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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Cling to Jesus Christ
Text:LD 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Added:2022-06-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Genesis 5

Lesson: Lord’s Day 1

 

CLING TO JESUS CHRIST

  1. For Comfort

  2. In Life and in Death

  3. Forever

 

  1. Psalm 65: 1-3

  2. Psalm 56: 1, 3, 4

  3. Hymn 69:1-3

  4. Hymn 1

  5. Hymn 64:1-2

  6. Psalm 65:4-6

 

Words to Listen For: teeter, diagnosis, couch, enjoy, portal

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What are our two choices?

  2. What one word does true comfort hang on?  Explain.

  3. Complete the quote: “There should be no comfortable Christians, instead there should be _______________ Christians.”   What’s the difference?

  4. Can we look to the church for comfort?  Why or why not?

  5. What changes on the other side of the grave?

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


Beloved brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Cast your mind back 8 years ago.  The year was 2014 and there was a brand new movie that had kids EVERYWHERE annoying their parents with a very catchy song.  The movie was the Lego Movie, and the song was Everything is Awesome!

These are the lyrics:

     Everything is awesome!

     Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.

     Everything is awesome when you’re living out a dream.

And they repeat.  Again and again.  

A very catchy tune, nice, harmless lyrics.

But let’s go through these lyrics.  Are they really everything they’re cracked up to be?

 

Everything is awesome

Is it?  Is EVERYTHING awesome?

 

Everything is cool when you’re part of a team

Teamwork is wonderful.  A good team of people around you, supporting you, all pulling in the same direction…they are worth their weight in gold…but does teamwork triumph over truth?  Does teamwork triumph over doing what is right?  Membership in a team…any team…no matter what you do…this is good?  This is cool?

 

Everything is awesome when you’re living out a dream

The best, the highest, the MOST AWESOME JOY is when you’re following your own heart?  But the heart is wicked and deceitful above all things!

 

This song which is truly harmless for children, this song, whose worst crime is being annoying and catchy…when it becomes the mantra, the goal, the pursuit of your life…when you take the lyrics of this song seriously as an adult…you are in for a world of hurt.

When TEAMWORK and LIVING A DREAM are your greatest comforts…you will lead a difficult, discomforted life.

And this is what the world does.

 

FOLLOW YOUR HEART!

I looked it up this last week.  “Follow your heart” on google gives us 4.2 billion results.  And one of the results was a page: 100 Best Follow Your Heart Quotes To Achieve Your Dreams.  This is what the author said:

     It is not a crime to follow your heart and what you love; after all, your

     happiness matters most in the end. Never fear doing what you want

     and what you love, as this is the way to happiness and success.

     And so often, we, as believers, have been taken in by this.

We think: My heart has been sanctified, it is not a wellspring of evil anymore…so as a Christian, I can follow my heart!

But that’s not true.  Your sanctification and my sanctification aren’t complete yet.  And when we follow ANYTHING other than Jesus Christ, when we look to ANYTHING ELSE as the source of ultimate truth other than His Word, we are in trouble.  We are going to be disappointed, discouraged, and made ineffective for the kingdom.

All of us, the elders, the deacons, the men women and children, myself…we all have a choice.

Cling to yourself, cling to your own wisdom, your own feelings, sing the awesome song everyday, become part of a team, follow your dreams…and your life will be happy for a time.  You will find happiness in the very inconsistent mixture of good and bad that your heart desires.  But when you lose people - a friend, a spouse, a grandparents….when you lose things - a house, a car, money…everything will teeter and shake, and maybe even collapse.

Make this choice, and many of your days will be filled with happiness…but your nights will be filled with doubt and fear and existential dread.  As your grow older and older, you will become more desperate to pile up treasures and pleasures.  And they will slowly, and then suddenly, slip through your fingers.

But.  If you choose instead to cling to Jesus Christ…your life may or may not be happy.  There are those for whom happiness walks hand in hand with their faith.  There are those who are richly blessed by God with earthly things.  Surrounded by a wonderful family, sitting in the pew with 3 or 4 generations of believers, all worshipping God together.  Christians who are well off in their finances and don’t have to worry.  But there are so many others for whom happiness is elusive in this life.  There are those who are poor in heart, there are those who mourn.  There are those who live with anxiety.  Christians whose home lives are difficult to say the least.  Make this choice and happiness might be elusive.  Each day may feel like a struggle…but your nights, though they may have some tears, you know who is putting those tears into His bottle.

Even though HAPPINESS may be elusive…there will be deep-seated joy in your heart.  As you grow older and older, you will become more and more certain of His love for you, and your mind will dwell on heavenly things.  Things that can never slip away.  You will have a comfort that is stronger than death.

These are the choices in front of us.  And, I don’t know about you, but I will 

CLING TO JESUS CHRIST.  We will examine how we are to cling to Him

  1. For Comfort, 

  2. In Life and in Death, and 

  3. Forever

 

Cling to Jesus Christ For Comfort

As we begin the Heidelberg Catechism again, it is useful to take a step back and examine it as a whole.  We aren’t going to take a step back into HISTORY, at least not TOO MUCH, looking at the life of Ursinus, Olevianus, and Elector Frederick III.  History is wonderful and helpful, but history has its lane.  When it is brought up from the pulpit, it must be here to serve a deeper purpose.  History for the sake of history…only in history class.

And we will not take a step back into ETYMOLOGY - the meaning and history of words.  We will not examine the meaning of the word catechism and why we have a catechism.  Etymology and definitions are useful, but they have their lane.  When brought up the pulpit, they must be here to serve a deeper purpose.  Etymology for the sake of etymology…only in English class.

