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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Our Heavenly Role Models
Text:LD 49 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-06-10
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 148:1,4                                                                                          

Hy 1

Reading – 1 Samuel 29; Luke 15:1-10

Ps 103:7,8,9

Sermon – Lord’s Day 49

Ps 40:2,3

Hy 65:1,4

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


Beloved in Christ, every time we pray the Lord’s prayer, we ask the Father, “Your will be done.” For our God has a will. There are certain things God wants and expects. He has a definite plan for this earth, and a clear intention for those made in his image. So He wants us to obey his will, to accept it, to seek it out and do it. He even wants us to love his will.

Yet what’s so often our response to God’s will? We resist it. There are times we don’t understand God’s will and what He wants us to do, but more often we do know his will, but we choose to go the other direction.

Here the Catechism is spot on. Explaining the third petition, it says that we should pray that we would “deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey God’s will” (Q&A 124). When is the last time your murmured? Maybe you were reading the news, and you didn’t like what you heard about a new government policy, so you murmured. Or your teacher assigned you a pile of homework over the weekend, so you murmured. You muttered under your breath so that only you could hear, or you grumbled to the person next to you. And murmuring isn’t only done with the mouth, but often with the heart. Our hearts can be filled with all kinds of gripes and complaints against the things we don’t like.

Well, we also murmur against God’s will. We resist his Word, for we find his commandments hard to apply, and his truths difficult to accept. Yet we’re called to pray every day, “Your will be done.” Jesus teaches us to ask our Father daily, “Help me not to complain, but to obey your will.” And as we pray that, we know: God’s will “alone is good” (Q&A 124). His will is many other things—eternal, perfect, wise—but God’s will is also good. This confession changes how we pray, and how we live. We consider the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer on this theme,

May the Father’s good will be done everywhere!

  1. pray that we can imitate our heavenly model
  2. pray that we can perform our earthly duty

 

1) that we imitate our heavenly model: Sometimes when you’re learning a difficult activity, it’s good to have an example to follow. A gym teacher who is instructing his class how to do the triple jump won’t just describe what they’re supposed to do with their legs and arms, or simply sketch it on a whiteboard, but he’ll actually show it to the students—he’ll demonstrate a triple jump—so that they can learn.

When it comes to loving and following the will of God, we have a model to copy, a flawless example to imitate. For we’re told to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Pausing a moment at that second phrase, we wonder: Just who is in heaven, and there doing the will of God so perfectly?

Perhaps we think of the godly people who’ve been taken from this life into the presence of the Lord. For when we die, we know that sin will no longer hinder us in serving God. Those who have gone to be with Christ are continually and perfectly praising the Lord. In a sense, they are finally doing God’s will without fault or failing.

But when Jesus first taught this petition, his disciples probably would’ve thought about other beings in heaven—others who are always busy with doing the will of God. They would’ve thought of the holy angels, who are found often on the pages of Scripture. We see them right from the beginning, situated in the Garden of Eden in Genesis, and we see them at the very end, standing on the renewed heavens and earth in Revelation.

What are the angels? They are supernatural beings, and they are non-physical—without a material body—yet they are very much real and living. They’re not made in God’s image like we are, but just like us, the angels’ whole identity and purpose are connected closely to the LORD and his glory. We know a few of the leading angel’s names—like the archangel Michael, which means, “Who is like God?” And Gabriel, “God is my strength.” Even their names point to how the angels exist for the LORD!

That’s seen so clearly in what the angels do. Sometimes we picture angels as doing little more than strumming a harp and singing an endless chorus of praise. They do some of that, of course, but they do much more.

Think about how angels often appear in the Scriptures to bring messages from God to his people. God sent angels down to Abraham the patriarch, and to Gideon the judge, and to the parents of Samson. Angels were also sent when the law was given on Mount Sinai. The LORD sent angels to bring comfort and strength when people were in distress, like to the dying Hagar and the despairing Elijah. Angels were sent by God to defend the Israelites, such as when an angel killed Egypt’s firstborn, or the 185,000 Assyrians who were besieging Jerusalem. The LORD even sent an angel to wrestle with Jacob as he returned to the land of Canaan.

And angels weren’t just sent to assist the notable servants of God, and they didn’t just appear at momentous times in Israel’s history. Consider the promise we hear in Psalm 91:11, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” The angels are devoted to every child of God, from the least to the greatest, to protect and shield us as our guardians. And in all this, the angels are devoted to doing God’s will: they’re at our side exactly because God has put them there.

There is also Isaiah’s vision in chapter 6, a vision of the LORD in his temple. God on this throne is surrounded by myriad angels crying out, “Holy, holy, holy!” Why are they all around him? One reason is so that they can stand ready to do the will of their king! They’re continually prepared to leap into action, to carry out his commands without hesitation. The angels are always waiting for the next word, looking for the next occasion to carry out a task for the mighty LORD. They do God’s will in heaven, and they do it on earth.

