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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:The Process of Integration into God's Kingdom
Text:LD 32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Thankfulness
 
Preached:2009-07-05
Added:2009-08-18
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing:  Psalm 138: 1, 2

Sing: Hymn 1A

Read: 2 Peter 1: 1-11

Sing: Psalm 138: 3, 4

Text:  Lord's Day 32

Sermon: The Process of Integration into God's Kingdom

            1. It begins with God's sure promises;

            2. It is confirmed through good works;

            3. It anticipates a rich welcome.

 Sing: Psalm 116: 1, 4, 9

 Sing: Hymn 47: 1, 2, 3

* 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 Savior Jesus Christ; brothers and sisters, and that also includes you, boys & girls:

 

Boys and girls, I want to begin by asking you a question. Do you like receiving presents? Silly question, isn't it? Of course you do. Everybody likes to get presents. Once you get that present, what do you do next? Do you then say, “Thank you”? That's proper, isn't it? You don't just take it and say nothing at all. But then after that, what do you do with it? Do you then put the present in the cupboard and forget about it? Well, not if you like the present. Then you will play with it or use it. That's another way of showing your thanks. By using the present you show that you very much appreciate it and that you really enjoy it.

 

Well, that's also what this Lord's Day is all about. The Lord God has given us a wonderful present. He has given us the present of salvation. The gift of salvation means that you have been saved from sin. In other words, it means that you belong to God and not to the devil. It means that the Lord will make you part of his kingdom forever and ever. He makes you a part of his kingdom now and also after you die. You will continue to be part of God's kingdom now and forever. God will also welcome you into heaven to be with him. That's God's gift. That's a wonderful gift isn't it? But now you also have to show yourself to be thankful for that gift.

 

How do you do that? Well, that is what the third part of the Heidelberg Catechism deals with. For the third part has as heading: Our Thankfulness. You show your thankfulness by your words and your deeds; by the things you say, and by the things you do.

 

That's where the hard part comes in, doesn't it? None of us is very good at showing our thanks to God in the way we should, are we? We say and do lots of wrong things, all the time. We continually sin against God. That is why it is such a wonderful thing that we could sing a moment ago that the Lord God will finish perfectly what He has undertaken for me.

 

Note well that in that psalm all the credit is given to God. He is the one who begins the work and he is the one who will perfect it and finish it. It doesn't depend on us. That's also what this Lord's Day tells us. It asks the question “Why must we do good works?” It gives as answer: Because Christ redeemed us and also renews us to be his image. Christ is always busy making us to be part of his kingdom. It's his work. But his work also has to be shown in us and through us. That is a continual process. That is what we will hear about this afternoon. The theme is as follows:

The Process of Integration into God's Kingdom

1. It begins with God's sure promises;

2. It is confirmed through good works;

3. It anticipates a rich welcome.

 

In Peter's letter he begins by enumerating the various gifts of God. For he tells us in verse one that we are recipients of a precious faith. Faith is God's gift to you. He hands it to you. You don't have to do anything for it. For you children, that means that God gave that faith to you as you were growing up. As a small child already your parents told you about God. They told you who he is and what he does. They told you that he created you and that he loves you. God used your parents and other believers such as your relatives and your friends and your teachers to hand out that gift of faith. When you receive something, then you are passive. In other words you don’t do anything for it.

 

Faith is not the only thing that God gives to you. Peter also says that grace and peace are given to you in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. The word "grace" refers to undeserved favour. And the word "peace" refers to lack of conflict. There is nothing that disturbs you. You are totally at ease and not afraid of anything. You are in a perfect relationship with God and your neighbour. Those are God's gifts to you.

 

You may say, well that may be so but that gift from God is so elusive. Often I feel that I do not have those gifts. My faith often fails me, and I often do not experience God's grace and peace. That is because we are such sinful people. We fall into the same sins time and again. We just don't seem to be able to come to a peaceful state of existence.

 

But now look at what it says in verse three. It speaks there about God's divine power. It's not first about what we have to do. But it is what God does in you and through you. It says in that verse that he is the one who called us. God says to you every day of your life: "Come here. Come close by me. Experience my power. Don't stay in that world of sin and corruption and powerlessness. Come to me. And if you do, you can escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires and participate in my divine nature."

