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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Trusting in God the Father Almighty
Text:LD 9 John 1:1-18 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Music selections from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal:

103D  “The Tender Love A Father Has”

224    “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”

217    “My God, How Wonderful Thou Art”

252    “This Is My Father’s World”

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

Pastor Ted Gray
06/21/2020 – p.m.
“Trusting in God the Father Almighty”
John 1:1-18; Lord's Day 9
Perhaps some of you had fathers who died at young ages. My father died at 45. I had just turned 14, and I regret not knowing my dad better than I did. But I do know this much about my dad: He loved me, he did the best he could do to provide for me, and he reflected to me, as best he could, the love of our Father who is in heaven.
The reason I bring this up is that those of us who had good relationships with our earthly fathers can easily relate to the beauty of Lord’s Day 9. It tells us that for the sake of the Son, God the Father has become our Father, and that as our Father He provides what we need for body and soul, and that He will turn all the adversities of life in this sad world to our good. The catechism assures us that God is able to do this because He is almighty God and He is willing to do it because He is our faithful Father.
I am able to relate to what the catechism says because of that good relationship I had with my dad. But I have known people who have grown up in abusive households where their father left a bad memory instead of a loving recollection. For those people it is hard to relate to God the Father Almighty.
Yet, should that be the case for any of you, or maybe for a friend or neighbor you are close to, what a comfort the catechism brings! It reminds us of the love of a perfect Father; it teaches us about the love God has for His children.
We are thankful for godly fathers and godly mothers. But there are no perfect parents. I realize that every time I look in the mirror. Although I desire what is best for my children, both materially and spiritually, I cannot provide all that I desire. Like all other parents, I am imperfect, and so was my father. But if you and I have true saving faith in Jesus Christ alone, then we have a heavenly Father who gives us the perfect care spoken about in Scripture and reflected in the catechism. As the familiar hymn puts it “No earthly father loves like Thee, no mother half so mild bears and forbears, as Thou hast done with me, Thy sinful child.” (My God, How Wonderful Thou Art, Frederick Faber)
It is crucial, though, to realize this Fatherly love is for those who have true saving faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. It is not for everybody. In John 1:11-13 we read: “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
The “Fatherhood of God” is widely misunderstood in our society today. R.C. Sproul attributed the misunderstanding to the liberal theology that was popularized already in the 19th century. It portrayed all humanity as God’s family with each one having access to God the Father Almighty. There is a sense, of course, in which God is the Father of all things, for all things originate with Him; He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  We read of His Fatherhood over everything in Acts 17:26-28. As Paul spoke to the philosophers in Athens he said,  “And He (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed His offspring.’”
But when the Bible speaks of the “Fatherhood of God,” it is not usually in that broad sense which liberal theology made so popular. The Bible also speaks of God being the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus is the one and only divine Son. He is the only begotten Son, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit from all eternity. The Son has always been with the Father, and always will be. As we read in verse 1and 2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
And it is only when we come to the Father through saving faith in His Son, that we are adopted into God’s family and receive all the blessings that Lord’s Day 9 speaks about. As the catechism points out, “for the sake of Christ His Son, (He is) my God and my Father.”
Provision for Body and Soul
The first blessing for those adopted into God’s family through faith in Jesus, is that God the Father provides all that is needed “for body and soul.” Most human fathers try to provide all that their children need. The Christian father will see to it that his children learn about the Lord and His Word, are faithfully instructed in school, church and in the home. He also seeks to meet their need for daily provisions: clothes, food, a warm home in the winter and the other necessities of life. However, because of our frailty as fallen human beings, we are limited. We don’t have the resources of our Father in heaven. And because we are sinners we fail to be as faithful as we should be in providing for the physical and spiritual welfare of our children.
Not so with our heavenly Father. The catechism states: “I trust Him so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul.” One of the passages referenced by the catechism is that familiar passage in Matthew 6:25-27 where the Lord tells us: “...Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life..?”
“Do not worry,” Jesus says. Yet, what do most of us do, myself included? We worry! Yet worry, at its core, is sinful because it is a lack of faith. Someone has rightly said: “If you are worrying, you’re not trusting; if you are trusting, you are not worrying.”
We can learn much from Peter, who worried about many things: When he was walking on water, walking out on the lake to meet Jesus, he worried that he would sink. He saw the waves and felt the wind, and as he worried, down he sank!