We also see this in the New Testament. Angels are sent to bring important messages from the LORD: to Elizabeth, and to Mary. Angels are sent to lead saints out of prison, like the apostle Peter in the book of Acts. Angels are also sent to offer comfort and support, like to Jesus after He was tempted in the wilderness, and when He was in the garden on the night He was betrayed.

Psalm 103:20-21 sums up the work of the holy angels in both the Old and New Testament: “Bless the LORD, you his angels, who excel in strength, who do his word, heeding the voice of his word. Bless the LORD, all you his hosts, you ministers of his, who do his pleasure.” This is what the angels of the LORD are busy with: they do God’s word, they carry out his will, and in all things they work for his pleasure.

This is why the Catechism explains this petition as it does, “Grant that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven” (Q&A 124). These are our heavenly role models, our perfect examples in learning to serve God. We see their willing spirit in almost every Bible passage that mentions them. For when God wants something done on earth, He so often sends an angel to do it! They do his will promptly, and eagerly, and they do it without fail.

And let’s be clear that the angels aren’t just a group of sanctified robots. God doesn’t want the praise of a mechanical choir, or the service of unthinking drones, for that wouldn’t give him glory. Rather, the angels freely serve him, even joyfully serve him.

Their willing service is more remarkable when we think about the angels who have chosen not to serve and submit. Not all the angels ascribe glory to God and humbly wait at his throne for his direction, but many are in proud rebellion against him, and they have been since the beginning of the world. Together with the devil, they are enemies of God and of all that is good, attacking the church and misleading the nations—in short, doing the exact opposite of what the Father wants! This contrasts with how beautifully and faithfully the holy angels perform God’s will. Without murmuring, the angels live for his service.

It’s interesting that there’s a few places in Scripture where a human being is compared to an angel. Sometimes you hear people being called angels today, when they do something really sweet and helpful, “Oh, you’re such an angel.” But that’s not the kind of comparison that the Scriptures make. Rather, when there’s a person of unquestionable integrity, a person of real goodwill and obedience, he is said to be like “an angel of God.”

For example, you remember that David once spent time hiding out from King Saul in the land of Philistia. He even joined the Philistines in battle against some of their enemies. But after a while, the Philistine princes couldn’t take it anymore. Here was the mighty Israelite warrior who’d killed thousands—even Goliath, their old hero—and he was welcomed as a refugee among them. Time for him to go!

King Achish of the Philistines spoke up in his defense. He knew that David was a faithful and righteous man, and he trusted that he wouldn’t betray those who’d given him refuge. So listen to the remarkable things that Achish says to David, “I know that you are as good in my sight as an angel of God” (1 Sam 29:9). As good as an angel of God! Because David was reliable in service. He was honourable in all his commitments. As a man of God, he would do whatever was asked of him, even if he was asked to leave.

That’s something to reflect on, whether someone would call you an angel. Would they compare you to one of God’s heavenly servant? Do people know you to be faithful in his service, willing and devoted? And more than what other people think of you, does God consider you reliable, even in the tough assignments? Are we like one of those who stand before God’s throne, just waiting to carry out his commands?

It’s what we must pray: “Father, may your will be done here on earth, like it is in heaven. Help me serve like an angel. Help me do what you say in your Word, readily and consistently. Here I am, ready to do your will!”

Let’s make this concrete for a moment. If God says “Forgive the sinner,” then that’s what we should do: forgive, freely and completely. If the LORD says, “Be pure,” then that’s his will for us, and we should strive for purity in all that we do, in what we watch, and what we say, and listen to, and think about. When Christ calls us to shine our light in this dark world, then we need to do that “like the angels,” faithfully.

God’s will for us is that we work hard in our job, even if we don’t like our job. His will is that we nurture our wife with a spirit of gentleness, and that we respect our husband, and that we honour our parents, even if these things have become hard for us for one reason or another. His will is that we do these things, like the angels in heaven.

To rephrase Psalm 103, each of us should be a minister of the Lord, one who heeds the voice of his Word, and who does God’s good pleasure. Then we too, will be part of that mighty host of those who praise the LORD and live for his glory.

 

2) that we perform our earthly duty: So what does it take for us to do God’s will? It takes two things: the first thing can be pretty hard for us, and the second thing can be even harder. First, doing God’s will means that we need to know God’s will, understanding what He expects and requires of us.

That’s a big question, isn’t it? When we’re making a decision, we wonder sometimes what is the God-pleasing way. Even apart from the major intersections that we arrive at in our life, there’s so many other areas where we need to search out the Lord’s will. Like his will for the relationships that we have in our family, or in the church. Or what is his will for business opportunities, or our options for schooling? Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should! There can also be moral decisions we face that seem to be more grey than black and white. Sometimes it’s not at all clear what we should do.

So we might like nothing better than for God to speak to us directly from heaven. Perhaps you’ve wished before that God was still in the habit of sending angels in order to bring us messages, from heaven straight to your kitchen, or from his throne straight to your phone. If He did that, then we’d know his will!

