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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Come Before Your Heavenly Father
Text:LD 46 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Glory of the Father
 
Added:2022-01-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Romans 8

Lesson: Lord’s Day 46

 

COME BEFORE YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER:

  1. Recognizing Your Privilege

  2. Recognizing His Parentage

  3. Recognizing His Position

 

  1. Psalm 135: 1, 2, 10

  2. Psalm 90: 1, 2, 7

  3. Hymn 72: 1, 2

  4. Hymn 1

  5. Psalm 29: 1, 3

  6. Hymn 72:3-5

 

Words to Listen For: strange, together, unheard, writer, foundation

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is one of the most important ways that God is different from the Queen of England?

  2. What are some of our privileges laid out in Romans 8?

  3. Why don’t we need to “check our privilege” ?

  4. Was God “Father” in the Old Testament?  Explain.

  5. What is the humility aspect of God being in heaven? The thankfulness aspect?

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


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

How many of you have had this conversation…on either side of it…

Why do we have to dress up for church?

Well, if you were meeting the queen, you’d dress up for her, right?  God is the King of the Universe, surely He deserves at least the same amount of respect as the Queen of England!

I’m thinking that many of you have probably heard this argument before.

And I’m not going to try to dismantle it this afternoon, as there are good elements to this argument.  We should absolutely be respectful and reverent before our God.  After all, as we sang in Psalm 90: before the mountains were brought forth and grounded, and you the earth and world had formed and founded, from everlasting stood your holy throne; to everlasting you are God alone.

We MUST NOT and CAN NOT appear CASUALLY before Him.  For what do we read in Scripture?

  • Elijah, when encountering God, covered his face with his cloak.
  • The seraphim in the heavenly throne room, beings of immense power and holiness themselves, covered their faces with 2 of their six wings - for God is HOLY HOLY HOLY.
  • The tax collector would not even look up to God, but beat his breast as he prayed.  When we come before our God in prayer, we bow our heads.

We RECOGNIZE that we are not worthy in ourselves.

Even though we have been welcome in to the family of God by the amazing work of Christ…even though God IS OUR FATHER…this is not license to approach Him casually, in a laid-back manner as though you were talking to your buddy.

In a lot of ways, approaching God IS like approaching the Queen of England.

And yet…there is one very important way that they are different here.

Not sure if you know this, but there is a highly-developed protocol when it comes to meeting royalty…you must bow or curtsy before the King and Queen, you only speak when spoken to, and, if you have the opportunity, you must begin your speaking with the words “Your Majesties,” and…above all…do not touch them!  And here is where our God is different.

Though we must refer to Him respectfully, there are various titles that He has given us - God Almighty, Sovereign Lord, Heavenly Father…as well as His personal name: Yahweh.

God loves it when we approach Him in prayer, beginning our day and ending our day before Him.

And, what is most different of all - and I’m going to say it is a bit of a strange way so that you remember it - our God loves being touched.  Our God loves being touched.

For the Queen or the King, if there are touched, the idea is that the common people might seek to hurt the royalty, or might corrupt or dirty the royalty.  But our God has no such concerns.  Instead, He is the exact opposite.  He loves being touched.

Because with God…we have no power to corrupt Him.  With God, the power dynamic goes in the opposite way.  Think of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years…when she touched the robe of Jesus…HE was not made UNCLEAN, but SHE was HEALED.  The same for every leper He touched.  The power went the other way.  The power of healing was greater than that of corruption.

And this is how it is for us today too - our God loves to be touched, because that is how He heals.  We come to Him, like a child whose hands are sticky with paste…and instead of retreating, He takes us in His arms and cleans us off.

Except…in this example…our paste isn’t paste.  Our paste is sin.  And sin, when it comes in contact with God…is obliterated.

Our God loves to heal us. Our God loves to forgive us.  Jesus Christ is ecstatic when you come to him with your sins…because, in forgiving you, in healing you…He is healing His own body - His beloved bride…the church.

