your own expense? Do you do that consistently? Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for others?

 

Brothers and sisters, none of us does that consistently. We try, but we fall short. We are all too sinful. We are all too selfish for that. That is why today we are reminded of the wonderful news of salvation. The Lord Jesus has done that for you and me. He has supplied all the things in which we are lacking.

 

But you have to realize your sins and misery. And knowing that you are in Christ you can. You have to give thanks to him for loving you day in and day out. Every day he supplies what you are lacking.

 

That does not mean that now you can be complacent. Paul makes a profound statement in Philippians 3:16. He says, "Only let us live up to what we have already attained." What have you already attained? Salvation. Redemption. But now, says Paul, live up to that. In other words try to obtain that which you already have in Christ: His love, his mercy, his kindness, and his unselfish ways. Live up to that.

 

Today the Lord God once again puts you to work. As Paul says elsewhere, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Know your sins and misery. But know first of all that you are a child of God. Now you can go on again in the strength of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who has given you the power of the resurrection. He has given you a new life. To him be the glory. Amen




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.edmontonimmanual.ca

(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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