 

Over the years there has been quite a discussion about this participating in God's divine nature, mentioned here in this text. There are those who believe that that means that we will become divine creatures ourselves. That we will become exactly like God. But, that is not in accordance with what we find in the rest of the Bible. We cannot become like God. We're mere creatures. And God is too great. But, we can become his image bearers. That is what Peter has in mind here when he says we can participate in the divine nature.

 

Peter takes us back to paradise. He takes us back to before the fall into sin. At that time we reflected God in his qualities. God is all wise and righteous. He is the God of order. He is the God of faithfulness and truth. Adam and Eve reflected those qualities perfectly before they fell into sin. And now, through Christ, we can be restored to that same state.

 

Note well that Peter speaks here about God's precious promises. We still have to obtain those qualities to the fullest. They are not completely ours yet. But, brothers and sisters, boys and girls, we do build our lives on the promises of God, on the promises of perfection. He gives us gifts, but those gifts point to something much greater. They point to the perfect gift.

 

That's how God deals with us. While we still live in this sinful world he wants us to have hope. Boys and girls, we can also compare that with that gift from your parents. Suppose they give you a little tricycle when you are small. And they say to you that when you are bigger and able to handle it they will give you something bigger, a beautiful bike with two wheels. Then you look forward to that. You can't wait until you're big enough that you can have a bigger bike.

 

Well, that's also how it works with God's promises. God gives us many beautiful things now so that we can believe his promise that we will get something much bigger and better later. As a matter of fact what God promises us is the perfect gift. He gives us the perfect gift of the total forgiveness of sins and complete bliss in the life hereafter.

 

When you ride a tricycle, there are certain rules of the road that you have to keep. You have to stay off the busy roads and ride on the sidewalk. You have to make sure that you don't drive over somebody else's toes or bang into their legs. You have to be careful. You have to follow certain rules. You also have to treat your tricycle with respect by taking care of it. Your parents teach you those rules. Do you think they will give you a bigger, more beautiful bike if you don't keep the rules when you ride your tricycle? Not very likely. You have to show that you are responsible enough to handle something bigger.

 

God also gives us certain rules to keep. He says to us, "Do you want peace? Well then you also have to try to keep peace yourself. I will give you my peace. I will forgive you your sins, but then you also have to forgive other people their sins. I will be kind to you and love you, but then you also have to love me and your fellow man. Else I will not give you my complete and eternal peace."

 

So you see that God's promises are the basis on which we build our lives. When we nonetheless do not do what he says, then he keeps calling us back and says to us, "Watch out. You are not acting like a child of mine. You are not reflecting what it means to be a child of God.”

 

But don't think that you can keep the rules in your own strength. You can't. Don't forget that God is the one who gives you everything that you need. You have to show that you want to use what God has given you. And that you want to practice using his gifts. He doesn't want you to ignore his gifts, for they are very precious gifts. And his promises are precious as well. Peter mentions those adjectives twice: in verse one with regard to our faith, and in verse four with regard to our promises. They are priceless, invaluable. In other words they are worth so much that it is impossible for you to pay for them. Impossible. That’s how priceless they are.

 

2. And yet, God gives you an important role to play in your salvation. You must also do good works. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” Paul says in Philippians 2:12. We come to the second point. Peter says, as we read together in verse five, "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith..." and then follows a whole string of divine qualities. In the preceding verses he told us that it is all God's doing; that everything depends on him; that we can do all things only in God's power; that we can receive all these wonderful gifts only with empty hands, without adding anything to it ourselves. But then he says that we have to do good works. Why?

 

The catechism answers that question beautifully. It states that in this way we may be assured of our faith by its fruits. In other words you have to open the present that God gives you. You can't store it away in the corner of your heart someplace. No, you have to display God's gift. You have to work with it. You have to show it off to others. As the catechism also says, "so that by our godly walk of life we may win our neighbours for Christ." Everybody has to be able to see what God has given to you.

 

What has he given you? The first gift is faith. Without faith you have nothing. Faith means that you believe God's promises. If you don't believe God's promises then you will not live out of those promises either. Faith means that you trust God and that you are certain that he will give you what he promises.

 

Peter says that you must add to your faith "goodness". It is the same word used in verse three where Peter says that God calls us by his own glory and goodness. Other translations use the word "virtue". That's closer to the original. It refers to moral excellence. God is morally excellent because he is without sin. And, believe it or not, he gives you that gift as well. Through Him, through his son Jesus Christ, you can acquire that.