So, this afternoon,

COME BEFORE YOUR GOD: Come before Him

  1. Recognizing Your Privilege,

  2. Recognizing His Parentage, and

  3. Recognizing His Position

As we come before God, we must, first of all, recognize our privilege.

Now, we hear this word thrown out a lot: “privilege.”  But what does it actually mean?  As we heard this morning, there is power in words.  There is power in the words we use, and there is power in the meaning of words.  So what does “privilege” really mean?

It has COME TO MEAN something tied up completely with the colour of one’s skin, and whether someone is a man or a woman.  Privilege has become something synonymous with inequality.  The definition of the word has been changed.

But initially, for all of history up until about 5 seconds ago, privilege referred to a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favour.  Privilege wasn’t a bad thing, it wasn’t granted indiscriminately to everyone, and it wasn’t granted discriminantly to one particular race.  But the privilege was granted to individuals, from above.

And we, as Christians, are those who have been granted a great privilege.  A unique privilege that no non-Christian has…but…at the same time…a privilege that is offered, indiscriminately, to everyone.  No matter the colour of your skin…whether you are man or woman or child, no matter what you’ve done…you have access to this privilege.

The privilege is this…the catechism puts it this way: God has become our Father through Christ.

And though this is accurate and amazing in itself, the catechism puts it in a factual, action-related way.  God has BECOME.

But the same truth, from an IDENTITY point of view…well…this we read in Romans 8, and it hits our ears and settles in our hearts in a different way…

Romans 8:14 - For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

John puts it this way: to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God

Well this is a great right indeed!  A great privilege, that isn’t immediately obvious to us when we pray the Lord’s prayer.

IF GOD IS OUR FATHER…then BY NECESSITY…WE ARE HIS CHILDREN!  If God is our Father, we are His children.  And what a privilege this brings us.

This week, as I examined Romans 8 and studied it, I found 8 privileges to spiritual sonship just in this one chapter.  We have the privileges of Freedom, Comfort, Assurance, Family Resemblence, Intimacy, Authority, Discipline, and Immortal Hope.  We do not have time to go through them all this afternoon, but we will examine four of them together.

As God’s children we have been given

The privilege of FREEDOM.

You did not receive the spirit of slavery…but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons!

Like everyone else, we were born into slavery.  A slavery that we are not immediately aware of, a slavery that doesn’t include physical chains, but a slavery of our soul to sin.  But through Christ…we have received the Spirit of adoption as sons.  We are NO LONGER SLAVES!  What a privilege!

We also have

The Privilege of COMFORT

You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear

Fear has to do with punishment, but perfect love casts out fear.  And, as children of God, we are desperately loved.  We are perfectly loved.  We no longer have to fear.  We do not fear Hell, for this world is the closest a Christian can ever get to Hell.  We do not fear God’s wrath, for it was completely poured out on the cross.  As sons of God, we have been freed from fear and can come before God boldly.  When we do fear, we are reminded that we do not need to fear, because of who we are.

And that leads us into our next privilege…

The Privilege of ASSURANCE

the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

When we are strong, when we are in a good place spiritually, all doubt is banished.  But we all know that there will be a day when we are weak.  And when we are weak, when we doubt if we can be considered children of God, when our sins accuse us of not being worthy, the Spirit Himself acts as our defense.  He holds us by the hand and dries our tears and reminds us that, yes…we ARE still sons.  YES, we are still dearly loved.

And, as dearly loved sons, we have

The Privilege of a Family Resemblance.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 

We have been welcomed in to the family, and though we do not all have the same chin or cheekbones, the same waistline or hairline…we begin to look alike.  Not just with each other, but we are all remade after the image of Jesus Christ.  We look like Him in His life - showing care for widows and orphans and living a pure and holy life - following true religion.  We look like Him in His death - suffering for what is true and right.  And we will look like Him in His glory - with an incorruptible body, and a perfect sinless soul.

 

These privileges, and all the rest…they come to us because of that little statement in the catechism: God has become our Father through Christ.

