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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:Fulfill Your Office and Calling
Text:LD 49 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-05-09
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 1:1,2,3                                                                                           

Hy 6:1,2  [after Apostles’ Creed]

Reading – Deuteronomy 29:14-29; 2 Thessalonians 1

Ps 43:3,4,5

Sermon – Lord’s Day 49

Ps 25:2,4

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, what is the will of God? That’s a big question. When we talk about God’s will, it can seem like questions are endless, and answers are hard to find. For example, we’re young and wondering about our future, and we ask: What is the will of God for my life? How can I find the path that’s pleasing to him? Or we see the terrible wickedness in this world, and we wonder: How can this be God’s will, that evildoers are allowed to flourish?

The will of God can seem shrouded in mystery. But as we struggle with these questions, it’s good to realize we aren’t the first to do so. God’s people have long troubled over this issue, and along the way, they’ve come with different categories to try and help our understanding. In short, God has a secret will, and God has a revealed will. It’s an important distinction, which we’ll come back to a bit later in this sermon.

But our starting point, like in everything, needs to be what Scripture says about the will of God. He has given us his Word, and God has said that it’s enough for us. Our loving Father has assured us that in Scripture we possess all the knowledge and insight that we require for navigating this life in a wise and faithful way.

And when we ponder our questions about his will, God says that we’ll surely begin to find our answer through prayer. He says, “Pray that you would know my will from the Word. Pray that you can submit. Pray for my will to be done in your life, and to be done by all people.” It won’t always be easy. But God helping us, we can serve him according to his good will. I preach to you the Word as summarized in Lord’s Day 49,

The Father helps His children to serve Him according to His will:

  1. fighting the selfish will of sinners
  2. loving the good will of God
  3. carrying out the duties of our office and calling

 

1) fighting the selfish will of sinners: When we think about God’s will, we often have a very personal focus: What does God want me to do, in this place and at this time? That’s an important question, of course. But we should remember that God wants his will to be done not only by you and me, and here in the church, but He wants it to be done everywhere in this world. Remember from the second petition that God is the King over all, and He wants everyone to submit to his wise rule.

This is why the Catechism teaches us to pray “that we and all men may deny our own will and…obey [God’s] will, for it alone is good” (Q&A 124). The Lord desires that absolutely everyone would listen to his wise and gracious commandments, because it’s only through obedience to his words that anyone will flourish and be blessed.

And so we should pray for ourselves, and for “all men”—all people—to do God’s will. For example, it is fitting to pray regularly for our government and civil leaders, that they would obey God’s will in making and enforcing the laws of the land. It’s fitting that we pray the same for the governments of other countries, and to pray that people with influence and power in this world would set an example of doing the will of God, and that also our neighbours would come to know God’s will and put it into practice. Pray that everyone may follow God’s way, for that’s the only way to life!

So how can “all men” know the will of God? Think of Romans 2, which says that the good requirements of God’s law are written onto the hearts of every human being, made in God’s image. Perhaps not every citizen of our country has read the Ten Commandments, but every person knows the difference between good and evil. God has inscribed a basic knowledge of his will on the inside, encoded it in their conscience. All people know that it is right to speak the truth, and to defend the weak, and to respect other people’s life and property.

But while everyone has been given an elementary insight into God’s will, they deny it or pollute it or suppress it. That’s the human pattern. We all prefer doing our own will, because it seems better. We’ve got an inner drive, an inclination to think and speak and act in a certain way.

In the beginning, God made us able to form decisions, to desire and aspire. But with this free will, Adam and Eve made a fatal choice. They chose for self, and not for God. They listened to Satan’s probing whispers against the Lord, and then they started to grumble themselves.

One result of that terrible choice is that our will has been changed, and we have a will that has essentially lost its freedom. Compare the human will to a horse. For you might have a quick and powerful steed who can run long distances and leap fences. But the horse won’t do any of these things if the rider isn’t properly directing it. Everything depends on who’s in the saddle, who’s controlling the animal.

In the same way, if God is the one directing our will and if God is shaping our daily decisions and setting our priorities, then we’ll be gently steered down the right path. When we listen to him, God leads us away from harm, toward green pastures and quiet waters.        

But if Satan is in the saddle, we careen toward destruction. And the devil is a sly jockey. Even as we let ourselves be ordered around by the devil’s words and nudges, we still think that we’re free. It’s our life, and it looks like we’re fully in charge, while following our desires appears to have those good and easy results. But the reality is that we’re enslaved, always captive to Satan’s power, and it’s hard to do differently.

Even within the children of God, redeemed and sanctified, this struggle remains. At any given moment, who are we listening to? The Catechism captures this struggle when it speaks of “[denying] our own will…and [obeying] God’s will” (Q&A 124). Denying one, obeying the other—resisting, and at the same time, submitting. Even as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, there’s an intense battle.