Later, Peter worried about Jesus having to suffer and die. He told Jesus that a cruel death of crucifixion could never happen to him. He pledged to stand in the way of the persecutors, and Jesus had to give him the stinging rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23).
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter worried about shelters. On that mountain Jesus was transfigured in glory. Peter saw Jesus, Moses and Elijah, and offered to build three shelters, one for each of them.
But later, as Peter matured, he realized God could take care of all those worries. In 1 Peter 5:7 he quotes from Psalm 55:22, which is also cited by the catechism. Peter writes: “Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares about you.”
Some years back I came across this little poem:
            When the birds begin to worry, and the lilies toil and spin;
                And God’s creatures all are anxious, Then I also may begin.
             For my Father sets their table, decks them out in garments fine,
                And if He supplies their living, Will he not provide for mine?
Not only does our Heavenly Father provide what we need materially and physically, but more importantly, the Lord provides all that is needed for our soul. Lord’s Day 9 assures us, “He will provide whatever I need for body and soul.” In Luke 11:11-13 Jesus addresses that, as He asks, What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
If the Father did not give us the Holy Spirit none of us would have faith in the Son. As 1 Corinthians 2:14 points out: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
God provided us His Son to be our Savior and Lord. But He also sent the Holy Spirit, to give us eyes that see spiritual truths, ears that hear the good news of the gospel, and hearts, that by God’s grace and Spirit’s power respond to the promises of the gospel with saving faith in Christ. God the Father provides all we need, not just physically and materially, but also spiritually.
Turning Adversity to Good
In addition to providing for us, body and soul, the catechism goes on to teach: “And He will turn to my good whatever He sends me in this vale of tears”, or, in some translations, “in this sad world.”
The authors of the catechism had good reason to speak of this world as sad. At the time the catechism was written there were many refugees in Heidelberg. Many had lost their jobs and homes; it was a time of great economic hardship. And in 2020, the world continues to be a sad place. We started 2020 with such great expectations! A new year! A new decade! But now, looking back at 2020 we see nations terrified by COVID 19 and many nations ripped apart by racial unrest.
A General Social Survey, conducted in the United States during May, before the riots and looting that came after the tragic death of George Floyd, found that Americans are the most unhappy that they have been in the last 50 years. And I’m sure that if the same survey was conducted one month later, after widespread protests and looting, there would be far more unhappy Americans.
But this world has been sad – a “vale of tears” – ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin. Job’s friend Eliphaz pointed out that “Man is born to trouble as surely sparks fly upward from a fire” (Job 5:7). We all know what Eliphaz is speaking about. We have all faced those challenges that spring out of nowhere: the termination of a job, the loss of a loved one in the prime of life, a medical diagnosis that you never thought would be pronounced on you or a loved one. 
So many circumstances seem to turn against us. Yet Scripture reminds us over and over that our heavenly Father is a master at bringing good out of evil; He is a master at bringing great blessings out of even the hardest circumstances of our lives.
Ask Joseph, “Did your heavenly Father turn to good the adversity of this sad world when you were sold by your brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and thrown into prison?"  He would reply that his brothers intended it for evil, but God intended it for good (Genesis 50:20).
Ask Mordecai and his cousin, the beautiful Queen Esther: “Did your heavenly Father turn to good the adversity of this sad world when your ancestors were taken captive by the Babylonians?  When your lives were threatened with extermination? Mordecai, when the gallows to hang you were erected 70 feet high – to make your death a cruel public spectacle – was God able to bring good from that?"  He would reply that those very gallows were used to hang Haman, the man who sought the annihilation of God’s people, as God turned the tables against the enemies of His people.
Or ask the Apostle Paul, “When you were imprisoned, flogged, shipwrecked, run out of town, laughed at, ridiculed – and when you had that thorn painfully embedded in your flesh –  was your heavenly Father able to bring good out of those adversities?”  His reply is one of the best known verses in all Scripture: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). And concerning the thorn, he would rejoice to say that God’s grace is more than sufficient to overcome whatever thorns may cut deeply into our lives (2 Corinthians 12:9).    
An Almighty and Faithful Father
How is God able to do all these amazing things? The catechism explains, “He is able to do this because He is almighty God.” Since He is almighty, God has power not only to create the heavens and the earth, but also to uphold and guide and govern His creation.
The catechism teaches that “He still upholds and rules all His creation by His eternal council and providence.” The catechism is simply following the clear teaching of Scripture.  The Bible teaches that God is active in the world that He has created.  He is not a watchmaker God who put together the watch, wound it up, and lets it tick away the seconds on its own.