 

To goodness you have to add knowledge. What kind of knowledge? Not the kind of knowledge you get in a university, or in job training, or from reading a book. Peter refers here to practical knowledge. He speaks about that kind of knowledge in verse two, namely that grace and peace is yours in abundance through the knowledge of God. If you have practical knowledge of God then you experience his grace and his peace. To know God is to know that no matter what happens in this life, God will take care of you, from the cradle to the grave and beyond. It is to have a practical knowledge of Him. It is to experience his grace and his peace. It is to know that no matter what kind of sinner you are, he will forgive you. He will grant you his grace. He will be with you through your whole life, through thick and through thin. He will include you in his kingdom from now into eternity.

 

To your knowledge you also have to add self-control. Again, that is not something that you do in the first place. That's first of all God's gift to you. Because God comes to you with this promise you know that you have to behave yourself. You know that you cannot give in to certain desires. Oh sure, there are lots of things that you can enjoy. There are lots of things that you can say "yes" to. But there are also a lot of things to which you must say "no". The catechism mentions that in answer 87. It says you must not be an unchaste person. In other words you have to say no to pornography, to adultery, to sexual abuse, to sex before marriage. You may not be a thief or a greedy person or a drunkard or a slanderer either.

 

Before we celebrate the Lord's Supper you have to examine yourself. Are you practicing self-control? God has given you that gift because of the promises that he made to you. Are you trying to realize those promises in your life by leading a thankful life? Not that you've got it all together. Nobody does. But is it your desire to lead a godly life? Are you fighting the good fight of the faith? What are the things you do in secret? What kind of sinful things do you not want to give up?

 

Peter also adds the word "perseverance". That means that even though you fall into a certain sin, nevertheless you keep getting up, and you keep trying to lead a godly life. You start anew, time and again. And you can because of the gift of God's grace. He forgives you, time and again. Don't give up. Perseverance is the gift of God to you. Use it. He doesn’t give up on you so don’t give up on him. When you fall, let him pick you up again.

 

Next Peter mentions godliness. That has to do with how you stand over against God. At the end of the worship service you will hear the blessing, namely that God's face is turned towards you. He is looking at you favourably. Are you also looking him in the face? Or are you looking away from him because of your sins? Are you ashamed of your sins? It's good to be ashamed but you may not stay there. Your shame should bring you on your knees. It should bring you to beg for the forgiveness of sins. It should give to you the desire to come to the Lord's Supper table to experience with all your senses the forgiveness of sins as symbolized in the elements of the bread and wine.

 

Next Peter speaks about brotherly kindness and love. Love is the fulfillment of the law. We have to love as God loves. Of course you can't love as He does, but you have to try. God has shown you how. He has shown you how he loves.

 

Verse 10 of 2 Peter 1 tells us what it's all about. Peter gives the command to be eager to make your calling and election sure. How do you know that you are going to be saved? How do you know that God's promises are also for you? Well, if you are daily fighting against your sins; if you time and again allow God to call you close to him; if you make every effort to live as a Christian, then even though you are still far from the mark, you can nevertheless be sure that you are a child of God. You can nevertheless be sure that God has chosen you. You can be sure that he will give you a rich welcome into his kingdom. We come to the third point.

 

3. That is the promise that Peter gives in verse 11. He says if you do these things you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But if you don't, then it will be different. Peter mentions that in verse nine. Such a person, he says, is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Someone who is shortsighted and blind does not know where he's going. He stumbles about. That's what the life of unbelievers is like. They stumble about. They don't know where they are going. They try to get as much out of this life as they can and they don't look at their life beyond the grave, at least not seriously. They have all kinds of false ideas about the afterlife. That's because they don't know God. But you and I do.

 

The Lord God has bought you free through his son Jesus Christ from a life of sin. He has liberated you from the power of the devil and brought you into his kingdom of love. He is like the father in the parable of the lost son. He is waiting for you to come home to him. He is waiting to embrace you. And as you make your way through your life beyond this earth he is with you all the way. He gives you everything that you need in order to be able to come to him. Isn't that wonderful?

 

If you think that's wonderful, then be thankful. Show your thanks in word and deed. Lead a thankful life. Be thankful for the kind of father that you have.  Be thankful for the kinds of presents that he gives you. And enjoy all the things that he gives you. They're very precious things. And they last forever. 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.edmontonimmanuel.ca

(c) Copyright 2009, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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