Remember how Paul describes his ongoing struggle: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Rom 7:15). We can relate. Even when we know that God’s will is good, and that obeying the Lord is the path to peace, we hesitate. Even when we can genuinely say that we have a desire to obey God, there can be this almost irresistible urge to go the opposite direction.

For sometimes the rewards of sin seem too good to pass up. Sin often gives an immediate payoff, which we like. There’s the quick buzz from drinking too much. There’s the easy boost to our reputation when we lie or when we brag. Whether we take the path to another weekend of drunkenness, or we scroll through to some sexual impurity, or we surrender again to our anger at the dinner table, at the moment it’s just a whole lot easier to give in.

Along that path, we can offer a lot of excuses: “I’m really tired today, so I can’t control myself. I’m young, so I’m allowed to experience the things of the world. I’m old, so my zeal isn’t what it used to be. Other people try my patience so badly, and this is just my character. I’m weak. And after all this, I’m still a child of God, right? I still read the Bible at my meal last night, so I’m good.” Whatever our excuse, our actions are self-willed, and against the holy God.

Let’s be aware that there’s going to be a fight if we want to pray the third petition from the heart. This is how Galatians describes it, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (5:17). We face a war, and sometimes it feels impossible.

Yet we won’t leave it there. Beloved, Jesus would not have told us to pray this petition if we couldn’t live it out. It is possible, because even now, God is renewing our minds. In his grace, the Lord Jesus has taken the reins of our life from the devil. God the Holy Spirit is retraining us, teaching us to take the right path.

But to really pray this petition, we need absolute humility before God. We don’t know better than the LORD. We haven’t proven ourselves to be faithful, or to be wise, or in control. We haven’t shown that we can make it through life on our own. So we pray: “Our Father who is in heaven, may your will be done. Not my own will. Not my own purposes or desires. But may your will be done, for it alone is good.”

 

2) loving the good will of God: There’s another thing making it hard to pray this petition. Besides our ongoing weakness, we’re often confused about what the will of God really is. Remember how we said that Christians have long struggled with this topic of God’s will.

On the one hand, we know that it’s God’s will which lies behind the government of everything in this universe. The LORD’s will is supreme and unchanging and almighty. In the words of Ephesians 1, “[God] works all things according to the counsel of his will” (v 11). That says the LORD is constantly fulfilling his plan in this world, from numbering the hairs on your head, to moving the nations of earth.

And in this respect, God’s will cannot be resisted or overturned. What God wills surely comes to pass at its appointed time, whether it is war or peace, feast or famine—and no human can get in the way of its fulfillment.  

On the other hand, in this petition we pray that we would deny our will and happily do God’s will. Which implies that the will of God can also be disobeyed and ignored! There can be times when we don’t do God’s will when what He has commanded is not carried out.

To distinguish between these, we can think of two aspects of God’s will: his secret will and his revealed will. God’s secret will is the unchanging purpose and plan that He has for our lives, and for this world—and it’s hidden because we have no idea what is coming next, whether it’s war with China, or a pandemic, or terminal cancer, or a good promotion at work. This is when we ask: Where is God going to bring us? In a certain sense, we’re in the dark.

Scripture speaks about this aspect of God’s will. We read it at the end of Deuteronomy 29:29, when Moses says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Focus on the first phrase: “the secret things belong to the LORD.” Moses says this because he’s thinking about Israel’s future. After forty years, the people are finally about to enter the Promised Land. And how will it go? Moses has told them about God’s covenant blessings and curses—in short, if they obeyed, life was going to be very good. But if they rebelled, they’d suffer the fierce anger of the LORD. How will it go? Moses doesn’t know, Joshua doesn’t know, Israel doesn’t know, because the future is hidden behind God’s curtain. These are the secret things of the LORD.

Even so, it’s really comforting to confess that they belong to God. It’s not as if He doesn’t know, as if He’s just guessing how it will turn out. It’s not as if the future is out of his hands. He knows. God has a plan—He has a good plan for you personally, for your family and for our congregation and for his kingdom. He has seen behind that curtain, and He’s directing it all! And that means when the future looks uncertain, or we just wish we knew what the five-year plan was for us, we carry on in faith. Facing the unknown, we rest in the LORD.

But there’s more to say, because some of God’s will is in fact revealed to us. Moses mentions that too: “those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (v 29). In his Word, God has told us many things. He has given us his holy commands and his steadfast promises. God has told us the good things that He delights in—and the things we should delight in—like justice, mercy, purity, obedience, and love. He has given us this book, which is so rich with insights, so loaded with wisdom.

So what do we do with what we’ve learned about the LORD? We certainly don’t know everything about God’s will or about the Bible, but what we know, we have to use. These things “belong to us,” says Moses, “that we may do all the words of this law.” We have to act on it. Keep his commandments in everything you do. Build on his promises as you go forward. Apply the Word of God widely in your life. Don’t just be a hearer, but a doer.

