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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:You Are Loved By God the Holy Spirit
Text:LD 20 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit
 
Added:2022-05-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Zephaniah 3: 9-20

Lesson: Lord’s Day 20

 

YOU ARE LOVED BY GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT!  WE EXPERIENCE:

  1. His Saving love

  2. His Staying love

  3. His Singing love

 

1. Psalm 107: 1, 4, 6, 12

2. Psalm 59: 1, 2, 4, 8

3. Hymn 78:1-5

4. Hymn 1

5. Psalm 139: 1, 2, 8, 13

 

Words to Listen For: university, whatever, warhorse, broken, street

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. How should we feel about the phrase that sets off our Reformed Radar?  What’s our challenge with it?  Is it legitimate?

  2. What is the Fall in two words?  What is Gospel in two words?

  3. What two things does the Holy Spirit do to save us, after uniting us with Christ by faith?

  4. Why does God sing over you?

  5. How does singing relate to shame?

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


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

There’s a phrase that has come to the surface in the last 20 years or so, a phrase that is popular for Christians to say.  It’s a phrase that sets off our “Reformed radar.”  We hear it, and we tense up.  Our spiritual self is in fight or flight mode.

The phrase?

Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship!

Now, whenever *I* hear this, there is a surprising amount of frustration that rises in me.  How can someone say that Christianity isn’t a religion?  What is a religion, but the service and worship of God?  Isn’t this saying just another way to claim that we can focus on the LOVE of God at the expense of our duty?

What about:

  • Promise and obligation!

What about:

  • Covenant!

  • Grace and Faith!

  • Our walk of thankfulness!

But the more that I think about it, the more that I wonder whether all of my negative reaction comes from that the first part of the saying:

Christianity ISN’T a religion.  Is it possible that some of it is a negative reaction to the second part?  Christianity isn’t a religion, IT’S A RELATIONSHIP.

Because...relationships are scary.  Relationships involve vulnerability.  Relationships involve every part of us.  Our mind AND our heart.  Viewing Christianity as a relationship treats our God as a PERSON rather than as a goal.  As a destination. And that's harder.

But ultimately, it’s not about easier or harder.  It’s about what is true.  So what does the Bible say?

Does Scripture explain Christianity like a university program, where you learn all that you have to learn, you tick off the boxes of creation, total depravity, unconditional election and irresistible grace…?

Should we look at the Apostles’ Creed as simply a list of 12 things that you need to tick off, and then after years of catechism instruction you get a piece of paper that says: 100% certified Christian?  And you’ve arrived?

Is Christianity more like this, or does the Bible explain it in a different way?  Is it more like...falling in love?

Where the disciples spent more and more time with Jesus, learning about Him, His plan of salvation, and experiencing His love?  Where it’s not about a formula, it’s not about legalism.  It’s not about a list of rules.

That’s not to say that our knowledge isn’t important.  You can’t love someone that you don’t know.  But I fear that we have it turned around in our heads.  We may think that Christianity is "Love with a destination."  Love with the destination of truth.

But it's love from day 1 into eternity.  It is truthful love, it is reverent love...God is still Creator and Ruler of the universe, not just your boyfriend.  But it’s still love.

So maybe we could say that Christianity is a religion AND a relationship.  Christianity...the GOSPEL...means that

YOU ARE LOVED BY GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT!  WE EXPERIENCE:

  1. His Saving love

  2. His Staying love

  3. His Singing love

 

 You are LOVED by the Holy Spirit.

God the Holy Spirit... who is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God.

The Holy Spirit is God.

This is assumed by Scripture.

In Genesis 1, right at the very beginning, when the earth was still formless and void and dark, who was there?  The Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit, hovering over the waters.

We will sing later in the service that the Holy Spirit is OMNIPRESENT, that is, He is everywhere at once.  A quality that only God has.

The Holy Spirit is God.

Scripture assumes it, and we can assume it too.

Because what we are focused on this afternoon is not about proving the reality of the Holy Spirit as God, but rather, we are focused on identifying and enjoying our relationship with God.  Realizing that it’s not supposed to be a burden.  That it is about love.  True love, reverent love, holy love...but love above all.

The Gospel is about saving love.

Our catechism puts it this way: 

He (that is, the Holy Spirit), He is...given to me to make me by true

faith share in Christ and all His benefits.

This is love.  Making us share in Christ.  Now, some of us may see this as a power trip from God…

The whole purpose of making us is for us to belong to God?  Share in Him?  Serve and worship Him?  The whole purpose is for us to make Him feel important and mighty and majestic?

