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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:Who Really Does Care!
Text:BC 13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence
 
Preached:2008-01-20
Added:2009-05-02
Updated:2009-05-21
 

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.


BELGIC CONFESSION OF FAITH XIII

(Reading: Psalm 42; Romans 8:28-29)

 

Who Really Does Care!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     There are many people who will admit to a religious side.

          You can ask people on the street and the overwhelming majority will believe in God.

              Very few will be atheists.

 

     When it comes to whether or not God has anything to do with controlling this world, that’s another matter.

          Many have the view that God has in some way left it to just go its own way.

              You could call it “chance” or “fortune”.

 

     Then there is the opposing view.

          Muslims are very strong on this.

              Because they are fatalists.

     They believe that Allah has absolutely decreed whatever is to come to pass.

          In a totally impersonal way everything has been exactly worked out.

 

     In the time of the New Testament these two views were represented by two Greek philosophical schools.

          The Epicureans believed God was very much ‘hands-off.’

              Everything that happened, according to them, happened according to the nature of the things created.

 

     The Stoics were the opposite.

          They believed you had to simply accept whatever happened to you.

              They said you had no chance of changing it and you shouldn’t even try.

     To them it was all ‘fate’.

          They believed that whatever divine being there was had a very ‘hands-on’ approach - so you have no show!

 

     The Biblical teaching is neither of these.

          The Lord in His Word actually says that He’s involved in both a ‘hands-on’ and a ‘hands-off’ way!

         

     In fact, if you really look at either of those unbiblical views the logical consequence of their positions makes God the most unloving God!

          And that’s what He’s definitely not!

              Even those who say the world as it is today shows He must be so un-loving get it quite wrong.

     Because they’d have no idea of what was loving if He wasn’t in control!

          The only way they can even make a judgment is because He is both ‘hands-on’ and ‘hands-off’!

 

     So let’s realise about the Lord how He truly is.

          Let’s open up what His own Word says about this.

              And through that teaching, as God’s people, let’s be deeply comforted that it is all in His hands.

     There’s no better place for it to be!

          And that’s what we must show!

 

     The first aspect we consider from Article XIII is that GOD IS CONTROLLING ALL THINGS.

          The opening paragraph is absolutely clear about this!

              And how much doesn’t it detail about this!

 

     Let’s dig into this here.

          Let’s see God controlling everything in the three ways outlined in this first paragraph.

    

     The first of these declares this through the triumphant expression of His rule.

          Here is some confession!

              We believe that the same good God, after He had created all things, did not forsake them or give them up to fortune or chance, but that He rules and governs them according to His holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without His appointment…”.

 

     This certainly knocks the Epicureans and the Deists for six!

          For this is what the prophet alluded to in Isaiah 14 verse 24.

              As we read there, “The LORD Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, it will stand.”

     And it’s what is clearly confirmed in the New Testament.

          For there the apostle Paul declares in Ephesians 1 verse 11, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

 

     Congregation, from the beginning the Church took sharp issue with those two dominant schools of pagan thought.

          They confessed and showed that it was God who controlled everything and He was not an impersonal and unresponsive God.

              They boldly lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

     Historically the doctrine of providence developed especially under Augustine.

          In the early 400’s AD he systematically taught that everything was under the sovereign, wise and living God of the Scriptures.

 

     You might recall his great battle with Pelagius and his followers.

          For Pelagius believed in the complete freedom of the human will.

 

     Now, Pelagius taught this for the same reason people today teach the same.

          They don’t like to make God the author of evil.

 

     But it’s here they completely misunderstand.

          While the idea of God’s sovereignty being 100% and man’s responsibility being 100% is a mystery to us, it is yet completely true.

 

     This is where we come to the second strand in God’s controlling all things.

          This is about the place of sin.

              As Article XIII continues, “God neither is the Author of nor can be charged with the sins which are committed.

                   “For His power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that He orders and executes His work in the most excellent and just manner, even then when devils and wicked men act unjustly.”

 

     Man certainly sins.

          James 1 verses 14 and 15 clearly outlines this process.

              And it does that by showing how man falls to temptation and so is dragged away and enticed and sins.

 

     So man is not a robot without a will.

          After the fall man still had his own will.

              Depraved though it was, it was the way he chose and acted.

                   He’s still responsible for his actions.

 

     If man sins, however, it isn’t independent of God.

          The Lord “allows” it and through it works for the good.

              God isn’t the author of sin and isn’t guilty of it.

 

     We only need to think here of Joseph.

          In Genesis 45:8 we see Joseph clearly acknowledging that it was God who worked it so that he would be where he was in Egypt at that time.

              He told of how God inclined the hearts of his brothers – but only to what they themselves wanted to do.

                   So, by the influencing of those brother’s evil, God arranged that there would be grain for Jacob’s household in Egypt.

         

     This is confirmed in Genesis chapter 50.

          In verses 19 and 20 Joseph reassures his brothers, saying to them, “Don’t be afraid.

              “Am I in the place of God?

                   “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

 

     But this example is one of the few Scriptures shows us.

