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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:Gratefully Counting the Cost of Our Deliverance
Text:LD 5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-08-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 118:1,5                                                                                      

Hy 1

Reading – Psalm 49; Ephesians 2:1-18

Ps 49:2,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 5

Ps 130:1,2,3,4

Hy 26

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


Brothers and sisters, we put a lot of value onto those things for which we’ve paid a dear price. You hold onto a possession and you protect it because you’ve paid your own hard-earned money. That’s a lot different than if you picked up something nice from thrift store recently. You take it home, but in the end, it didn’t cost much, so you don’t feel bad about throwing it out!

When it comes to God’s grace, the same truth applies: we value those things the greatest for which a high price has been paid. Now, grace is free, by definition. God’s forgiving love is given without any thought for a person’s merit or worth. Salvation is bestowed as a free gift on the undeserving sinner. God asks no price in return.

Grace is free, but that doesn’t mean that it’s cheap. Of course, no one would ever say God’s grace is ‘cheap.’ You’d never see a sign in front of a church advertising: “Come Here for a Message of Cheap Grace.” But when we stop appreciating just how amazing his gift is, it is cheapened. Sometimes we think of grace as something that God just does: He has to show grace to sinners because it’s his job. If we don’t pause and think about what it took for God to forgive us, we’re left with a grace that is thin and one-dimensional.

And then what? We probably won’t be thankful. We won’t flee from sin and run to Christ. And we won’t give glory to God. As Paul might put it, taking grace for granted really “shows contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience” (Rom 2:4). Instead, it is good for us to count the high cost of our deliverance.

The Bible’s teaching on the price of our salvation is summarized in Lord’s Day 5. Here we will see that God’s grace is certainly free, but its cost is immeasurably high. I preach God’s Word to you on this theme, 

In gratitude we count the high cost of our deliverance:

  1. the full payment is needed
  2. many payers are excluded
  3. only one Payer is accepted

 

1) full payment is needed: With Lord’s Day 5 we arrive at the second section of the Catechism, concerning Our Deliverance. We dealt with Our Sin and Misery for only three Lord’s Days, yet perhaps by the end you’d already had enough of the doom and gloom. We’re relieved that today we can move on, ‘turning the page’ on our sin: on to deliverance!

But I want you to notice how the Catechism begins its question: “Since, according to God’s righteous judgment we deserve temporal and eternal punishment…” (Q&A 12). It sounds like we’re diving headfirst back into the misery! Yet this is the right way to start, with proper humility before the throne of God. We begin our search for grace with a confession of guilt: “In your sight, O God, we are sinners. In your sight, I justly face the sentence of death.”

That should actually be our perspective every day that we’re alive—because if you know that you deserve ‘temporal and eternal punishment,’ you’ll see everything other than death as a true gift from God—and as a true reason for thanks.

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he too, was eager to get on with the message of deliverance. For this was a congregation of former Gentiles who had been lost in sin, even as Paul and every other Jew and human being had been lost.

Paul wants to tell them about the good news of free grace in Christ Jesus, yet where does he begin? “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…” (Eph 2:1). He is quick to remind them of the misery they came from. And a bit later Paul confesses of himself and everyone, “[We] were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (v 3).

Lord’s Day 4 tells us about this wrath of God, that He is justly angry with sin. Because the law of God expresses who He is, because it reveals what is important to him, the LORD is upset with those who break his law. He is ‘terribly angry’ with sinners.

I think that when we sin, we are often focused on how it makes us feel. When I sin, I feel a burden of guilt, and I don’t like that. Or when I sin in my relationships, there is often a consequence that I have to deal with. My sin typically leads to some kind of trouble, and I lose my sense of peace. We sometimes hate to sin because of how it affects us.

But let us always remember sin’s effect on God. How does God feel about our sin? What does He think about what we have done? The truth is, God is holy, so He is deeply offended when we break his law. It hits close to home for God.

This is why we should tremble before God’s greatness. This holy God holds our eternal destinies in the palm of his hand. So knowing that we are sinners in his sight and deserve wrath, we wonder: Can we ever be saved? Can we live? We can! But what is it going to take? That’s what the Catechism wants to explore with us.

And I’d like you to notice how the Catechism asks the question in two parts: “How can we escape this punishment?” And, “[How can we] be again received into favour?” (Q&A 12) For the two not the same: escaping punishment, and being received into favour.

First, we need to escape punishment. In God’s courtroom, the charge is brought against sinners, you and me. After all the evidence of sin is considered, and all the arguments are heard, the Judge makes his decision. We are guilty as charged. And then God hands down the sentence that we’re expecting: eternal death. This punishment have to be carried to its fullest. There will be no early release for good behaviour, no parole, no day-pass, not until it’s paid completely.

So imagine that somehow, somewhere, God’s punishment has been carried, the price paid. Now for the second part of the question: How can we again be ‘received into God’s favour?’ In other words, if our penalty was taken care of, could God look on us with love from that point onwards? Can we have fellowship with God again, where He regards us with favour? No!