If a human being did this, he or she would be diagnosed right away with narcissism, delusions of grandeur, and a whole host of other things.  But when God does it, it is totally different.  Let me explain.

Take a step back here with me.  Back before the Spirit was hovering over the formless watery earth.  All the way back into eternity.

There is this all-powerful, all-loving Being and He can do WHATEVER He wants.  So what is the most loving thing that He can do?

The most loving thing He can do is to use His endless creativity, His boundless love, His infinite power, and make something with it.  Make something beautiful.

And so He did!  He made light.  And then sky.  And then land.  But it was all empty!

So He began to fill it.  He filled the water with fish.  He filled the land with plants and animals.  He filled the sky with the sun during the day and the moon and the stars at night.

But there was still something missing.  There wasn’t anyone even remotely like God who could enjoy all this creation.  There wasn’t anything with an intellect.  With a soul.  With rational thought, capable of knowing itself, capable of knowing God, and interacting in a meaningful way.

And so God created humanity.  And He explained His creation.  He explained that you drink the water.  That you eat the fruits and vegetables, not the dirt or the flowers.  He explained that He was God and that He loved His creation.  That He wanted humanity to love it too.  That He wanted humanity to love Him.

And again, this wasn’t a power trip, but rather, this is the manufacturer telling the new owner how to use it.

And it was this beautiful paradise.  Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect harmony with God.  Perfect joy.  Perfect uninterrupted love.

BUT HUMANITY.

The Fall into sin can be described in those two words: BUT HUMANITY.

We fell.  We rebelled.  We insisted on our own way instead of God’s.  And there were consequences.  We fell into sin.  The relationship is now interrupted.  The love for God from our side is now unnatural and weak.

But then something amazing happened.

The BUT HUMANITY of the Fall was answered with the BUT GOD of the Gospel.  And He started to employ His plan of salvation.  His plan to restore humanity to what it once was.  To do even more than that...to make us pure and holy and righteous.  To make us heirs of His Kingdom!

We can hear of this salvation in our reading from Zephaniah.

Verse 11 - On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain.

There will be no shame for our rebellious deeds.  No punishment for our sinful disobedience.  

But how?  How can this take place?

It can happen because of who God is and what He has done.

The prideful sinners, those who love to do things their own way and continue to rebel, they will be removed.  Those who are haughty will not be on God’s holy mountain.  They will not be in His presence.

Now, this all seems a little harsh and simplistic, doesn’t it?

All of humanity fell into sin, we all, as a result, love to do things our way and rebel.  We are all haughty and prideful to a certain extent.  So God’s solution is simply to destroy all sinful people?  Then you have no more sinful people?  You have no people?  The earth is empty again?

Not quite.  Instead, God works by His Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out.  Because it’s true...we are all sinful people.  But God works so amazingly as to remove the sin.  To destroy the SIN and save the SOUL.  It is beautiful, it is gracious and merciful.  IT IS LOVING.

But God is also JUST.  He cannot let sin go unpunished.  That’s not the way He works.  If you committed a crime, there are consequences.  Even if you promise never to do it again.

But that is where our Saviour comes in.  This is where Jesus Christ enters the scene.

Verse 17 - The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save.

And maybe it’s just because I grew up with the NIV, but I prefer that translation slightly here for this verse

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.

The same meaning.  Exactly the same, but the words feel a little more comforting this way.

The LORD your God is with you.

Emmanuel.  God with us.  We see Jesus Christ here in Zephaniah!

God, who would come to this earth in the form of a baby.  Finally being with His people again, walking and talking with them.  A tiny picture of what it was like in the Garden of Eden.  A tiny picture of what it will be like in the New Heavens and on the New Earth.

The LORD your God is with you.

He could have left it at: BUT HUMANITY.

God created a perfect world, BUT HUMANITY wrecked everything.

He gave us a gift, we smashed it to bits.  He had every right to make us deal with the consequences.

But...the BUT HUMANITY is answered with BUT GOD.

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.

And how did He save us?

Did He ride forth on a warhorse, trampling Satan and cutting demons apart with a sword?  No.  That wouldn’t take away our sin.  Instead, He saved us by dying for us.  He saved us by facing the wrath of God on our behalf.  Paying the price for OUR sins.

He was there to restore the relationship.  To usher in the new age where the Holy Spirit is poured out on all people.  So that verse 17 can also refer to the Holy Spirit and HIS saving love

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save

The Holy Spirit is always with you.  He is in your heart, working faith, working holiness.  MIGHTILY SAVING YOU.

