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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
Title:Our Only Comfort
Text:LD 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 49

(No other liturgy supplied.)
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, this morning we have the privilege of starting afresh with the teachings of the Heidelberg Catechism (a systematic explanation of our Christian faith). As many of you know, the catechism is conveniently divided into 52 Lord’s Days, one Lord’s Day for every Sunday of the year.

While it’s true that many Reformed churches have abandoned the catechism both in the classroom and in the pulpit, the fact is for nearly 450 years (beginning in Germany in 1563) the catechism has served as an invaluable teaching tool for Christ’s church--for young and old alike; and for well over 300 years (ever since the Synod of Dordt in 1618-19) the catechism has been regularly preached in the Reformed churches.

So this document has endured the scrutiny of centuries of teaching and preaching. That fact in itself should be enough to commend it to our use once again; that should be enough to convince us that we really need to hear what the catechism has to say.

But beloved, there’s more to it than that. Mere antiquity does not render the catechism worthwhile and valuable. Wakes does make it so valuable? Why do we insist on preaching it (and teaching it) year after year? It’s because from beginning to end the catechism places before us that which is most vital to our faith and life: salvation in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

You see, the preaching and teaching of the catechism was never meant to be an intellectual exercise or scholastic endeavor. No. As we’ll see right away in Lord’s Day 1, and in every subsequent Lord’s Day, preaching and teaching the catechism is an exercise and expression of our personal and corporate faith.

It’s as if every Sunday the elders are sitting down with us in our living rooms on family visitation, and they are asking us directly and personally, "What is it that you believe?" And, we are required to echo back our response of true faith. For example, Lord’s Day 1 puts before us the question, "What is your only comfort in life and in death?"

That question goes out to each of us, head for head, grandparents and toddlers alike. There is no one who can crawl under their pew and dodge this question. It’s a question that hits every one of us right where we live, right where we work, right where we worship, right where we go to school. Every one of God’s children (everyone in the world) is in need of comfort.

But the real beauty and genius of the catechism is that while Lord’s Day 1 provides us with the response of faith, while it clearly identifies the source of our only comfort, the fact is, every Lord’s Day from here on out is dedicated to answering that question. The theme of comfort is carried forth into each and every Lord’s Day.

So in a sense, every Lord’s Day is about the child of God finding his perfect peace, joy and contentment with the comfort that only God can give. That is what we have to look forward to today, and in every Lord’s Day to come. So let’s begin anew this wonderful journey of our faith by considering LD 1. Here God’s Children find comfort in belonging to Jesus Christ.

We’ll explore 3 aspects of this comfort:
1) It is an Essential Comfort;
2) It is an Exclusive Comfort;
3) It is an Accessible Comfort.

1) It is an Essential Comfort;
People of God, in John 16:33, Jesus Christ told His disciples that in this world, they would have trouble. The trouble about which Jesus spoke had to do with the persecution and oppression that his disciples could expect as they went forth to preach the Gospel.

However, the warning which Jesus gave could easily be broadly applied to all mankind everywhere, without respect of age, race, color or creed. The fact is everyone in this world will encounter trouble. This world is hotbed of sorrow and sadness. This world is a breeding ground for pain and misery, for heartache and woe, for anguish and grief.

Friday afternoon I was reading the Chicago Tribune online edition, and the front page story reported the tragedy that struck the Oak Lawn High School baseball team. On April 4, one of their players collapsed during practice and died ten day later from an enlarged heart.

Just two days after this player’s death, a teammate was struck in the temple by a line drive and slipped into a coma. Grief counselors were working overtime to help family, friends and teammates of these two players cope with their anguish. That’s an example of ‘trouble’.

Or, think of the utter despair and brokenness of the family of little 9 year old Jessica Lundsford whose body was finally found last month after she was abducted and murdered by a convicted child molester. Imagine the sense of outrage and frustration of the parents as they discovered who her abductor was. How could the justice system allow a monster like this to be on the loose, preying on little children? This was a preventable tragedy. How horribly sad!