This is what the third petition is all about: Do we carry out what we know is pleasing to the Lord? This is what gets blessed. And again, searching for the will of the Father isn’t a mysterious and perplexing activity, like we have to wait for signs or shivers or some other special revelation. God has spoken to us, revealed his will clearly on so many points, in his Word, through the guidance of the Spirit.

Here we need to see the will of God in close relationship to the character of God. That is, think of who God is. He is our Father. He is our Saviour. He is the God who covenants with us, who has founded a living relationship with us in Christ. So will God not command what is best for us? As our loving Father, He wants to see us follow a good and reliable path. He will direct us toward love and good works, toward safety and peace, and a reward that lasts forever.

Like the Catechism puts it so simply, yet powerfully: “[God’s] will alone is good.” We’re saying that God always knows best, his way is the excellent way. As Job once declared, “With him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding” (12:13). If God has given us a commandment in his Word, if He has laid upon us an office and calling, if He has assigned a task to us, then we can know that this is right.

It’s probably going to be hard, because obedience often is. Denying yourself sexual pleasure is hard. Forgiving your father is hard. Reaching out to the needy person is hard. Being gentle with your wife is hard. Admonishing a brother or sister for their sin is hard. Doing God’s will can be hard. But it will be right. God says it will be beneficial to us and pleasing to him.

 

3) carrying out the duties of our office and calling: Good role models are valuable. Think of the benefit of someone setting a strong example for us, like a mother to her daughter, or a tradesman to his apprentice. For doing God’s will, we have good role models too; as the Catechism puts it, “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).

So what makes the angels good role models? We see in Scripture that when God wants something done, He sends an angel. The holy angels do the will of God faithfully, they do it promptly, they do it eagerly. We pray that God would help us to do his Word, readily and eagerly and consistently, like the angels in heaven.

And in its lesson, the Catechism refers to our “office and calling.” Would you say that you have a calling? We tend to connect that term to certain specific tasks, like being called to the ministry, or to teaching covenant children, or working on the mission field. And if you don’t have a calling like this, we say, then maybe your work is less significant.

Instead, we focus on the idea of a career: a full-time and permanent position doing a particular task. The experts say that maybe you will have two or three or four careers in your lifetime. A career is something you have, but a calling is something that you are. And it is what you are, for life.

It’s interesting that the Bible rarely speaks of calling in the sense that we use it, in relation to those very particular jobs in church or kingdom. In Scripture, ‘calling’ is almost always simply the calling of the gospel, the calling to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to serve him where you are. And that’s a calling for everyone.

Yes, God calls you. He calls you with his Word. God calls you through your baptism. He calls you every Lord’s day in the preaching. If you’re listening for it, Christ keeps calling, day after day. He calls you to trust in him, and to obey him through sacrifice and service.

Take 2 Thessalonians 1, for example, where it says, “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness and the work of faith with power” (v 11). Paul urges the Thessalonian believers, and all believers, to be worthy of this calling, and that is the calling of doing God’s good pleasure.

And for what purpose? Verse 12: “That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him.” That’s the grand purpose of our life—that’s our calling—to glorify God in the particular place that He has put us, to serve him with the gifts He has given.

You’re a mother in the home. You’re a student at university. You’re a business owner, an accountant, an electrician. You’re a neighbour. You’re father, a son, a daughter, and grandparent. You’re an elder or a deacon. God has assigned you a place in this life, and it is here that you must “walk worthy of his calling.” Don’t dream of doing great things for God in some other place, but do them where you are today. Even in the small things, show that you belong to the Lord Jesus, and that your purpose is to do his will.

Our career might change. Our circumstances will change in the home, or in our health, or in this country. But this remains the same: we have this calling from God our Saviour to do his will, to his glory. We can add some colour to that by underlining another part of the Catechism’s answer. We have a calling, and we have an office. We’re reminded of Lord’s Day 12, which speaks about the three-fold office of Christ, and the three-fold office of Christians. If you belong to Christ, then you share in his work as a king, and prophet, and priest.

In the Old Testament, it was very rare for one person to have more than one office: if you were a priest, then that was more than enough work, or if you were a prophet, your life would be consumed with that activity. So it’s amazing that God entrusts to us this triple-task: speaking of his name to others, presenting ourselves to God in worship, fighting against the power of the evil one wherever he encroaches.

You understand that an assignment this big isn’t just a job, it’s an entire life and identity. It means that we get to be totally occupied with doing God’s will. It means that day by day, wherever we are, in whatever relationships God has put us, we can be focused on glorifying the name of Christ. That’s your office. That’s your calling.

No, we don’t have a lot of resources in ourselves: we’re not very strong, not very smart, not very faithful. But we rest on God. He enables us, strengthens us, guides us. If we pray for help in carrying out his will, He’ll answer us. He will teach us his will, and He’ll help us to do his will. That’s his promise.    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 2021, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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