He regenerates you, raising your nature, dead, helpless and hopeless in sin, raising that nature to a new spiritual life...granting us eternal life by connecting us to Jesus’ sacrifice with unbreakable cords...softening our hearts of stone into hearts of love.  Hearts that love our neighbours.  Hearts that love our God.

We love because we have been loved.  It is as simple as that.

We CAN love because He DID love.  This is the gospel.  This is the RELATIONSHIP aspect of Christianity.

The religion is the facts.  God created, we fell, Christ came, the Holy Spirit connects us.  Facts.  True facts.  Important facts.

But the religion serves the relationship.  God created out of love.  We rejected that love and then blamed God for being absent.  Christ came in love.  The Holy Spirit connects us to His salvation in love.  And He stays with us still.  In love.  Our second point.

Our catechism explains: The Holy Spirit is given to me...to remain with me forever.

The Holy Spirit fills us, He dwells within us, and He unites us with Christ.  We saw that in our first point.  With the gift of faith, the Holy Spirit unites us with the saving forgiveness accomplished by the cross.  By the Holy Spirit, we have become members of God’s family.  We are sons and daughters of God.  Forgiven and loved children.

He unites us with Christ, but then He stays. After He unites us, He does not leave.  He does not leave and He will not leave.

The LORD your God is with you.

This is a promise.  When we promise “always” or “never” we are incapable of always keeping that promise. Thus the infamous saying, “never say never!”  Because human beings change their minds.  They grow older and wiser and realize promises made when they were young and foolish were wrong.

Or they grow older and they lose their way.  And they break the wise and good promises they made in their youth.

But our God is not like this at all.  Our God has been perfectly wise since before the beginning.  Perfectly loving since before Adam and Eve needed Him to go after them.

When God says NEVER, He means never.  When God says ALWAYS, He means always.  No ifs, ands or buts.  He will never leave you or forsake you.

You can never surprise Him with your sins.  He has seen your heart.  He knows what you are capable of.  He knows the future.  He knows what you will do each day of your life.  He knows your heart, far more than even you do.  And yet...He chooses to dwell there.  He chooses to be united to you as your God.  He is your God, and you are His child.

You can never betray Him so much that He won’t seek you out.  Adam and Eve, in paradise, in the Garden of Eden, they betrayed God in a horrific way.  They turned their back on their perfect relationship with Him and rebelled.  They said to Him “We don’t want you to be our God anymore.  We’ve decided that we can do it better than you.”  But God still sought them out.  When they sinned, God had every right to turn His back on them.  After all, they betrayed Him.

But instead...instead of turning His back on them and letting Adam and Eve reap the just reward of trying to be their own gods, instead He called out to them: “where are you?”  He sought them out so that He could draw them near and restore them to Himself.

You are not Adam and you are not Eve...but you are no better or worse than they were.  They did not deserve God’s love, and we do not deserve God’s love.  But He gives it anyways.  He claims you as His own.  He makes you His beloved child, and so He stays.

And when He stays, He doesn’t stay idly.  He doesn’t stay like an unwelcome house guest, just sitting on the couch, day after day.  But instead He stays to save.

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.

How does God the Holy Spirit save us?

He SANCTIFIES US.  He saves us from ourselves.  We were born as people dying.  Dying because of the fatal disease of sin.  And bit by bit, the Holy Spirit cleans us off and transforms us, taking out bits of sin and adding in bits of holiness.

He sanctifies us, and He PROTECTS us.  The Holy Spirit protects us from all evil.  From the evil in this world, those who seek to tear down the church and all it stands for.  And from the spiritual forces of evil.  Satan HATES the church, make no mistake.  He HATES the church and everyone who belongs to Jesus Christ.  Take it as a compliment then, beloved, if Satan hates you.

Satan hates you, but God loves you.  And God’s love will triumph over Satan’s hate every time.

The  LORD your God is with you He is mighty to save...He will quiet you with His love.

We all have times when we are so frustrated, so done with everything, that anyone who tries to help us is met with open hostility.  We tell them that we want to be left alone, but really, we want someone who will see through that.  Someone who will hold on no matter what.  Someone who will hug you when you’re crying and not pull away.  Someone who stands there, no matter what you do.  Someone to prove that, even at your worst moments, you are loved.

That is what our God does.  We can cry and scream and rage against the heavens, but His love does not dim or fade away because of this.  Instead, He holds you so tight that all your broken pieces start coming back together.  He holds you close to Him, dries your tears, and He quiets you with His love.