For the very moment that we are released, we would sin against our Creator again. Immediately we would be back under his just sentence. Like those criminals who will reoffend the very same day that they’re done their time: they need a car to get home from prison, so they go and steal one.

The Catechism says that the justice of God must be fully satisfied. And it’s satisfied only when his demands are met to the fullest degree. For there are two things we owe to God. For our past sins, we owe him the total penalty. And for the present (continuing into the future), we owe him our loving obedience.

It’s a tall order, a high cost—for any human, it’s impossible. In order to escape God’s punishment and be again received into favour, the Catechism says that “must make full payment” (Q&A 12). And we can’t do it. That’s because money or time or prayer or knowledge—or anything else we bring to the table—is not able to satisfy his justice fully.

The sons of Korah tell us about this truth in Psalm 49. It’s a song teaching us about rich fools. Why were the fools such fools? They thought that money could buy happiness. They thought that money could save their souls from the grave, maybe even protect them from God’s justice. They “trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches” (v 6). A lot of people think the same way today. It’s one of the most natural things, to put your trust in wealth and possessions. In my money and assets, I’ve got a strong tower.

And even if we’re not considered wealthy by the world’s standards, this is a real danger. No, we wouldn’t think that our car can save us from sin. We’d never pray to our retirement fund at night. But the attractiveness of worldly things distracts us. We can feel so secure in our earthly position that we don’t see how much we owe to God. When our life is full of expensive things, when there so many other things that we value, God’s grace can start to seem cheap: nice but not that necessary.

Psalm 49 teaches us to look at things rightly. Speaking about earthly riches, it says, “None of [the wealthy] can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him—for the redemption of their souls is costly” (vv 7-8). We should never let this truth depart from our minds: the redemption of souls is costly. It’s such a high price.

What will it take for you to be released from sin? If you will live—escaping God’s punishment and being received into favour—the full price is needed. Yet the full price remains outstanding against our account. 

 

2) many payers are excluded: Later we will sing Psalm 130. It’s a beautiful song, but it asks a tough question: “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” What does it mean about standing before the LORD?

When a king in ancient times sat on his throne, people of all varieties would be brought into his presence to present their case. And though the king was always higher, seated on his throne, it was an old friend or loyal supporter who could stand before the king. Only those who had done the king a favour or who’d paid him a valuable gift—only they could stand and expect a listening ear and a gracious response.

But the poor, the outcasts, the unconnected, they would not dare stand in the king’s presence. Who were they, and what had they ever done for the powerful lord? So they’d be on the floor before him, bowed down—even with their face to the floor.

And when a criminal or prisoner of war was called before the throne for judgment, the self-humiliation would be even deeper. He would throw his entire body down, flat on the cold tiles, that the king might have mercy and spare his life. Maybe the king’s heart would be softened by this sorry sight, or maybe it wouldn’t.

“If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” We cannot, and we dare not stand in God’s presence. We cannot claim to be a loyal supporter of the King. Rather, He knows all about our sinful past, and He knows what we owe him.

We can’t pay our penalty, neither can we earn God’s favour. Think for a moment about the unmerciful servant in that parable in Matthew 18. He was the one graciously forgiven a debt of millions of dollars, yet he couldn’t forgive his brother’s small debt. In the end he thrown into in prison until he could pay back all he owed. The parable doesn’t tell us whatever happened to that ungrateful servant in prison, but you can be sure of this: he never got out. He owed simply too much money. “The redemption of his souls was costly” (Ps 49:8). No payment is ever enough.

Yet we are stubborn and we like to think we can pay at least a little of the cost. That’s probably always in the Christian’s heart, even just sub-consciously. It’s the thought that we can put things right by our own effort. We know that we sinned in the past, but maybe we can start to balance that out today by self-denial and service. Impress God with our giving! Be good to God, and He’ll be good to us.

If you’re going to earn God’s favour, then you need to be in church. And be nice to your neighbours and serve your family. Don’t swear or drink too much. Read your Bible, pray every day. Those are rules that we can keep! And if we complete the requirements, that will cause God to smile on us. Won’t these good things go on a spreadsheet somewhere, and won’t they give us a positive balance? You’d think so.

But consider the true cost of our salvation. It is not financial cost, able to be paid with our money. It’s not a devotional cost, able to be paid through our prayers or Bible knowledge. It is not a temporal cost, paid for with time. It is not physical cost, covered by our suffering.

In God’s justice, there is a legal cost. We must bear the punishment of his holy law, and we must perfectly keep the demands of his law. So the Catechism asks, “Can we by ourselves make this payment?” And it answers, “Certainly not… [for] we daily increase our debt” (Q&A 13). We can never get away from it, because sin is so wrapped up in who we are and what we do. The bankrupt person is never going to be able to pay his own way.

