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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:The precious gifts received through Christ's suffering
Text:LD 15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Preached:2010
Added:2010-06-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 34:1-4
Hymn 1A
Psalm 142
Hymn 32
Psalm 145:1,2,5

Readings: Leviticus 16:1-25, 2 Cor. 5:11-6:2
Text: Lord's Day 15
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,

 

This afternoon, we’re going to again focus on how rich we are through Christ.  The cross of our Saviour has been described as a multi-faceted jewel.  It has many precious aspects that are all worthy of careful examination and reflection.  This afternoon we want to look specifically at three of the precious gifts that come to us through Christ’s suffering.  Those three precious gifts are the grace of God, righteousness and eternal life.  And as we do this, my prayer is that this will help all of us to continue growing in love for our Saviour, to be more impressed with him, and to deepen our desire to extol his name with everything in our lives.

 

The Catechism says that by his suffering he has obtained for us the grace of God.  It’s impossible to conceive of God’s grace for us apart from what Christ has done in his suffering and death.  To begin with, we need to be clear on what grace is.  Grace is God’s unmerited favour towards sinners.  We have done nothing to earn God’s favour towards us, and in fact have done everything to forfeit it.  We deserve God’s wrath and eternal condemnation.  But yet because of our Lord Jesus, God does look upon us kindly and with a loving fatherly heart.

 

This grace of God is rich and deep.  It is evidenced in numerous ways in the suffering and death of Christ.  His redemptive work was foreshadowed by the ceremonies and sacrifices of the law in the Old Testament.  One of those foreshadowings was what happened at Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.  That’s described in Leviticus 16. 

 

In Leviticus 16, we find that there were two goats.  The lot was to be cast for these two goats – one goat would be chosen as a sacrifice to God, the other would be the scapegoat.  The lot was cast – that likely took place with a container and two objects that would be different from one another.  So one might be white and the other black.  Through the casting of lots, they would decide which goat would live and which one would die. 

 

The goat that would die was a sin offering for the people.  Its blood was to be taken into the most holy place and sprinkled on the atonement cover.  The result was that God’s wrath was turned away from the people – this goat was a propitiation.  It pointed ahead to the propitiation that Christ would offer on the cross for our sins.  Propitiation means that through his sacrifice, God’s wrath has been placated and appeased, turned away from us.  Christ took it entirely on himself for us and in our place and so we have been restored to God’s favour.  The first goat in Leviticus 16 pointed ahead to him. 

 

But so did the second goat, the scapegoat.  After the high priest made the sacrifice with the first goat, he was to take the live goat and lay both hands on its head.  He was to confess over it “all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them [symbolically] on the goat’s head.”  Then the goat was to be led out into the desert and released.  This was the scapegoat and it represented what we call expiation, cleansing and the cancellation of sin.  It pointed ahead to Christ as well.  Through Christ we are cleansed from our sin, we are given white robes to wear, and we are free from guilt and shame before God!  When Christ died on the cross, our guilt and shame disappeared.

 

It’s true that we don’t always feel that way.  When we sin or even when we are sinned against, we can feel dirty and defiled.  Our conscience may accuse us and we may struggle with believing that God can forgive us and others.  But loved ones, trust that sure promise of God.  We must rest and trust in Christ that with his perfect sacrifice, not only has God’s wrath been turned away, but our sin along with all its guilt and shame has been cancelled, and we are washed and cleansed through the blood of our Lord Jesus.  God’s grace has been obtained for you through what he has done, both his propitiation and his expiation. 

 

The result is another beautiful aspect of God’s grace: reconciliation.  Sinners are naturally at war with God, but through Christ and his obtaining of God’s grace for us, we are brought back into fellowship with God.  Reconciliation means the bringing together of two parties that were once at enmity. 

 

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul characterized the work given to him as “the ministry of reconciliation.”  His message was “be reconciled to God.”  How?  Through Christ.  Christ is the mediator who brings the parties who were at loggerheads together.  Through Christ and his cross, we have the grace of God in reconciliation.  God is no longer our enemy, but our loving Father.  We hear it so often and it’s so easy to take for granted and no longer be impressed with this truth.  But think about it for a moment, let it sink into your heart.  Reconciliation.  To be loved even though we are so unlovable.  Greater love has no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends.  Brothers and sisters, he did it for us so that we can know our Father’s love, and never doubt it, always be assured of it.

 

The Catechism then tells us that Christ has obtained righteousness for us.  What is righteousness?  Well, you see the word “right” in righteousness and that’s the key.  It is being right with God.  Righteousness is a standing with God in which we have nothing to fear.  There are three things about this righteousness.