Think of the parents and siblings of Terry Shaivo, as a court order forced them to helplessly stand by and watch as Terry’s body gradually wasted away, until she finally died of starvation and dehydration. That’s heart-wrenching agony. That’s real trouble.

And beloved, when it comes to suffering, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. Since 2003, an estimated 180,000 people have been slaughtered in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Entire families and villages, women and children have been ruthlessly butchered.

In the same region, and in other areas of Africa, thousands dies each year from disease and starvation. Every day all over our world, thousands die from violence and crime; from natural tragedies like earthquakes, floods, storms; others die from fires, crashes, freak accidents. And just think of the pain and misery that people bring on themselves by living their own sinful, self-destructive lifestyles (they’re literally enslaved and their bodies consumed by their sin).

But beloved, I think we know very well, we don’t need to travel across the globe, or to search through the headlines to find suffering and heartache. We can find it right within our own lives. We, too, have experienced the heartache and sorrow and tragedy of losing a loved one.

We have many widows and widowers in our congregation, some of whom lost their spouse at a young age. We also have a number of parents in our congregation who have suffered through the terrible heartache of losing a son or a daughter.

As a parent, it breaks our hearts to hear such stories. It’s agonizing to even think about the prospect of losing one of your own children. Yet many have had to endure it. Then there are those among us who know the sufferings of cancer, or other afflictions, or chronic pain.

There are still others here who know the disappointment and pain of infertility or of miscarriages. There are those among us who have endured the heartache of rejection, who face the sorrow and emptiness of loneliness or suffering from depression. There are those among us who know the grief and anguish of watching a son or daughter, a grandson or a granddaughter wander from the faith, and show no love for Jesus Christ or for His Church.

Undoubtedly we have those among us who have been exposed to the torment and agony of divorce--seeing a marriage, a family ripped apart before our very eyes. You see the collateral damage-the children (nieces and nephews or your own grandchildren) who are used as leverage in a divorce. They even bear feelings of shame and guilt that it was all somehow their fault.

So while we can turn off our TV’s and put down the newspapers, the fact is, we cannot escape the pain and sorrow of this world. Trouble will eventually find us out. That’s the nature of the fallen word in which we live. When God pronounced a curse on Adam and Eve for their sin and disobedience, that curse fell on all of us, and on the very creation itself.

So the question put before us is quite appropriate. Notice, it’s not, "How can we avoid all trouble and remain happy all our days on earth?" No. The questioner, the inquirer, the elder in our living room is very wise. He knows what life is like. He knows that avoiding trouble in this life is impossible. True, there are many occasions of joy and happiness and gladness in our lives. (We don’t want to give the impression that life is all pain and sorrow and doom and gloom).

But the fact remains, what Jesus said it true. In this world we will have trouble. It is never far from us. So, the question is put to us, "What is your only comfort in life and in death?" The very question presupposes that we will face trouble. But more than that, the question asks, "Where do we turn for help, for relief, for comfort when trouble strikes"? "To whom, do we turn, so we can avoid being swept away or overcome by our troubles and sorrows"?

2) It is an Exclusive Comfort

So beloved, this is an essential comfort. This comfort is as crucial and critical to our well being as very air that we breathe. But now we consider next, this is an exclusive comfort. What is your only comfort in life and in death? (no list of options; just one source of comfort). That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

We should be aware that there are many man-made remedies that exist to alleviate or take our minds off the pain and sorrow in this world. We are a generation addicted to ‘pain killers’ of one variety or another. There’s no end to the ‘medications’ we take to help us escape our sorrows. But as is often the case, the cure is no better (sometimes worse) than the disease.

Millions of suffering people drown their sorrows in alcohol and beer; others seek to escape (sidestep) the pain and pressures of life by getting high on drugs. Others take their minds off their loneliness, their depression, their broken marriage by being promiscuous or by indulging in a lifestyle of decadent isolation-seeking out adult entertainment and pornography.

