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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
 www.ancasterchurch.on.ca
 
Title:All of life
Text:Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (View)
Occasion:New Work/School Season
Topic:Our Calling
 
Preached:2003-09-21
Added:2004-01-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Deut 6
Text: Deut 6:4-9
Songs: Psalm 116:1-5; Psalm 116:9,10; Psalm 128; Psalm 78:1,2,3; Psalm 105:1,3
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

By this time the schools are well under way. The children and young people (and their mothers) are back into the swing of things-ensuring that the children are out of the house on time to catch the bus, and, of course, getting their homework done.

The catechism classes have resumed. There are still a number of young people I have not seen. But I fully expect to see them this week.

The congregational Bible study clubs and societies (the ones that take a break during the summer) have begun again. Are you joining one? There is a lot of choice. I do not think that anyone can seriously use the excuse that none meets at a convenient time.

The new home visitation season is also beginning again. The elders are busy all year long speaking with those in their wards. Speaking words of encouragement to the hurting and words of admonition to the disobedient. In addition to that ongoing work is the work of the regular home visitations. Once again, as is done every year, the elders will visit all the homes and households that make up our congregation.

The purpose of the visit is to encourage you to continue living in covenant with God. God has established a covenant with us. We are in a relationship of fellowship with Him. God has a covenant with believers and their children. The elders want to encourage you to live faithfully in covenant with God.

All of life flows forth from that basic principle: that we are in covenant with God. The education of the youth of the church flows forth from that. Day school and catechism class both have their respective roles in that regard. So does congregational Bible study. So do the home visitations.

As consistory we have chosen Deut. 6:4-9 as a text for this year's home visits. As a rule, the elders will read this with you. This text will serve as a focus for the visit and discussion.

This morning, in light of the upcoming home visits, as well as the resumption of school, catechism and bible study societies, I preach to you the Word of God under this theme:

PROMPTED BY LOVE FOR GOD, WE ARE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE COVENANT IN ALL OF LIFE

1. As individual; 2. As household; 3. As community.

1. As a footnote in your Bible will likely indicate, v. 4 is not easy to translate. A number of options is given in the footnotes. Literally, the Hebrew, with its great economy of words, says: "The LORD our God, the LORD one."

I do not want to confuse things more, but perhaps the best translation of the Hebrew would be: "The LORD is our God, the LORD alone."

The LORD was Israel's God. The LORD is our God. We have no other God than the LORD. We are to love and serve Him only. We are not worship any other gods beside Him. As the First Commandment says: "I am the LORD your God ... You shall have no other gods before me."

This was originally addressed to Israel whom God had brought out of Egypt, the land of slavery. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." But it is addressed to us as well. For, as the NT teaches us, the Church of Christ, today, is the Israel of God. In Christ the LORD God has completed the work of bringing his people out of slavery to sin and Satan.

We are to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul and strength. As our Lord Jesus Christ taught us, this is the first and great commandment. When the Lord Jesus taught us this, he added "mind." The mind. (Mark 12:30 NIV) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." With every part and aspect of who we are. We are to love the LORD our God in our thinking, our feelings, are speaking, our actions. We are not going to go into great detail trying to discern exactly the difference between heart and soul, mind and strength. That is not the point. The point is that we are to love God totally, completely. Our love for God must be a comprehensive and integrated love that brings every aspect of who we are and what we do into play.

Verse 4 says that the LORD is our God. We do not read about the LORD God; rather, we read about the LORD our God. God has become our God. He has given himself to us and claimed us for himself. That is what it means to be in covenant with the LORD God. He is ours and we are his. In the fullness of time He has shown this to us beyond doubt and question in his eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He came from heaven to us, to become one of us, to join God to us and us to God. Since Christ came and did all his work here on earth, and ascended back to heaven where he still bears our nature (where he is bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh) we are joined to God in covenant like never before. In Christ Jesus, the LORD God is our God.

When we reflect upon how God is our God and how we are in covenant with Him, then it is not very long before we think about the commandments of God. The ten commandments-the ten words of the covenant-teach us how to live in covenant relationship with God. As covenant people we are to obey the ten commandments out of thankfulness. (We will speak more about that this afternoon-about how the Lord Jesus Christ has delivered us from misery unto thankfulness.)

