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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 Faith
Text:LD 7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith
 
Preached:2011-03
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.


Lord’s Day 7

Ephesians 2:1-10 and Hebrews 11:13-16

 

INTRODUCTION

Beloved Congregation in the Lord Jesus Christ:

            Last week, we saw from Lord’s Day 6, mostly clearly for the first time, our True Mediator. In that sermon, I asked each of you, whether or not he was “YOUR Lord Jesus Christ.” Our catechism lesson this evening tells us that not everyone will answer that, in all honesty, with a “yes.” This is probably not surprising to us, but it should be startling to us. Why? Because we are speaking of eternity here. We are speaking of eternal bliss or eternal punishment, eternal joy or eternal sorrow and pain.

            The catechism is not asking whether or not you want sugar with your coffee or some relatively unimportant question, but rather, where will you spend your eternity. It is really not a difficult question. I could put it differently and just ask you, do you have a true faith? If you answer yes, then you are heading down the narrow way which leads to life, if you say no to that question, then you are heading down the broad way which leads to death. So, what road are you walking down? I proclaim to you this evening that is all depends upon true faith. Our theme this evening is Our Lord displays His sovereignty in saving those with a true faith. We will look at three questions.

I.                    Who has true faith?

II.                  What is true faith?

III.                What is the result of true faith?

                                

I. Who has true faith?

            Look at question 20 (read). This question seems to logically follow what had come before in the catechism. We have seen that all were lost through Adam, and if Christ is the second or last Adam, are all men as well grafted into him with salvation. Look back at Ephesians 2:3…all of us were by nature children of wrath. So now, because of Jesus, have all become children of God?

            The answer the catechism is a short terse, “No.” The catechism is right here, and in accord with God’s word. This is something that we must live with. We do not fully understand it. We do not understand why we are on a sinking ship that only has enough life boats for half of the people to survive. Sure, in that situation the men, as gentlemen would say, “Okay, women and children in the boats, and if there is room for men after that, we will also get in.” No, that is not the case at all. In that situation, the men would be heroes and gentlemen, but that is not how is happens at all. Those saved in the life boats are not saved because of anything in them, that they are women or children, or black or white, no, but because the captain chose some to get in the life boats.

            Congregation, we must sincerely ask ourselves how we feel about the catechism’s answer. Do we grin and say, ah yes, only a few will make it. Do you look around church and think you can probably pick out the ones who won’t make it? God teaches us in scripture about election and reprobation, the two parts of predestination, and all we can conclude about it, is that this is done for God’s good pleasure. We don’t know why he chose some and not others. We do not think that some don’t receive his wrath and others do. No, Ephesians 2 says all of us were children of wrath. Look at verse 5 (read), that is why some are saved, because of God. We cannot understand election fully, but God has told us that this is the case, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” It must bring sorrow to our hearts to see our fellow humans perish, and yet we know that God is justified in His dealings with His people. After all, He did not have to save any.

            Well, let us continue with answer 20, “Only those…blessings.” We are given here a beautiful illustration of salvation, that of being grafted into Christ. The Bible also uses the illustration of a vine and its branches, and those branches who remain in the vine, produce fruit. These are beautiful word pictures. There are three things we need to notice about the word picture our catechism gives us.

            First, is that all believers are included together. Those who have a true faith, are all part of the same tree. We are not individuals in our own little corners with our own God. No, we are part of a community. We are in communion with each other. The Bible calls us one body with many parts. Christ is the head, we are the body, if you lose the body or lose the head, there is death…it is difficult to walk the streets of heaven with only one leg or to fold your hands to pray with only one hand. We are to be in fellowship. The New Testament has a word to describe the early church and this that they were in koinonia with each other. That means fellowship and communion. It literally means to have all things in common. We are not just individual Christians, we are the church of Jesus Christ.

            Secondly, when Christians are described as being grafted, that certainly means that they are living. True faith is the tool that grafts them in, and God is the gardener. A branch that is grafted onto a plant that remains dead, is cut off and thrown into the fire. Rather, we are living and active. Meaning, we are not just bench warmers in church…we don’t come to church and then think, well, I have done my duty for the week. No, you may fool the person sitting next to you, but you will not fool God. He will spit such a person out. That person will suck out the nutrients from the branches around them. They will be cut off, sooner or later, from the tree.

            Thirdly, we see in this answer that salvation is on account of God. There is an active aspect and a passive aspect of it, but yet both of these are built upon God. The answer does not say that those with a true faith graft themselves into Christ, but rather that they are grafted. Our calling is not to graft ourselves, but to accept all the blessings of Jesus Christ.

            Adam was the head of the whole human race in the covenant of nature. When he sinned, all of humanity fell into a state of depravity. Christ is the last Adam and he is the head of the covenant of grace. Only the elect are truly and savingly incorporated into him. There are some who might look like they are true members of Christ. There are some who receive the sign in baptism and confirm that in profession of faith, but if they do not truly believe, if they do not have a true faith. They are just counterfeits. They look like the real things, but they are essentially living a lie. They are covenant breakers and the curse of the covenant falls upon them. They become more guilty than someone who has never even heard the gospel. Do you know who hell will be the worst for? Those who were so close, and yet never truly believed. The Judas Iscariot’s, who walked with Jesus Christ, saw the true son of God, and never believed. That was 1 out of 12 covenant members…we must be warned beloved, Judas never fooled God, even though he fooled those around him for a time. “Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings.” So what is this true faith? That is what we see secondly.

