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Author:Rev. Steven Swets
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 www.urcpastor.blogspot.com
 
Congregation:Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church
 Abbotsford, BC
 www.abbotsfordurc.org
 
Title:True Comfort
Text:LD 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2011-01
Added:2012-06-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Steven Swets, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Ephesians 2:1-10

Lord’s Day 1

Brothers and Sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,

            Our world is hurting. They are searching after the vain things of this world. They are seeking their worldly comfort in all that the world has to offer. They feel secure in this life when they surround themselves with what makes them feel good. This world seeks to insulate themselves against ultimate reality and the questions of life. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, Lord God.” We know what they are looking for....they are looking for peace.  

After studying God’s Word we always come back to this starting point, “What is your only comfort in life and in death.” Why are we still asking this question? The same reason why people have been asking this since Eve gave the fruit to Adam, it is because of sin. Comfort is our most basic need in this life.

            Scientists will tell you we have three basic needs, nourishment, shelter and breath (air), but this is even more basic, for this affects both the body and the soul. We will turn our attention this afternoon to Ephesians 2 as we look at LD 1 under the theme: Our faithful Saviour is our ultimate comfort in life and in death.

I.                    The Need for Comfort

II.                  The nature of Comfort

III.                The Joy of Comfort

I. The Need for Comfort

            Over a decade ago, I had a conversation with a minister who said, people do not want to hear about sin. So, he tried to avoid the “S” word during his sermons. The “S” word being sin. I thought long and hard about that conversation. But, by not talking about, discussing, condemning and showing the results of sin, we would not be doing anyone any favours. Sin is what we have to deal with. It would be wrong of us to speak about sin as if there is no hope, there is to be sure...we are hearing about our comfort today, but we cannot avoid sin. It is too connected and intertwined with everything we put our hands to. Our world is full of misery.

            Abbotsford hospital is full. We could sit for hours and list the griefs and burdens we bear, financial, social, familial, etc. but think about some of those who live in remote places in the world. Is their misery worse than ours? No, not really. Their outward circumstances might make them see their misery quicker than Canadians, but misery is a result of sin. Each of us suffer from this deadly disease. Every day we see the results of sin...ever read the newspaper or watch the news. Ever see a homeless man when you leave the grocery store or a police car patrol your neighbourhood. It is all around us. This is not how God created things. They were not made to like this, but they are, because of sin.

            The most serious result of sin is the estrangement from God. People will fill their void with whatever they can. People who have had difficult childhoods in one way or another are statistically more likely to turn to substance abuse. I can’t help but think that this is a result of them seeing how deep human depravity actually runs. They have seen the horrible and wicked results of sin, very experientially in their own childhoods or lives and have turned to substance abuse to either numb the pain or fill some void in their hearts.

            It shouldn’t surprise us really, when we read about horrible things happening. It ought to make us shutter, and unfortunately, we become immune to these stories, but it really shouldn’t surprise us. Ephesians 2 tells us that this would take place. Verse 1 refers to the time when we were dead in trespasses. Verse 2 says that we walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince and spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. Verse three says we fulfilled the lusts of our flesh, the desires of the flesh and mind, and were by nature, children of wrath. This humbling description of the opening verses of Ephesians 2 describes all of humanity after the fall.

            All who are born are totally depraved and twisted. Their complete being is affected...there is not one thing that sin leaves untouched. This is why we live in this vale of tears, this is why we suffer and experience loss and heartache and sorrow and loneliness, etc. it all springs from sin. This is why our foundational need is true and everlasting comfort. Our hearts are restless till they rest in you. But comfort is exactly what God supplies.

II. The Nature of Comfort

            What kind of comfort are we talking about here. After all, someone could say that it is comforting knowing that their favourite hockey player has secured a long contract, or it is comforting knowing that one will have enough money to pay their bills, or it is comforting knowing a friend made it to their destination safely. These types of comforts are not what we are talking about. We are talking about true ultimate comfort, the type of comfort, that if you do not have it, nothing else really matters.

            How can we find out exactly what this means? One place to look is to the author of the catechism, Zacharius Ursinus. Ursinus already in his young twenties had traveled through Europe and met many of the second generation Reformers, like Bullinger and Calvin. In fact, when Ursinus was in Geneva visiting Calvin, Calvin gave him a gift of a complete set of his works signed by the author, Calvin himself. Thereafter, Ursinus went to Heidelberg, and he, with the help of Caspar Olevianus, wrote the Heidelberg Catechism, when he was but 28 years old. Ursinus also wrote a commentary of the catechism explaining in further detail its contents. From that commentary, Ursinus explains that from QA 1 comfort consists of 6 parts.

            First, our reconciliation with God through Christ. We go from enemies of God to friends of God, from those estranged to those reconciled to their creator. We are no longer our own, but belong to Jesus Christ. He bought us, we are His. I Cor. 7:23 says, “You were bought at a price.” I Cor. 6:19-29 says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

            The fact that we belong to God, might make us think twice about what we are allowing to enter our body, from what movies we are watching, to our sexual purity, to the way we dress, etc. We are not our own, we belong to Christ.