And so Moses, on behalf of the LORD God, said in v. 6-said to the Israelites and to us-These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. He is referring to the ten words of the covenant which he spoke a moment earlier in ch. 5. Are the words of the covenant that teach us how to live before God in thankfulness for his grace in Christ Jesus-are those words upon your heart?

The LORD God wrote the ten words of the covenant upon slabs of stone with his own finger. But God wanted to get his covenant law upon our hearts so that it would not be an outward thing, but that the obedience would come from the inside out. As God said through the prophet Jeremiah (31:33): "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."

As a visible indication of how the law was to be upon the hearts of God's people, to influence how they live, Moses wrote (in v. 8) that the Israelites were to tie the law of God as symbols on their hands and to bind them on their foreheads. In the time of the Lord Jesus many of the Jews were doing this literally. Even today many Orthodox Jews will write the law of God upon slips of paper, put them in two little boxes. One box they will tie upon their wrists and the other on to their foreheads. They are called "phylacteries." Actually the Lord Jesus did not speak so well of this practice. In Matt 23:5, the Lord Jesus speaking about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, said, "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide...."

Likely we are to do this figuratively. To figuratively bind God's covenant law upon our hands. In other words, God's covenant law is to influence how we act-the things we do with our hands. Figuratively, we are to bind God's covenant law upon our foreheads. In other words, God's covenant law is to influence how we think-the patterns of our minds.

As our elders visit us this new home visit season, they will speak about this with us. How are we living as covenant people? Is God's covenant word upon our hearts? Inscribed deeply into our hears effecting who we are and what we do? Do the commandments of God control what we do, and how we think? Are we living as children of God?

This passage does not only speak to how we, prompted by love for our God, are to acknowledge the covenant in our individual lives.

2. It also speaks about how we are to do so in our households.

Verse 7 says, "Impress them [the commandments of God] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

If the Lord provides a family with children, the parents need to be busy, constantly, teaching the children about what it means to be a covenant child of God. That child needs to learn and understand what it means to have been drawn into a covenant relationship with God. Parents, you need to speak to your children about the significance of their baptisms. What it means to have been baptized into the Name of the Triune God. You need to speak to your children about the Lord Jesus Christ who died for disobedience to God's covenant law, and whose perfect obedience is ours through faith in Him. You need to speak to your children about what it means to obey the Lord out of thankfulness. You need to provide a good example to your children of these things. Children can spot hypocrisy quite easily. If you, as parents, speak one way but live another-if you talk the talk but don't walk the talk (as they like to say)-your children will correctly identify you as a hypocrite.

Moses said that we need to be constantly busy teaching our children. As we are sitting in our homes, as we are walking along the road. In the evening when it is time to lie down, when we get up in the morning. Constantly busy. Taking different opportunities.

We must also, wrote Moses in v. 9, write the commandments of God on the doorframes of our houses. Many Orthodox Jews take this literally as well. They might affix a small box with the commandments of God in them to the wall in the doorway of their houses. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. Many of us have a text of scripture on a plaque, or an embroidery, hanging on the wall somewhere in our homes. E.g., some people like to display their wedding text as a motto by which to live. But more important than literally affixing the ten commandments to the wall in the doorway of your home, or something like that, is that our homes be recognizable as covenant homes. As homes where God is served. Joshua said it in Joshua 24: As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

What are our households like? Are they obviously covenant households? Do we, in our households, live as people who are in covenant with God? Do we live thankfully? Obediently? Our family lifestyles-what are they like? Are we, as families, as households, living closely to the Lord.

It is the task of the parents to establish a biblical and a Christian culture in the home. You cannot job that off to the schools. The Christian schools can do very little if the parents are not fulfilling their responsibility in teaching their children the ways of the Lord and in developing a truly Christian culture in the home.

We must ensure that our Christian lifestyle is one that flows from the heart. A legalistic lifestyle where things are done according to the law rather out of love for the LORD and thankfulness to Him is of little value. It will only teach the children that as long as you do certain things and not do certain other things, you'll be OK. The Bible condemns that as Pharisaical self-righteousness. We need to obey the Lord out of a living relationship with our God. Out of love and thankfulness to Him.