If we’re despairing about what to do, let’s remember that the third petition is built on the promise that God will teach us. He’ll show us. There won’t be a flash of lightning from heaven, or a message pinging on our mobile. Yet we can ask our God for guidance and direction. This is what David prays in Psalm 25, “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (vv 4-5). He asks for knowledge, and he knows God will give it. 

What David asks for above all is the daily insight into what God has said in his Word. We ask God to show to our eyes those things from the Word that we need to know. Beloved, this is why it’s so important to fill our minds with the Word—to read and ponder it every day—for the more we read Scripture, the more we’ll think like God: “This is what God wants. This is his good and pleasing will.”

As it speaks about doing the will of God, the Catechism uses two interesting words. It says that we have “an office and calling.” As Christians, we have an office: to live as prophets, priests and kings. Think about what this involves. Our calling is to be prophets, confessing God’s Name. To be priests, sacrificing ourselves. To be kings and queens, fighting against evil. If that’s our office, then our calling is to glorify him, just like the angels of heaven. Our calling is to hallow his name and to work for the coming of his kingdom!

This is our office and calling, in very broad strokes. Yet that gives us a framework, doesn’t it? How many of our dilemmas about what to do can be solved by thinking and praying: “What does God require of me as a prophet, to say to this person? If I’m to be a holy priest, what is a right sacrifice to the LORD at this moment? As a king or queen, will I be fighting evil with this action, and will I be promoting God’s kingdom?”

The first requirement for doing God’s will is knowing it. That’s one thing—sometimes a very hard thing. And the second can be even harder, that we come to love God’s will and desire to carry it out. This calls us to “deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey [his] will, for it alone is good” (Q&A 124). Especially the last part takes a lot of faith, to confess to God: “Your will alone is good.” This means saying that God always knows best for us, that his instructions are always excellent, and that his way is the right way for our life, every single time.

We’re not used to thinking like that. We say that no one deserves to have his will followed without question, for even the judgments of the wisest leader in the church or country can be scrutinized. But the LORD is God. And Job once said about him, “With him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding” (12:13). Yes, his wisdom alone is flawless. His counsels never fail. His will alone is good.

For He’s the God who’s made a relationship with us in Christ. So whatever He’ll command is going to be the best for us. We should know that He’ll desire our blessing in all things. If God has given you a commandment in his Word, if He’s laid on you an office and calling, if He’s assigned you a task to do right now, then you can know that this is right. His will is going to be beneficial to us, and pleasing to him.

Of course, it still might be hard. Obeying God can be so exasperatingly difficult, while sinning can be so terribly easy. And why do we sin? Many times we sin because we want to: “I want to get drunk. I want to feel this pleasure. I want people to like me.” Or we sin, because we forget what God calls us to do; we forget about living by prayer, and humble service and sacrificial love. Or we sin, because that has become the pattern, and our mind and heart keep traveling the same well-worn paths. Obedience is hard.

Sometimes it seems better if God would just give us a set of wings and make us like the angels—a little more single-minded and dedicated. But that’s not his way. Instead, God guides us on this life-long journey of struggle and growth and maturity. In fact, the Father takes great joy in your repentance and your service, even though it’s imperfect and incomplete.

This brings us finally to Luke 15. There the Pharisees and scribes were complaining about Jesus because He was spending so much time with tax collectors and other bad characters. In response to their condemnation, Jesus talks about the good shepherd who searches for his one missing sheep, though 99% of his flock are safely in the fold. We’d say that 99% is a good number—the one that has wandered off really shouldn’t be so important to the shepherd. But the shepherd searches diligently, and finds it, and comes home rejoicing.

The shepherd, we know, stands for the Lord. He’s the God who seeks out the lost, He’s the God who delights in those who do his will—even if they start again after many years of disobedience. And when He finds one, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (v 7). Joy in heaven!

Who in heaven is so happy about the one that’s been found? The Father is pleased, for sure. But the angels are happy too. As Jesus says in the next parable, “I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (v 10). The angels rejoice when we turn from sin, and they rejoice when we do what is good. The holy angels are so united to the will of God, they’re so wrapped up in living for his purpose, that our obedience to God actually brings them great joy. The angels rejoice as we perform what is pleasing to the LORD.

We probably don’t think much about what’s going on in heaven, for we’re more concerned about who is noticing us here on earth. Who’s talking about us? Who thinks that we’re interesting? Who’s following us on social media? But this is the audience we should be most concerned to please: the audience of the Triune God, our Maker and Saviour. We’re living for him, standing before him!

And so our life is something the holy angels see as they stand in God’s presence. The angels rejoice in our small victories over sin. The angels rejoice in our resolve to learn good, and to do good. The angels rejoice in our repentance, for this brings glory to our God and to theirs!

So be like a holy angel of God. Do your Father’s good will, loyally and enthusiastically, willingly and cheerfully. Rejoice in doing what pleases him! Beloved, God is speaking to you in his Word, so listen carefully for his voice—listen, and then answer him humbly: “Yes, Lord, I will. O God, send me. Use me. In all things help me to be your willing servant.”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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