            The second thing this comfort consists of is the manner of our reconciliation. How are we reconciled to God? Through the blood of Jesus Christ. Read Eph. 2:4-5, we are reconciled to God through the suffering, death and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. I John 1:7 says, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. Jesus paid with His whole being as the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption. “He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood.”

            The third thing that this comfort consists of is our complete deliverance from sin and misery. We are not only reconciled to God, but through Christ, we are no longer overpowered by sin, the Devil, and death. “He has set me free from the tyranny of the Devil.” We are brought from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Eph. 2:6 says, he made us sit in heavenly places. Phil. 3:20 says our citizenship is in heaven.

            But you might think, if we are delivered from sin, why do we still sin? We are delivered from the power of sin. Sin has the power to run and control people’s lives by their own doing. But, for the children of God, though we fight and struggle, and our sinful nature is not completely eradicated, that sin we struggle with does not own us, because Christ owns us, and you can only have one master.

            Fourth, our confession says, “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.” Think about that. How do we know that, the Bible tells me so in Matthew 10. If God knows and cares about every single hair that falls from our head, and it in fact is directed by Him, how much more won’t He be intimately involved in every area of our lives? This is a comfort of God persevering grace. God preserves all that we have received in Jesus Christ. It is impossible for God to love of one day and not the next. Our unchanging God is a solid foundation and the only source of comfort in this life.

            Fifth, our God also turns all evil into good. “All things must work together for my salvation.” At times in our lives we must confess that we do not know how this works. How can God show good through the death of a child? How could it be good for an earthquake to hit Vancouver and we experience the death of thousands in the city? We don’t understand because we cannot see things from God’s perspective. But, God has given us this promise and our God is the one who is powerful enough to accomplish all that he ordains. If we can keep eternity in perspective and not get caught up in today, this will be a little clearer to us. We are as sheep for the slaughter, and yet, “All things work for the good of those that love Him.”

            Sixth, is the assurance that our Father supplies with all of these benefits. God assures of eternal life, of His goodness, of the work of our Saviour on our behalf. He testifies to us by His Holy Spirit. The Spirit works in our hearts day after day, testifying to our true faith. A daily desire to repent and believe ought to be evident in the hearts of believers.

            To boil it all down. My comfort is that I am reconciled to the Father, through the Son, which is applied by the Holy Spirit. By the providence of God, I belong to the Son and am assured by the Holy Spirit. This is our Trinitarian God, who saves his people, that even though they were dead in trespasses and sins, and even thought they followed the lusts of the flesh, yet, because of His great mercy by which he loves us, made us alive together with Christ. For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and not by works, let anyone boast.

            I trust that you see now, that is God who is the foundation and supplier of true comfort to the weary soul. Thank God that this Saviour of whom we belong to is faithful, because we are unfaithful. It is our faithful Saviour who has redeemed us, keeps us, uholds us, assures us through His spirit, and blesses us with all the spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ. What a great God we serve.

III. The Joy of Comfort   

            So, now we know why we need comfort and now we know what this comfort is. It is not a removal of all difficulties in ones life, but rather, a trust and assurance that our God has a plan and purpose for all that takes place. It is a trust that He will care for and protect us because we through faith, belong to Jesus Christ.

            Question 2 of Lord’s Day 1 asks, “What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?” It is one thing to have this comfort, it is another to know how to live out of that truth. And here is a problem in the church today. Over the last 60 years or so, there has been a move further and further away from an emphasis upon knowledge. We have ended up with the result in many places where people believe Jesus died for them, but they have no concept of history or theology, etc. Is that important?

            Yes, because what we know affects the way that we live. For many of you here, you are hearing a sermon on Lord’s Day 1 for what, the 50th time in your life? What benefit could there be to hear another one. You likely know the three parts of the catechism or the three things you must know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort. For you, it is not so much to teach you, though we are always learning, but to remind you, how to live confessionally and biblically. Does Lord’s Day 1 matter even?

            Do you think Lord’s Day 1 matters in a hospital room, when our loved one on the sick-bed? Do you realize that this whole world is a hospital room. If it is not physical illness it is spiritual illness and for the world, spiritual death that is plaguing our society. Living in the midst of sin, death and wickedness, with peer pressure coming from all sides and a desire to keep up with the Joneses, and for our kids to have to have the newest brand of clothes or they’ll die. Stop and think. Think about the eternal echo of Lord’s Day. We belong body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful saviour Jesus Christ. If your car flips over on the way from worship this evening and your life is nearing the end, do you think it really mattered if you have the newest clothes or if so and so thought you were cool. No.

            I’ll tell you three things you need to know. First, how great your sin and misery are, second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery, third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance. If you know the answer to those three statements, about your sin, about salvation and about service, or about our guilt, about God’s grace, and then our gratitude, so many of the things of this life get put into perspective.

            Brothers and sisters, we can live today with joy in our hearts, because we know the answer. We might not always like to ask the question, “What can be done about my sins.” But, if we believe, we love the answer, confess them, for Jesus has forgiven them. Then go and live. Live in such a way, that whatever this life brings, whatever makes life difficult and at times unbearable or dangerous, etc. Remember, My only comfort in life and in death is that I am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.  



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Steven Swets, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Steven Swets

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