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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:God's Son Instead of You!
Text:BC 23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2008-05-18
Added:2009-05-27
 

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 XXIII

(Reading: Romans 5:1-21)

 

God’s Son Instead Of You!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     This Article is about being right with God.

          It is a subject which has involved mankind ever since the fall into sin.

              Because all of us know things obviously are quite wrong.

     There’s something rotten in this world.

          We know we need to get right with the Lord.

 

     Unless we understand this properly from God’s side, though, we will always give the wrong answer.

          For while it’s quite obvious something is wrong we don’t see that it’s actually ourselves!

              That’s the nature of what we’ve fallen into.

 

     This was shown with what had developed in the Church before the Reformation.

          The Church then, the Church of Rome, declared that there had to be a broken heart because of sin, the confession of sin with our mouths, and the satisfaction through works.

              Ah, so close – and yet so far!

                   You see, Rome said that because man isn’t capable of doing this on his own he had to do it by the grace poured out through the sacraments.

 

     But how then will you know if you’ve ever done enough?

          So the way of Rome was no different to all those others ways that men have come up with.

              Because who knows when the broken heart equals the guilt?

     And who knows when all his sins have been confessed?

          And when will complete satisfaction have been made?

 

     No wonder Martin Luther was such a wreck as a young priest.

          He who starved himself until his belly button touched his back bone then was the most anxious of men.

              He was terribly insecure!

 

     As Guido de Bres himself would once have been.

          He had been brought under this teaching.

              So what we confess now is a teaching brought out of the anvil of sharp theological dispute.

 

     This is where we come to the first part of Article XXIII.

          This is about THE BASIS OF JUSTIFICATION.

 

     Congregation, unlike Rome, the Reformers said that justification must always come before sanctification.

          God doesn’t justify us because of what we already have in ourselves – He justifies us because of what He has done in Christ.

 

     The Reformers often used a particular illustration to describe this.

          It is the picture of a court room.

              God is the judge and the sinner is the accused.

                   That means you’re in the dock!

 

     Now, Satan and your conscience accuse you having broken the law – God’s Word.

          And they accuse you of having broken it by going right against all God’s commandments, of having never kept even one of them, and of continuing to be inclined towards all evil.

 

     It’s all true.

          But Christ then enters the court room as our advocate.

              He declares, “I have fulfilled all of God’s commandments.

     “I have borne the full punishment for the transgressions.

          “I make up for all your sin with My holiness.” 

 

     God then imputes to us the work of Christ, with whom we are one body through faith.

          You’re acquitted!

 

     So justification is to declare just.

          In the words of Romans 8 verse 33, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?

              It is God who justifies.”

 

     Mind you, our acquittal doesn’t change anything in us.

          It does change our relationship to God, though.

              You change from an accused to one who is acquitted!

 

     And it doesn’t only stop there.

          In the words of Romans 8 verse 30, he whom God justifies He also glorifies.

              It’s not a matter of if you get to heaven – it’s simply about when you get there!

 

     So justification is really a matter of justice.

          God isn’t unfaithful when He declares the guilty innocent and leaves the ungodly un-acquitted.

              He does this because of what Christ has done.

                   His Son took your place!

 

     Mind you, the fact that this acquittal, based on God’s justice, is about you and me makes it something almost unbelievable.

          Because it’s grace to you and me!

 

     The famous Puritan preacher, John Flavel, compares this to the time when Titus Flaminus, a Roman General, proclaimed liberty to the Greeks after his defeat of the King of Macedon who had enslaved them.

          The people pressed so closely around the herald of the good news that he was in danger of losing his life at their hands.

 

     Now, it took them a while to properly understand what he was declaring.

          But when it all began to dawn upon them, when they realised this was freedom from a long bondage, they shouted for joy, crying, ‘A saviour! A saviour!’

 

     It was so loud it echoed everywhere.

          Even the birds fell down astonished.

              All that night the Grecians, with instruments of music and songs of praise, danced and sang around the general’s tent, praising him because he had delivered them from oppression.

 

     “Surely,” said Flavel, “you have more reason to be exalting the Author of your salvation.

          “He’s the one who with a much greater cost freed you from a far more dreadful bondage.

              “O ye that have escaped the eternal wrath of God by the humiliation of the Son of God, extol your great Redeemer, and for ever celebrate His praises!”

 

     Our Article is quite clear.

          The words of Romans 3 verse 24 come ringing through here.

              For you are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ.”

    

     This THE BASIS OF JUSTIFICATION.

          And from that we flow naturally into THE EFFECTS OF JUSTIFICATION.

              Our second aspect this afternoon.

 

     The second paragraph of Article XXIII moves into this.

          We confess there, “And therefore we always hold fast this foundation, ascribing the glory to God, humbling ourselves before Him, and acknowledging ourselves to be such as we really are…”.

 

     You see, a true reflection of this doctrine by a believer can only praise God!

          Everything else become academic.

              And speaking of academic, an illustration from the life of Andrew Fuller brings this out.

     For the first time Fuller passed through Oxford, he was brought by a friend to see the major buildings of the University.

          He looked at them with little feeling.

              And when he was asked to notice one object of special interest, he said, “Brother, I think there is one question, which, after all that’s been written on it, hasn’t yet been well answered.”

 

     His friend wanted to know that subject.

          To which Fuller replied, “The question is, ‘What is justification?’”

 

     His friend was keen to talk about it more.

          He suggested they return to the fireside and discuss it.

              To this Fuller gladly agreed, saying, “That inquiry is far more to me that all these fine buildings.”

 

     But is that inquiry the important thing for you, dear friend?