Is there then no help for what we owe to God? The Catechism did say that payment could be made, “either by ourselves or by another” (Q&A 12). If someone or something could legally stand in our place, if someone could fill the measure of God’s justice fully, we could again be received into his favour.

Either by ourselves or by another… So the Catechism asks, “Can any mere creature pay for us?” (Q&A 14). Could an animal do it, maybe man’s best friend? An animal can suffer, an animal can be killed, but an animal cannot endure the heat of God’s anger. Even if animal blood was able to take away God’s wrath, animals wouldn’t be killed for the sake of sin. Not because of what the Humane Society might say, but because of what God’s Word clearly says. It’s summarized in the Catechism, “God will not punish another creature for the sin which man has committed” (Q&A 14).

Given the bill for what is owed to God for my sin, I must confess I cannot do it. Neither can any other sinner or any other being who walks this earth. “The redemption of the souls is costly.” The full cost of our deliverance remains outstanding.

 

3) only one Payer is accepted: Coming to the last Q&A of this Lord’s Day, you might almost expect desperation. From an earthly point of view, every avenue has been explored and there’s still no answer for our problem. Who is able to help us sinners appear before the righteous God? Yet there is hope.

For there is a telling transition. Throughout the Lord’s Days on our sin and misery, and even into this first Lord’s Day on our deliverance, we stood very much on our own. Alone we faced the accusation of breaking God’s commandments. Alone we saw the evidence that we were once able to obey but did not. Alone we heard the verdict of guilty. Alone we were expected to bear the just penalty for our guilt. One is the loneliest number.

But in this last Q&A there appears beside us, almost out of nowhere, “a mediator and a deliver.” Deliverance has been provided by God himself. In his grace, God will accept us if someone pays what we could not. “What kind of mediator and deliverer must we seek?” (Q&A 15). He is a mediator who brings the hostile sides together. He brings them together not through diplomacy and compromise and reassuring words. That’s what we expect of mediators today: they are people who can smooth things over. But for God there is no compromise: He still demands that his just requirements be met: full punishment and full obedience! This is the high cost of our deliverance, and only payer is accepted.

Our mediator isn’t introduced until Lord’s Day 6, but his identity is no secret. We read in 1 Timothy 2, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all men” (v 5).

Christ gives himself as a ransom for all people, and the ransom for even one life comes at a cost that we cannot understand! The cost breakdown is as simple and as profound as this for each of us: one curse to be carried; one eternity to give; one life of perfect obedience to live. But Christ paid it in full, not just for one sinner, but for all who put their trust in him.

This is the uncountable cost which is completely paid. It is paid so that God on his throne can lift us up from the floor, stand us on our feet, and even welcome us to his table. In Christ, Psalm 49 is fulfilled: the redemption of souls is costly, “but God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, [and] He shall receive me” (v 15). Underline what it says: ‘God will redeem my soul.’ I can’t do it, but God will. I can’t pay it, but Christ has. He has rescued me from punishment and He has restored me to God’s favour.

So we belong to him, and we all have eternal value in his eyes. That’s a truth to hold onto, particularly when we still view our worth in terms of what we contribute. Are we active? Are we healthy? Are we in leadership? Then we reckon we have value, for we are doing things and accomplishing much.

But what if you’re not active and healthy? Sometimes our elderly members feel like they have no purpose and point, because their time of active service has ended. Sometimes those who are sick feel the same way, because they don’t get to contribute like others can. Or maybe you’re young, or maybe God hasn’t blessed you with a lot of obvious abilities—then we can think that we’re not worth very much. Our weaknesses have a way of lowering our value in the eyes of others, and in our own eyes.

But none of us has value in ourselves, for we all stand as beggars before God’s throne. Yet we all have immense value in his eyes. In spite of all our failings and struggles, the Lord Jesus did not purchase our life at a low bid. The ransom for a life is costly, and no higher price for us could ever have been paid than what He paid: his own life, his own precious blood, bearing our curse to the bitter end. You were saved not by cheap grace, but by grace of the highest price and the greatest worth.

Let this free yet costly grace give you a great confidence standing before God’s throne. When we know what it took to restore us to fellowship with God, we can be bold in prayer. We can be steadfast in faith. We can be of good courage in all our suffering.

And in our sin, even when sins sweep up to our necks and over our heads, we can know that God’s grace is not some passing feeling. It is not easy come, easy go. His grace is committed, established and firm, even when we are as unstable as the wind.

This free yet costly grace should make us humble servants. The unspeakable riches of his grace in Christ Jesus should make you humble before God, and humble before your brothers and sisters. Humble, because you know you couldn’t even pay a penny of what you owed. Not a penny—yet it is paid fully in Christ: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). So we want to thank God, and flee from all sin, and walk in holiness.

Remember to count the cost of your redemption. Don’t take God’s grace for granted, but each day, try to appreciate anew this great gift. Remember how Christ paid such a dear price to ransom your soul, so that you might belong to him, now and forever!  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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