If this description of God makes you uncomfortable, you have to ask yourself why.  Is it because it seems God is being made somehow lesser by this description?  That God is being made “too human” by it?  That God has turned into a boyfriend instead of the Creator?

If you do feel this, please sit with it.  Please struggle through it, because this is exactly how our God is described in His Word.  Time after time He describes Himself as a loving husband.  He describes Himself as a mother hen, gathering her chicks.  There are as many emotional descriptions of God as there are descriptions of His power and holiness.  Love does not take away Holiness.  Or power.  Love is the reason for these qualities.

But there is one more amazing way in which our God loves us.  A way that is perhaps even more shocking than the previous two.  He loves us...with singing.  Our final point.

If God would appear before you right now, appearing as a human being, what do you think the expression would be on His face?

Would it be sadness, as He looks you up and down and sees that you aren’t as far as you could be in your sanctification?

Or maybe disgust over the sins you committed this week?

Would He turn away in anger, controlling Himself so as not to destroy you?

No.  That is not how our God looks at His children.  Not with an imagined human face on earth, not with His divine face of glory in Heaven.

He looks at you with love.

But...it’s more than love...if we can say that.  It’s a certain facet of love that we don’t usually think of when we say that we are loved by God.

It’s DELIGHT.  Our perfect and holy, just and powerful God looks at YOU...with delight.

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you

This is a challenge to believe.  This is the challenge of the believer.

The challenge of the non-believer is to try to discover the meaning of life, the source of everything that there is in this amazing universe, but the challenge of the believer is totally different.

The challenge of the believer is: What can I do to make God love me?  God is out there, I know.  He’s out there, and He is so holy and I’m not.  He has all these laws.  He has all this anger over sin, and I get it.  But I do it too.  I sin.  And so...God must be angry at me.  How do I stop His anger if I can’t stop myself from sinning?

What can you do to make God love you?

Nothing.  You can’t do anything to make God love you.

Because it’s ALREADY DONE.

But how??

Because He is God.

But...I sin!

    HE IS GOD.

But...I don’t love Him properly

    HE IS GOD.

He is God.  He is Yahweh.  He is THE GREAT I AM. And He delights in you.

He rejoices over you.  He rejoices over you with singing!

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

Here, Zephaniah turns religious singing on its head, doesn’t he?

When we think of religious singing, it’s a one way street.  We, as human beings, sing to God.

Saints in heaven sing to God.

But here, Zephaniah teaches us that God rejoices over US with singing.  God sings TO US.  God sings ABOUT US.  God sings OVER US.

Let’s examine this a little deeper, shall we?

First of all, we must COMPLETELY REJECT the idea that we are God’s people despite His better judgement.  That Jesus Christ just found a loophole in the law, and wheeled and dealed us into heaven and that somehow God the Father is now stuck with us, and He can’t undo what He agreed to, like blind Isaac tricked by Jacob into giving him the blessing.

Our God LOVES US.  Our God welcomes us, putting a ring on our finger, killing the fattened calf, throwing us a party.  Our God LOVES to love us.

And He sings over us.  One commentator writes: It is curious...Yahweh did not sing when He made the world.  He looked upon it and said it was good.  The angels sang, the sons of God shouted for joy, but God Himself merely spoke.  But when His only Beloved Son redeemed us through His bitter death on the cross, when He saw the salvation of His redeemed children...then did He burst into divine rejoicing.

God does not sing over mountains, rivers and the sky.  But He sings over you!

God sings over you with great rejoicing because of who HE is.  Because of His love for you.

In this world, so many of us are hurt.  So many of us, perhaps even today are filled with shame.  Shame over things we have done.  Shame over things that were done to us.  Shame over the shambles of our life.

But singing replaces shame. Singing replaces shame.

Not us singing.  We can’t sing away our shame any more than we can wish away our sins.

But God’s singing takes away our shame.

Those voices that tell you that you’re not good enough

Those voices that make you question your salvation

Those voices that tell you that nobody can love you

They are drowned out by the sound of your Maker’s voice.  The voice that matters the most.  The sound of the voice of Him who called creation itself into being.

And He sings over you, telling you that you are LOVED.

Singing that you are FORGIVEN.

Reminding you that He DELIGHTS IN YOU.

 

Our God’s love - for you - is the purest.

Our God’s joy - in you - is the fullest.

Our God’s singing - over you - is the loudest.

Let us now join with the song of Heaven, singing back to the God of our salvation.  The God who forever dwells with us in our hearts in love.

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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