It is a short statement, but it is a statement full of joy and hope.  God has become our Father!  To be sure, He is Father to the whole world in terms of creation…but in terms of redemption…where His Fatherhood shines out so clearly…this is a privilege only given to Christians.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is an adoption story.  We were adopted…not from an orphanage, but from a grave.  God saw us…helpless, hopeless, DEAD in our sins…and brought us to Himself.

God has become our Father through Christ.

Through the death of Christ, we were washed, we were sanctified, we were justified, we were welcomed in, not just to the HOUSE OF GOD, but into His HOME.  Not as strangers, not as guests, but as children.  As sons and daughters of the Most High God!  This is who we are as Christians…this is our privilege.  And we don’t need to “check our privilege” because others don’t have it…we need to welcome others in to the same privilege!  These privileges are available for every single person!  Let us recognize it, rejoice in it, and invite others to do the same!

We are children of God, and He is our Father.  Our second point.

You might wonder what else there is to say about the Fatherhood of God that hasn’t already been covered in our first point.  And that’s fair.  But every coin has two sides.  And that is true here as well.  We are God’s children, and He is our Father.

It is more than what we “get out of God” - it is His person.  It is His character.  It isn’t so much who WE ARE…but who HE IS.

Father is a title that our God has given Himself, and it is a title given all throughout Scripture.  We seem to have this idea that referring to God as Father was UNHEARD OF in the Old Testament, and that Jesus brought something BRAND NEW to the table…but that’s not exactly true.  Through the New Testament refers to God as Father MORE OFTEN, and with MORE INTIMACY…God called Himself Father in the Old Testament too - a handful of times.

In Jeremiah and Malachi, God refers to Himself as Father.

In Isaiah and Deuteronomy, Israel is seen to acknowledge that God is their Father.

God as Father is not BRAND NEW to the New Testament.

And yet, the Fatherhood of God is brought to stark clarity in the New Testament.  Compared to the handful of times in the Old Testament, the New Testaments boasts over 200 references to God as Father, most of them in the writings of the Apostle John.

But other than the occurrences increasing, what else is different for us?  How has the richness of God’s Fatherhood increased for us in the New Covenant?

Well…in exactly that.  The FATHERHOOD.

Because there is far more to fatherhood than fathering.  Fathering a child is easy.  Hundreds of thousands of babies are conceived each day.  But being a child’s biological father does not necessarily mean that fatherhood is a given.  There are absent fathers, there are cruel fathers, abusive fathers, there are fathers who die before they ever see their children.

 

In the Old Testament, God’s role was seen mostly as that of FATHERING.

Jeremiah 31 - I am FATHER to Israel, Ephraim is my firstborn

Isaiah 64 - O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong…I am not suggesting that God was LESS LOVING in the Old Testament.  I am not suggesting for a moment that God was an absentee Father in the Old Covenant, and sort of “grew into His own”  in the New…not at all.

But rather, what I want to bring out is that the nation of Israel had an understanding of God that was more focused on SOVEREIGNTY than on AFFECTION.  God was POWERFUL in their minds.  He was HOLY.  He was DISTANT, removed from them by the sacrificial system.  Removed from them by the priestly order.

God’s love for His people has always been overwhelming.  God’s love for His people has always been central to who He is…but it wasn’t always RECOGNIZED in this way.

But, through Christ, God has revealed Himself to us MORE OBVIOUSLY as our Father.  Not just our progenitor…not just as the source of our existence…but He revealed the lengths He would go to bring us to Him.  God the Son revealed to us God the Father, and brought us back.  He sent us His Son, He sent us His Spirit, He has called us His children, showing us more love and grace, more sympathy and mercy, than we have ever been shown by anyone else.

God showed us the template for Fatherhood.  He showed us the perfect blend of strength and gentleness that should be found in every father.  He showed us the perfect blend of patience and encouragement.

One writer puts it like this: God is the kind of Father you wish you had.

  • God is the kind of father who always has time for you - He is never too busy

  • God is the kind of father who never gets angry at you - He is always patient

  • God is the kind of father who will always welcome you onto His lap - He is never cold or distant

God is the kind of father that you wish you had…and…through Jesus Christ…YOU DO HAVE HIM!  HE IS YOURS!