Not at all. He actively controls the rulers of nations, for “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). As Daniel pointed out on three occasions, “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17, 4:25, 5:21).
Nothing escapes His watchful care, not even the sparrow that falls to the ground. So He certainly sees and knows your needs and mine – materially, physically and spiritually. He will meet those needs perfectly, according to His will, at His time and in His way.
As earthly fathers we come up short.  But not our heavenly Father. As the old spiritual song put it: “He’s got the whole world in his hands... He’s got the rivers and the mountains in His hands, He’s got the ocean and seas in His hands, He’s got you and He’s got me in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands...”
Or, as Jeremiah put it in Jeremiah 32:17: "Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!”
And the Lord answered Jeremiah, 10 verses later, in Jeremiah 32:27, "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?”
Not only is He able to fulfill all His promises, since He is Almighty God, but He desires to do so, for, as the catechism concludes, “He desires to do this because He is our faithful Father.” We who are Christian fathers can relate to that, can’t we? As fathers we love our children and try to provide because that is our desire.
One of the misconceptions of our heavenly Father is that He is just waiting for a misstep on our part – and when that happens – when you mess up – watch out! But God’s love is so great for His children that He punished His eternal Son – He punished Himself – so that we who believe in Jesus Christ face no condemnation. The condemnation, the proper wrath of the holy God against your sin and mine, was laid upon Christ on Calvary. At Calvary, Jesus took the punishment that we deserve for our sins upon Himself. As Isaiah 53:5 puts it: “But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the punishment – the chastisement – that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.”
It is true that God disciplines those whom He loves. But His discipline is never done in blind anger. His discipline springs from His love for us. To shape and mold a sinner after the likeness of Jesus Christ requires a chisel, a chisel of discipline – a rod of correction. The word “disciple” comes from the word “discipline”.  To discipline means to teach, using whatever measure is needed to get the message across. And the discipline of our Father, springing from love, brings great spiritual blessings. Hebrews 12:11 points out: For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
As our faithful Father, He provides all that we need, materially, physically, and spiritually. “He is able to do this because He is almighty God; He desires to do this because He is a faithful Father.”
Faith, Trust and Gratitude
How are we to respond to such a God? To such a wonderful heavenly Father? Our response includes faith, trust and gratitude.
In John 1:12-13 we read about the absolute necessity of faith, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…”  It is only by faith in Jesus that we are adopted into God’s family. And those, who have true saving faith in Jesus Christ, will trust their heavenly Father. Faith leads to trust and erases worry.
J.I. Packer, in his classic book, Knowing God, recounts how the concept of adoption into God’s family has been lost in the church today. He writes: “If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thoughts of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”
If being God’s child matters to you this evening, and if being God’s child matters to me this evening, not only will we have – by God’s grace – faith and trust in Him. We will also have lives of gratitude. If by grace, you and I are members of the family of God then what gratitude should spring from our lives! John 1:16 recaps the blessing of being God’s children through faith in Christ: “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” 
He is the over-flowing fountain of all good; He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift, and in Him there is no shadow of change (James 1:17). He gives us salvation, and from His fullness, flowing from our salvation, we find grace after grace, blessing after blessing.
As the catechism points out, “He will provide whatever I need for body and soul and He will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world – this vale of tears.”
May your life and mine always be lives of gratitude and praise to God the Father, who through Christ – by the Holy Spirit’s presence and power – has blessed us beyond what we could ever ask or imagine, in this life – and the next! Amen. 
                                                         - bulletin outline -
He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name,
He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God. – John 1:11-13
                        “Trusting in God the Father Almighty”
                                  John 1:1-18; Lord’s Day 9
I.  God is our Father through saving faith in Jesus Christ (12-13). As our
     heavenly Father, for the sake of His Son, God:
       1) Provides what we need for body and soul (16; Matthew 6:25-34,
            Luke 11:13)
       2) Will turn adversity to good (Gen. 50:20; Esther 6-7; Romans 8:28)
II.  God is able to do this because:
        1) He is Almighty God (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17, 27) who still “still upholds and
             governs (the world) by His eternal counsel and providence” (Lord’s Day 9)
         2) He is our faithful Father (Matthew 7:9-11; Hebrews 12:5-11), for the sake of Christ His
              Son (Galatians 4:4-7)
III. Our response: Faith, trust (12) and gratitude (16)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Ted Gray

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