          Mostly what the Lord does with evil we don’t know about.

 

     This is where Article XIII flows well into its third aspect to do with God’s controlling all things.

          Because His controlling all things means it is so much above and beyond anything we can fully understand.

              We confess the wonder of His acts.

                   In the words of the last sentence in the first paragraph, “And as to what He does surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into farther than our capacity will admit of; but with the greatest humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are pupils of Christ, to learn only those things which He has revealed to us in His Word, without transgressing these limits.”

 

     You see, believer, we can observe what goes on in this world.

          You’ll find that everything works in a certain way.

              You could call that way, “natural law.”

     Not that it was “nature” making that “law.”

          We totally reject all reference to Mother Nature – much as television presenters may love her!

              Rather, it’s what we can see of what God is doing.

 

     It’s really not much we see of God’s doing.

          And sometimes the Lord works in a way which cannot be seen beforehand or afterward.

              Then you say, “It’s a miracle!”

                   But the Bible declares that all God’s works are miracles.

 

     Congregation, what we are confessing here is what the apostle Paul was brought to at the end of Romans 11.

          There, after having seen the wonder of what God was doing through Israel, he sang out, in the verses 33 till 36, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

              “How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

     “Who has known the mind of the Lord?

          “Or who has been his counsellor?

              “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?

     “For from him and through him and to him are all things.

          “To him be the glory forever!

              Amen.”

 

     So GOD IS CONTROLLING ALL THINGS.

          And having confessed that, Article XIII moves on to confess that GOD IS ASSURING US OF THESE THINGS.

 

     Here a bit of history helps us.

          This Confession was written in a time of severe persecution.

              Thousands of Reformed believers were brutally slaughtered by the authorities largely at the urging of the Roman church.

     It was a time when the believers naturally wondered how their sufferings fitted in with the Bible’s words about a gracious and fatherly God’s care for His own.

          And it was actually at this time, and others like it, that they got so much comfort in God’s Word.

              For as Psalm 121 verse 4 says, He does not “slumber or sleep.”

 

     So what was happening to Christians in those times, as indeed is happening to many believers around the world today, is happening by God’s holy will.

          As the second paragraph begins in Article XIII, “This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most gracious and heavenly Father…”.

         

     The Heavenly Father is working out the very best for His children.

          And His children accept that.

 

     Otherwise He’s not really God, is He?

          Otherwise somehow we have been mistaken for thousands of years!

 

     But, dear friend, you are not mistaken.

          You are among those who have been chosen and called through what God has done in his Son.

              It was Jesus who went through a suffering which makes whatever we go through very, very small!

 

     Article XIII has made reference to us being pupils of Christ.

          Well, let’s be those students.

              Let’s understand that we don’t understand everything straight-away.

     Indeed, in this life there will be much that doesn’t seem to make sense.

          But, regardless, it’s all in the hands of God.

              And there’s no better place for it to be!

 

     There was a young person out riding one day with a friend.

          He asked his friend, “What is your opinion of election, sir?”

 

     His friend wisely remarked, “Stephen, you have learned fractions, decimals, etc.; do you understand them?”

          “Yes, sir.”

             

     “Do you think when you were began to learn to add up you could?”

          “No, sir.”

              “Neither can you, my dear boy, at present comprehend the deep things of God.”

 

     That conversation resulted in that youth becoming much more interested in the things of God.

          And so may it also do for us.

               Because then we will indeed share in the Answer to Question 28 of the Heidelberg Catechism.

     For that Question asks, “How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?”

          And together may we answer, “We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from his love.

              “All creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.”

 

     Doesn’t Romans 8 come ringing through here?

          For nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

 

     How much different isn’t that than the chance which dominates this world?

          They always speak about getting lucky.

              And what’s luck?

     It’s the most impossible odds!

          And even if any of them wins big don’t they soon lose it all?

             

     They cannot be truly happy.

          In their hearts they are always looking for something more.

              The broken lives of celebrities are played out in every street in every suburb.

                   There is no personal God there.

         

     And then there those rigid fatalistic communities.

          Oh, the rules are attractive.

              It’s all laid out for you.

     But there’s no personal God there.

          Because there’s no love there – only fear!

 

     Dear Christian, you have the vital message for today’s world.

          Your faith that God is ruling everything wisely and well, even though you can’t fathom His purposes or understand His ways, challenges those who don’t believe.

              And for those who do believe, you give peace and courage.

    

     Your God is so powerful He has bound up the devil.

          Those forces of evil cannot win over you.

              And what they do to us is only because God is using it for us.

 

     And your God is so loving He knows every hair on your head.

          That’s how much He cares.

              He who sent His own dear Son to die for us is always right here.

                   Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s talk to our loving Heavenly Father – let’s pray…

     O Most Great & Gracious God,

          How much are we astonished by all that You’ve done and are still so busy doing.

              To think that You’re working out all things for us – we of all people!

     That’s makes us so thankful Lord.

          Please help it to make us faithful, too.

              In Jesus’ 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 2008, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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