You are welcomed into His throne room and onto His lap, despite your sticky hands, despite your smell, despite the rumpled state of your clothing.

This is our Father.  He is infinitely approachable, He is infinitely loving, He is infinitely gracious.  And yet…He is infinitely holy too.  He is infinitely glorious.  And so, in our prayers and in our lives, we must also recognize His position.  Our final point.

With our God’s GRACE comes His GLORY.

With His HOSPITALITY comes His HOLINESS.

Our God is not the Queen of England, shrinking back from the touch of a mere commoner…but He is still royalty.  He is royalty in a far bigger way than the Queen.  Her power and privilege come as a result of nearly 1200 years of tradition.  Of pomp and circumstance.  But our God’s power and privilege have always existed.  There has never been a time when they were not.  Our God was King even before there was a universe to govern.

Our God wasn’t BORN INTO His position.  He doesn’t have this power because of a particular bloodline, but He has all of this, He IS all of this, because of His character.  Because of WHO HE IS.  I AM WHO I AM.

And though we may come FREELY into His throne room, though we do not have to tremble in fear, wondering if He might reject us, we also must come REVERENTLY.  We must never casually stroll in, we must not begin our prayers with the “Hey God” of modern evangelicals.  This is not proper, this is not appropriate behaviour for Christians who truly know God.

As the catechism beautifully asks and answers:

Why is there added, “in heaven?”

These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty in an earthly manner

God is our Father.  There is no question about that.

God’s love for us is sure.  We need not doubt it.

But God is in Heaven, we must remember this.

 

We must approach our God with the reverence and respect and worship that is due His name.

It is as we sang before the sermon - You turn us back to dust when life is ended, for so you in these very words commanded: “Return to dust, O mortals.”  Thus we perish.

By the command of God’s voice, our lives are ended.

But that’s nothing!  By the sound of God’s voice, this world came into being!  God almost literally breathed out constellations and galaxies!

We must learn from the lesson of Job - when he tried to call God to account, when he tried to raise himself to be God’s equal, God came down in might and splendour:

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

YOU ARE NOT GOD JOB.  THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD, AND HE’S NOT YOU.

Verse after verse after verse, God displays His power and glory.  Verse after verse after verse, for 126 verses God lays into Job with question after question - were you there?  Do you understand?  Are you the one who controls the earth?  WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, JOB?

And Job has no answer.  He said: I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

And then, our God, so gracious and merciful, so full of love…shows Himself to be, not only HEAVENLY, but a FATHER.  Job needed both, as do we.

Job is reminded that, even though he is a human being, so far below God…that he is a human being with whom God is pleased.  He is a human being who can approach God, not on his own strength, but through sacrifice and humility.  Job was instructed to pray for his friends and sacrifice for them.  Job could enter the throneroom of God, now that he had been humbled.

And then, as a Father loves to bless His children, to give them good gifts…as our catechism says:

We should expect from His almighty power all things we need for body and soul…

In the lesson of Job, we see God stretch out His mighty hand in blessing.  Job received twice the riches that he had before.

Our God is in Heaven, beloved, and we are on earth.  We must recognize this - in humility and in thankfulness.

We must be humbled before God’s Heavenly power, but we must be endlessly thankful for His Heavenly love.  For our God’s glorious and holy position means that all of His attributes, which might be so weak among us, are PERFECT.

Earthly fathers love…and sometimes their love grows cold.  But not God.  Earthly fathers discipline…and sometimes they go too far, and other times not far enough.  But not God.  Earthly fathers can show only justice or mercy.  But not God.  Our God is our HEAVENLY FATHER.  He is in a completely different category.

And this is what must be the FOUNDATION of our prayer.  We must recognize who God is.  A God who is both loving and powerful.  A God who is both our Father - accessible, loving, caring, AND Heavenly - glorious, mighty, all-powerful.

And we must truly recognize who WE are - human beings who are both sinful AND saints.  As human beings who were desperately LOST, and who are now desperately LOVED.

He is our Father, and we are His children.

AMEN.




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

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