 

The first is how it comes to us.  It was obtained for us by Christ, but how do we take hold of it?  The Holy Spirit answers that question for us in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Paul says that he was an expert Pharisee.  He had legalistic righteousness – he thought that he was in good with God because of his obedience.  But after his conversion, he realized that all of this was garbage, rubbish.  The Greek word is skubalon.  According to one source, this word skubalon “refers to such things as a half-eaten corpse, filth, like lumps of manure or human excrement; the portion of food rejected by the body as unnourishing, or to the scraps or leavings of a feast, the food thrown away from the table.”  Skubalon.  Paul realized that all of his obedience was something contemptible; it could not save him because it was polluted with pride and other sins.  He needed an alien righteousness, a righteousness not his own, a perfect righteousness.  That he found with Christ.  He realized that the only way to obtain that righteousness is through faith, through resting and trusting in Christ.  According to Paul, the only way to get the right standing with God that Christ has obtained is through faith.  Faith excludes works.  Faith always bears fruit in works, but works and obedience are not part of the definition of faith.           

 

The second thing we need to grasp in connection with this righteousness is that it is imputed to us.  That means that it is reckoned or attributed to us by God.  It is not something that is inherent to us or that comes from within us.  It is Christ’s righteousness that is granted to us.  Christ becomes the lens, if you will, through which God views us.

 

That’s the point in 2 Corinthians 5:21.  Loved ones, that is such an important passage to understand.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  I mentioned this verse briefly on Good Friday as well.  Jesus became sin on the cross.  He was counted as a sinner and consequently received the sinner’s due.  He became what he was not.  He had never sinned in his life.  A sinful thought, word or deed had never emerged in connection with him.  But on the cross God made him to be sin for us.  God imputed or charged all of our sins to his account.  For that reason, the terrible fury of God was poured on him and he is rightly said to have descended into hell.  He took God’s justice against us on himself. 

 

Now the beautiful thing is that Christ became what he was not so so that we could become what we are not.  Of ourselves we are sinners.  We sin in thought, word and deed every day.  We sin in what we do and in what we leave undone, sins of commission and omission.  We sin against God and we sin against our neighbours.  Even as Christians, we are sinners.  But at the same time, we are righteous before God our judge.  We have the righteousness of Christ which covers all our shortcomings and weaknesses.  Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, so that in the sight of God as our judge, we are what Christ is.  We are perfectly righteous.  And someday, when we are glorified, we will be completely sinless and righteous not only in the heavenly Judge’s sight, but also in our own.  There will be no more struggle with sin in our lives. 

 

That brings us to the last thing we need to briefly consider with regards to Christ’s obtaining righteousness for us in his suffering and death.  It’s that this righteousness has an impact in our lives.  The righteousness of Christ is ours through union with him.  His heart of love, loyalty and devotion to the Father  is increasingly reflected in our lives.  He is the one who drives our sanctification, our growth in godliness and holiness.  He gives us this gift as well.  As we grow in our walk with him, this is his work in us, obtained for us through the cross.  At the cross, he bought us to be his own, and in his own he unfailingly works with his Holy Spirit.         

 

Finally, the Catechism says that Christ has obtained for us the gift of eternal life.  Through him, we can be confident that we will live forever in the presence of God.  Rather than the fear of endless death and suffering, because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can be sure that we have a future existence to look forward to.

 

When does eternal life begin?  In Lord’s Day 22 we confess that we experience already in our lives the beginnings of eternal joy.  That’s supported by John 17:3 where to know God and to know Christ is to have eternal life.  We are already alive eternally now as we rest and trust in our Saviour.  We know the beginnings of joy, but yet, yet we have to admit that it is a mingled joy.  It’s a joy mingled with struggle and suffering in this age. 

 

But after we die, or after the Lord Jesus returns (whichever happens first), there will be no mingling, no mixing of joy and sorrow.  It will be all joy and it will be a joy which will never decrease.  This joy will be seamlessly united to unending love for God.  We will know of our Father’s perfect love for us as well, this will be something that we never doubt or question.  Indeed, Revelation 21 gives us those familiar words telling us that there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain.    

 

That great hope and expectation has been obtained for us by Christ through his suffering and death.  Because he died for us, we can be assured that we will live forever.  The Last Battle is the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia.  C.S. Lewis ends in a memorable way:

 

Then Aslan turned to them and said:

 

“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

 

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan.  And you sent us back into our own world so often.”

 

“No fear of that,” said Aslan.  “Have you not guessed?”

 

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

 

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly.  “Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead.  The term is over: the holidays have begun.  The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

 

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.      

 

Through Christ’ suffering we have this precious gift, and so many others.  Brothers and sisters, we are so rich in him.  Let’s continue to love him and be eager to serve him.  AMEN. 

 

Prayer:

 

Our heavenly Father,

 

Thank you for the precious gifts of your grace, righteousness and eternal life.  We praise you for your Son and his work of redemption.  We’re glad that Christ gave himself, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that in him we could be recipients of your love.  Father, thank you for his turning away your wrath, for cleansing us, and for reconciling us to you.  Father, we pray that you would more and more fill us with your Spirit and assure us with your Word.  We ask that your Word and Spirit would dwell in us richly so that we continue growing in love for you and a desire to follow you in everything.  Father, we also eagerly look forward to the first chapter of our new life with you in the New Jerusalem.  We pray that this would come quickly, so that we can discover the fullness of what you’ve prepared for those who love you. 

 

Father, we also bring our intercessions for others before you.   

            




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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