Meanwhile, wealthy and affluent people try to escape the troubles of life by insulating themselves, by surrounding themselves with opulence, luxuries, and extravagance. They have attained financial independence, so they do not fear hunger. They can afford the very finest medical care, so they do not fear sickness or disease. They have money to buy whatever they think might bring them happiness, so they never have to fear that they might suffer boredom or lack of purpose. Their money is their comfort, their cure from the sorrows of this world.

But as the Psalmist says in Psalm 49, "Look where all that wealth gets you?" What does it really buy in the end? (verses 10-12) all can see that the wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwelling for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.

So beloved, don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that all your problems would disappear if only you just had a little more money. I know that’s the way we feel sometimes. Who among us hasn’t thought that at one time or another-if we only made a few thousand dollars more! If only I had a million dollars, then my troubles would be over.

That’s a lie. That’s a false hope. That’s an empty comfort. Money as a security, as a comfort is just as empty, just as useless, just as hopeless as is every other manmade remedy. The problem with man, you see, is that he is blinded to his real problem. Man is too blind, too stubborn, too proud to admit what his real problem is (so his remedies always miss the mark!).

Man refuses to acknowledge that the nature of our trouble in this world is not physical, but it is spiritual. Man refuses to acknowledge that the root of all our heartache, the root of all our misery and pain and sadness and sorrow in this world is sin. Every murder, every sickness, every cancer, every death, every divorce, every accident, every decadent lifestyle, every sort of disorder or disability or disease is the result of the fact that we live in a sin cursed world.

It’s for this reason that the catechism gives the answer that is does-because it’s the only answer there is! The only comfort for body and soul, for life and for death is to know that ‘we belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ’. Jesus Christ is our sole comfort. He is our exclusive comfort. Nothing else in all the world that can soothe our sorrows or take a way our fears.

Everything else that man turns to for comfort can only numb the pain for a time, or make him forget his sorrow for a moment or two. But when we turn in faith to Jesus Christ our Lord, we realize that we finally have the comfort and hope that is real, that is lasting.

In Christ we have comfort that can bring cheer to our downcast souls; that can calm our troubles hearts; that can strengthen us when we are weary and worn by sadness and grief. In Christ we have joy and hope even when we’re facing a hopeless situation, even if it is a struggle that we know will end in death.

We have this comfort, because as the catechism puts it, we belong to Christ. In other words, we are not our own. We are no longer living out our lives as we see fit, pursuing the things that we think are important, seeking after that which we think will bring us happiness and joy and relief.

No, right here in Lord's Day 1, right at the outset, we make the good confession that we have given up our old ways of selfish living. We have given up all trust and confidence in ourselves. We confess that all our problems, all our pain and hurting and sorrow stems from living in this world of sin. Therefore the only way out, the only way to stem the tide of the crushing waves of sorrow and heartache, is to turn to the only One who can redeem us from this life of sin.

That One is Jesus Christ. Do you remember what else Jesus said to his disciples when he warned them that they would have trouble in this world? He also said, I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace...But take heart (be of good courage); for I have overcome the world!

In other words, Jesus told them exactly what we confess here in LD 1. In Him, we will find our peace. In Him we shall overcome the world of trouble and hardship and pain. And how is it that we can say that we "belong" to Jesus? How is it that we find our peace in Him? It’s because by God’s grace, Jesus Christ has purchased us for Himself.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, He has set me free (rescued me) from the tyranny of the devil (all his lies). He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly ready and willing from now on to live for Him.

That comfort ‘covers over’ our life of sin. No matter what we’ve said or done, no matter how much pain or sorrow or grief our sins have caused God or us, the fact is when we belong to Jesus Christ all our sins have been paid for, and we ought not carry around with us the shame and guilt and sorrow of our sins any longer.

Yes our sins still hurt us. Our sins have consequences, but the guilt, the shame, and the eternal consequences of our sins are no longer hanging over us. We’re free! And what’s just as glorious, just as comforting is the knowledge that we have been set free from Satan’s rule, to live our lives for Jesus Christ. Now, we live and die to the Lord; we are servants of righteousness.