 

II. What is true faith?    

            Question 21 asks us, “What is true faith?” That little adjective, “true” is very important. This distinguishes the type of faith necessary from other types of faith. Like what?

            For instance, a true faith is not a historical faith. This is a faith that believes the Bible and the confessions to be a faithful summary of the word of God, and yet this person never truly believes. It is just head knowledge to this person. This person is just another piece of furniture in the church, dead and lifeless, yet always there, but never having a living relationship with the One True God.   

            We must also be warned against temporary faith. This is like the seed that falls on the stony soil and quickly sprouts up, but is soon withered when the warm sun scorches it. This is someone who shows up in a church, seems to be converted, is very excited about the faith, but in a year or so, they are gone…off following whatever new thing came along.

            There are other types of false faith, but that should suffice. True faith is not like these. True faith has two main parts. The first part is a knowledge and conviction of a truth, and the second is a trust and assurance that these things are personally for me or for you.

            First, is the knowledge and conviction. Look at answer 21. This knowledge and conviction is that everything God has revealed in His word is true. This must be our starting point. If you doubt any of God’s word, you not only step, but you jump onto a slippery slope that leads to unbelief. If you don’t believe that God created the world in six days, why would you possibly that Jesus resurrected from the dead? Science supposedly tells us that neither of these two can happen.

            Our presupposition, our starting point, our starting belief, must be that the Bible is the word of God. It is God-breathed, not man-breathed. That is where we start. Why? Because if we believe the supreme God has revealed himself to His people through the Word, then that Word must be perfect. The word itself attests to that, and the Holy Spirit assures us in our hearts that this is the case. If the Bible says that Jonah swallowed a great fish, instead of being swallowed by one, you better believe it. If is says a donkey talked, then believe it, if it says the wind and waves obeyed Jesus, then you better believe it, if it says that the Son of God came to save sinners when he works faith in their hearts, then we better believe it. We must know the Word and be convicted that it is true. This is why Q. 22 asks what a Christian must believe. The answer is everything God promises in the gospel, and summarized in the Apostle’s Creed.  

            Boys and girls, if your brother or sister come into the house and tell you they saw a pig flying through the air, you probably shouldn’t believe them, but if God tells us in the Bible that Noah took 2 of every kind of animal onto a giant boat while the world was flooded, then you better believe it. God does not and cannot lie. If he did, he would no longer be God.

            The second part of true faith is the deep-rooted assurance that we are saved. Our catechism points out a couple important points about this. First, is the source of this assurance. Our catechism says that it is, “created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel.” We cannot produce faith in ourselves, God must give that as well. This is why we refer to salvation as God’s sovereign work. He makes it available, he works faith, he justified, and by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, we are continually being sanctified.

            Now, this does not mean that we are not responsible. I can tell you all that you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s sovereignty does not rip away all human responsibility. All of humanity is called to repent and believe. See once again, the catechism is referring to this from our perspective, not God’s perspective. We are not talking about election here in the 7th Lord’s Day, we are talking about faith. Jesus tells many people in the New Testament that their faith has healed them or saved them. It is their faith. It is a humble faith. We are not saved as our catechism later says, because of the worthiness of our faith…no the praise goes to God. This faith is given to us by the “sheer grace earned for us by Christ.” There is much more that can be said about this, but we must continue to see thirdly, the result of faith.

 

III. The Result of true faith.

            There are three results of true faith and all of them are in our catechism to give us comfort and hope. No matter what happens in our lives, these wonderful works of God can never be taken away from His people. We must notice that these things are not only given to other, but to you also…you individually. Praise God for that.

            First, is that I have had my sins forgiven. This was done on the cross of Calvary. Jesus, the sinless one, became sin for us. Our reading from Hebrews, as it talks of Old Testament saints, says that these saints did not see the fulfillment of these promises…but they only saw them from far off. But, there it is…they saw them and believed. We’ve seen it in scripture…exactly how it happened, and now we must ask ourselves…do we really believe. Look at Hebrews 11:16…do you believe that God has a city prepared for us, or it that just pulpit-talk…church language…DO YOU BELIEVE? If so, then be assured, that not only are our sins forgiven, but we have been made forever right with God.

            Can you echo the words of the Psalter, “In sweet communion, Lord with thee, I constantly abide.”? If so, then you are an heir of salvation.

            This salvation is given of God. As Eph. 2:8 says, not by works, lest any man boast…but by grace. We deserve condemnation, and yet, when we believe, when we have a true faith, we become heirs of everlasting life. Salvation is freely given through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

            Beloved, true faith is not only a knowledge and conviction, but it also a deep-rooted assurance. May that be a comfort to you. Why is it deep-rooted? Because it has been planted by God. It cannot be scorched by the sun. Worry, pain, cancer, death, deep, deep hurts cannot take this away…because God is the one who planted it, God is the one who grafts us into Christ.

            If you do not know this deep rooted assurance and trust, pray that God gives it to you. For those of us who know of this assurance and salvation, praise God, and tell others about it. I end by reading to you one of the most comforting verses to me in the entire Bible. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” 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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