As the elders come to visit our households they will be speaking about these things. They do not come with a checklist to make sure we are doing some good things and not doing some bad things. Rather, they want to speak with us about how we are, as households, living in covenant relationship with our God.

Not only are we, prompted by love for God, to acknowledge the covenant as individuals and as households.

3. We are also to do so as community.

Not only were the Israelites to write the law of God upon the doorframes of their houses; they were also to write them on their gates. The gates referred to here are the gates of the city. We have the individuals who make up a household, and households that make up a community.

The elders, on their home visitation, will also express an interest in how we are functioning as a community. How we are functioning as congregation of Christ and as members of Christ's congregation. As households that belong to the congregation. It's not enough that we live individually or even as households in covenantal faithfulness. As individuals and as households, we must also do so as a community. And thus the reference to the city gates.

How do we acknowledge the covenant as a community? How do we work to get the law of God upon the gates?

By helping each other. Living in peace with each other and encouraging one another. Using the gifts Christ has given us to build up each others lives.

You can think of the teaching ministry of the church. The catechetical instruction of the youth of the church. Passing on the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Making sure that they are firmly grounded in the Reformed faith.

You can think of the congregational Bible clubs and studies. Have you joined one? And, having joined one, are you committed to staying with it? And not missing every other meeting for one reason or another?

You can think of homes for the aged, or for the mentally challenged-Anchor Home and Twin Oaks. We have, as a community, taken it upon ourselves to operate such homes. In that you see us functioning as a covenant community.

We can also think of the Christian schools. A generation ago we took this upon ourselves. It was something we thought important, even necessary, for our covenant youth. The Christian schools were meant as congregational efforts. Not just parental, but congregational. A moment ago I said that parents may not farm out the task of raising their children to the schools. The schools cannot do much if the parents are doing nothing. But, at the same time, the schools fill a very important place in our covenant community.

The Christian schools are not just there to teach Bible and Church History. They are there to give the youth of the church an education focussed on Christ, based upon the word, and circumscribed by the Reformed confession. Every course, every field of inquiry-also those that flow forth from the first book of God's revelation (I mean nature)-focussed on Christ, based upon the word, and circumscribed by the Reformed confession.

Some choose to educate their children at home. Of course we cannot and will not say anything against that. If some are capable of home schooling their children, they are free to work out their responsibility in that way-of course.

Some, because of certain circumstances, need to be educated at another school. We understand that.

But that does not take away that supporting the schools established for the education of the children and young people is also a matter of acknowledging the covenant. Acknowledging the covenant as a community. By establishing and maintaining our Christian schools, we are writing the Word of God on the gates of our community. Also in this we need to help each other and to work together.

I have no statistics at hand, but it does seem to me that the support for our schools is not what it used to be. People are happy to use the schools when their children are in their adolescence and youth, but then once the children are finished a certain level of education, they withdraw their support from that school society. That is unfortunate. You must wonder whether there still is a good understanding of what it means to acknowledge the covenant as a community.

Let us as congregation, as a community, continue to acknowledge the covenant out of love for our God. Let us together be concerned about Christ-centred, Bible-based and confessionally sound education for the youth of the church. Let us function well as a congregation, really being a hand and foot to each other. Let us strive this year for thriving Bible study societies and faithful attendance at the catechism classes. Let us write the Word of God upon our gates.

Let us, out of love for God, as households acknowledge the covenant. Let us work at developing distinctively Christian lifestyles in our families. Do not let our households be conformed to the world (killed off, destroyed by worldliness). Let the parents provide good examples of godly living, examples the children can follow. Let us write the Word of God upon the doorframes of our houses.

Let us, out of love for God, as individuals acknowledge the covenant God established with us. Let us tie the Word of God upon our hands and foreheads. Let us acknowledge that we are in covenant relationship with God in everything we think, say and do. Let us write the Word of God upon our hearts.

In this way let us love the LORD our God. As community, as households, as individuals, let us love the LORD our God. "The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." We will love Him. We will serve Him. We will acknowledge Him in all our ways. 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/sept2103.html

(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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