This is exactly the point of those first two proof texts below this answer. There, the Apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 6: 19- 20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

And in Romans 14:7-9 Paul writes For none of us lives to himself alone, and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

So, not only our souls, but also our physical bodies belong to Jesus Christ; they are His possession. It ought to give us great comfort to know that our Savior cares about what happens to our bodies. He watches over us, he knows every illness, every sickness, every disease, and every ailment that afflicts us. Christ is not distant from us. He knows our every weakness.

And it ought to comfort us to know that Christ cares about whether we use our bodies for his glory and pleasure or our own sinful pleasure. Christ wants us to find true happiness and true joy and true comfort in life, and He knows that we will not find it by defiling our bodies, by abusing our bodies. We will only find true peace and joy by honoring Christ with our bodies.

We also find great comfort in this answer because it supplies us with the secret, the answer to the mystery that all people ask in the midst of their turmoil and troubles. Everyone asks why? Why did this have to happen? Why does this have to happen to me? Why does this have to happen to my little girl, to my son, to our family; to my wife; to my husband?

The answer (as footnoted below from Romans 8:28) is I know that all things must work together for our salvation. People in the world ask why because they do not have this comfort, they do not ‘own’ this hope. But as for you and me, we know the answer. But we must also have the faith to confide in this answer, to truly find our comfort in this answer.

So, if our little girl or our little boy dies tragically, we are going to have to find our trust and strength and hope in that answer. If our husband or our wife dies early in life, we are going to have to turn to that answer and find comfort in knowing that because I belong to Christ, even this heartache, even this sorrow will be turned to my profit, even this will result in the strengthening of my faith and in giving glory to my Savior, Jesus Christ.

These are not hollow words. These are not poetic clichés that are good to say and good to hear when we are consoling the bereaved at the funeral home or graveside. No. This is real and lasting comfort that we have, that we possess because we belong to Jesus Christ. And since we belong to Jesus Christ, we know that no one and no thing can ever take our comfort away.

No, in all these things (in all our trials, in all our sorrows, in all our weaknesses and woes, in all our adversities, in all our pain and misery) we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am conviced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now that’s comfort, beloved! There’s no other comfort like that anywhere else in the world. It’s an exclusive comfort that never fades, never tires, and never fails. Our comfort is that we find our hope and help outside of ourselves; we find it in our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

3) It is an Accessible Comfort

But to whom does such comfort belong? How does one go about finding this comfort and knowing this comfort? That is what question 2 seeks to explain. Here we will consider that this is an Accessible Comfort.

And, isn’t it interesting that our comfort comes through knowledge! What must you know to live and to die in the joy of this comfort? The Christian faith isn’t a mysterious religion that demands that all true adherents enjoy a mystical experience. No. The Christian faith is a faith that is based on knowledge-on the knowledge of and trust in God’s revealed Word. Faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see.

And in order to know the comfort of belonging to Jesus Christ, in order for you and me or anyone for that matter to live and die in the joy of this comfort, we must know and believe the truth about ourselves, and the truth about our Savior Jesus Christ as it is revealed in God’s Word.

The catechism summarizes the teachings of God’s Word as follows: First, I must know how great my sin and misery are; Second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; Third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

Those are the three things we must know. We cannot know one out of the three, or two of the three, we must know them all. And the beauty of it is, this knowledge is not hard to come by. It’s a knowledge that is accessible every Sabbath day when we hear God’s Word preached. It’s accessible whenever and wherever God’s Word is opened and read and the Spirit works.

This knowledge is equally accessible and equally comforting to all people everywhere. It makes no difference who you are, or where you’re from, or what your past is, what your present is like. This knowledge is the way to salvation. This knowledge is the way to Jesus Christ.

This threefold knowledge is the key to obtaining the only comfort there is for us, in all the world; the only comfort in life and in death, for body and for soul. Beloved, in this world you will have trouble. That is an inescapable reality. But the real question is this: Do you have the comfort you need to face those troubles, to endure and overcome those troubles? Do you have the comfort you need to find true peace and rest?


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2005, Pastor Keith Davis

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