          Do you want to give God all the glory, to be humble before Him and to honestly confess what you are?

 

     Well, you might still be wondering what this means.

          Here we are helped by what David says about himself in Psalm 143.

              For in the verses 1 and 2 there he cries out, “O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.

                   “Don’t bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.”

 

     Have you prayed that way?

          Did you come to so realise your complete unworthiness.

              You saw yourself as you truly are – and it was an ugly sight!

 

     This means you throw away all the excuses.

          You toss out any trust in anything you have.

              There’s no credit you’ve got with God – or from anyone else for that matter!

     That’s all totally stained with sin.

          “There is no one righteous, not even one,” says Romans 3 verse 10.

         

     And it goes on, “there is no who understands, no one who seeks God.

          “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

 

     This is the effect of justification.

          But its effect is even more.

              Because having confessed your sin you know now the forgiveness of your sin.

                   So though your conscience accuses you that you’ve broken all God’s commands and kept none of them, and you’re still inclined to evil, yet God freely and gracious imputed to you the perfect righteousness of Christ.

 

     That’s how Answer 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism so scripturally puts it.

          For if you accept this gift of God with a believing heart, it is as if you had never sinned or been a sinner.

             

     Someone once wrote that there’s a commandment in Scripture which is exactly about this.

          In fact, this commandment is mentioned more than seventy times in the Bible.

              For that command tells us: ‘Do not be afraid.’

 

     This is why the law must still be preached today.

          For when men and women have their souls and lives truly exposed they will know they’re sick and need a doctor.

              The Divine Doctor!

 

     Congregation, the One who sent His Son into this world will listen - He loves to save.

          How do we know?

              It’s in what we read earlier.

     Romans 5 verse 8 said, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

          And then verse 9 continues, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

 

     And this is how we come to the third aspect we glean from Article XXIII.

          For this brings us to THE SINGLENESS OF JUSTIFICATION.

 

     Here we refer to latter part of the Article.

          This is the affirmation that we must be “relying and resting upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone, which becomes ours when we believe in Him.”

              In fact, so strong is the Confession upon this that it concludes, “And, verily, if we should appear before God, relying on ourselves or any other creature, though ever so little, we should, alas! be consumed.”

 

     There was a minister in the 18th century who was called to attend the execution of three men.

          One had counterfeited coins and the other two were housebreakers.

              One of these remained in his memory.

     All the men were on ladders, then the mode of execution, with the ropes about their necks, about to be pushed off.

          The counterfeiter, trying to hold himself together, cried out, “I never killed any body, I never hurt any body – I hope the Lord will have mercy upon me.”

 

     The minister said that this poor creature seemed to die in the spirit of the Pharisee, “I thank God, I am not as other men are, or as this tax collector,” for he thought he alluded to the two thieves suffering with him.

          That man was so struck by those words he could hardly restrain himself from crying out to him, ‘Don’t look to your own righteousness – look to Christ!’

 

     That man looked to himself.

          Like Peter walking across the lake to Jesus when he took his eyes off the Lord that man was sinking too.

              In fact, he was sunk!

 

     So imagine how many today are being swallowed up by the waters of God’s wrath.

          Also in the Church!

              In fact, very much in the Church!

     For so many ministers aren’t preaching hell and damnation anymore – it’s all about better options and helpful lifestyles.

          “Sin” disappeared from their dictionary long ago.

              In fact, go to their services and hear their testimonies and you’ll see how good they are!

     What do they need a Saviour for?

          They’ve already saved themselves!

 

     You listen to their songs.

          You read their literature.

              It’s not about being found by the Lord – it’s about finding yourself and whatever journey you’re on.

     The latest craze in Christian bookshops is called ‘The New Monasticism.’

          There it’s very much about you – and what you can do.

    

     Some have wondered if this is a return to Rome.

          Indeed it is.

              And it is because it’s the return to our old natural selves.

                   Then our justification before God isn’t in Christ alone.

 

     In fact, it’s Jesus Christ who then gets left out of the picture altogether.

          Oh, He will be everybody’s best mate – He’ll be their mystical buddy.

              But you won’t hear about Him being their Saviour and Master.

                   Because that would mean we are praying for His forgiveness of our sins everyday.

         

     But isn’t that what Jesus taught us?

          “Forgive us our sins,” is part of the model for prayer He taught us in Matthew 6 verse 12.

 

     This is the way David and Paul prayed.

          They knew what they were like everyday.

              They had to shelter under Christ’s intercession all the time.

 

     Dear friend, isn’t that what you do?

          Because you know there’s only one way you’re right with God.

              And that’s His way.

                   That’s Christ Jesus’ way.

 

     Martin Luther spoke and wrote much about justification.

          To him it was the most important thing.

              He believed we must be completely taken up with Jesus Christ, for His unconquerable righteousness is stronger that all sin.

     The way he writes about it is in the most descriptive way.

          For example, we read this in his Treatise on Christian Liberty, “Is that not a happy household, when Christ, the rich, noble and good bridegroom, takes the poor, despised, wicked little whore in marriage, sets her free from all evil, and decks her with all good things?”

 

     Congregation, this where we now stand.

          It is in and through and for the Lord of the Church.

              Apart from Him we have no standing whatsoever!

     Let’s make sure we never fall.

          Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

     O LORD God, we are here as the most privileged of all people!

          For we are here as Your people, the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ no less!

              He who has called us and converted us has made us perfect in Your sight.

                   His blood has paid for all our sins – past, present, and future.

 

     How blessed we truly are!

          And how much of a blessing we can be as others see Christ through us.

              Help us to always look only to Him.

                   In His saving 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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