But I want to step back and look with you at the idea of COMFORT.  The idea of comfort.

The Heidelberg Catechism has been called the Book of Comfort - because of Lord’s Day 1, and because of the comforting, pastoral tone used throughout.

Let me give you a few of the many examples:

  • He is able to do so as Almighty God, and willing also as a Faithful Father (Lord’s Day 9)

  • By the one sacrifice of His body has redeemed us and continually intercedes for us before the Father (Lord’s Day 12)

  • In all my greatest sorrows and temptations, I may be assured and comforted that my Lord Jesus Christ, by His unspeakable anguish, pain, terror, and agony, which He endured throughout all His sufferings, but especially on the cross has delivered me from the anguish and torment of Hell (Lord’s Day 16)

And I could go on.  These are only from the first third of the catechism.

What we are looking at is the Book of Comfort.

And we may wonder, especially those of us who are familiar with the catechism - does this really concern me?  Is it really about me?  Good for children to learn…but me too

Yes!  Yes you too!  It is about you, because, no matter your age, no matter how long you have walked with the Lord, no matter how comforted you feel at NIGHTTIME, the day still comes, and you still live in a sinful world around you, and you find sin close at hand, in your old nature.

So we are all children of the Lord’s Day, we are all children in need of comfort.

But what exactly IS comfort?

Well, comfort, true comfort, Godly comfort, hangs on the word “DESPITE.”

True comfort is comfort DESPITE.

 

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

What is your only comfort despite what life throws at you?

What is your only comfort when the darkness deepens?  What is your only comfort when other helpers fail and other comforts flee?  What kind of comfort can there be in this life?

What is your only comfort when death happens?  Whether it is the death of a friend or family member, like Markus Schouten last Sunday…or maybe when you get the diagnosis from the doctor and you are staring death in the face.  Or maybe even when you are contemplating death by your own hand…what kind of comfort can there be when you’re having a staring contest with death?

There is only ONE COMFORT at this time.  Only one comfort available.

And that’s why the catechism speaks of our ONLY comfort.  Not our BEST COMFORT…though of course it is this too.  But our only comfort.  The only one that can actually withstand all that this life throws at us.  As they say…

Life is hard

Family’s weird

Sometimes you just need…

TO CLING TO THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST.

It doesn’t quite rhyme like the original lyric - if you know, you know - but this is far better.

We are to cling to Jesus Christ - for comfort.

And what exactly is the comfort that is provided at the cross?

We see this in the answer:

     That I am not my own,

     but belong with body and soul,

     both in life and in death

     to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

     He has fully paid for all my sins 

     with His precious blood

     and has set me free

     from all the power of the devil

     He also preserves me in such a way

     that without the will of my heavenly Father

     not a hair can fall from my head;

     Indeed all things must work together

     for my salvation.

     Therefore, by His Holy Spirit

     He also assures me

     of eternal life

     and makes me heartily willing and ready

     from now on to live for Him.

The comfort that has been won for us at the cross is not that of an easy life.

Of the 12 Apostles, the best historical accounts tell us that 12 of the 12 were martyred.  A 100% martyrdom rate for the first Christians.  This life, for a Christian, is not meant to be COMFORTABLE.

There should be no COMFORTABLE Christians.  Instead…there should be COMFORTED Christians.

Christianity isn’t a big comfy couch where we all sing the awesome song together and are happy that we can work together to paint the church a more inviting colour.

No!  Christianity is a battle - and not just ANY BATTLE, but a cosmic battle between good and evil, where we are soldiers.  We are conscripted into the Lord’s Army, and we must fight evil wherever and whenever we see it.  In ourselves, in our friends, in our church, in our society.

But we do so, we fight in this battle KNOWING the end result.

We fight in this battle KNOWING who is fighting beside us and INSIDE us.

We fight in this battle KNOWING who is going to win.

We fight in this battle KNOWING that we ourselves are battles already won.  Our hearts have been conquered by our king.  More than conquered…our hearts have been TRANSFORMED into something beautiful.

We cling to the cross FOR COMFORT.  Comfort DESPITE.

And we must cling to the cross in both life and in death.  Our second point.

This life, from cradle to grave, should be a life spent clinging to the cross.  No matter our age, no matter our marital status, no matter if we are male or female...we are ALL children of the Lord’s Day.  We are all children of God who need to cling to Him for comfort.

We must cling to Him in life, no matter what life throws at us.  Not matter the beginning, the middle, or the end.

And we already looked at some of the difficulties of this life in our first point.  We live in a sinful world.  We live with sinful people.  We live with sin deep in our bones.  This is a life in which we need comfort.  We need comfort, we need peace, we need joy…perhaps the most.  More than anything else in this life.

And we are not immune in the church.  Does it seem ridiculous and contradictory that we might need comfort, not just IN the church, but FROM the church?  Comfort due to difficulties in the body of Christ?  Yes, ridiculous and contradictory as it might be…here we are.  This is reality.

I say this as one who loves the church, one who often represents the church in a professional way…DO NOT LOOK TO THE CHURCH FOR YOUR ULTIMATE COMFORT!

The church is where you FIND your comfort…but the church itself is not your comfort.

Our lives are centered around the cross of Christ.  Jesus Christ claimed you, already in your mother’s womb to be His child.  To be a member of His covenant.  And today, you are responding to His promises to you, declaring that He is yours…JESUS IS MINE!  What a comfort!  You are declaring that He is yours, and even more so…that YOU are HIS.  I BELONG TO JESUS CHRIST!  I AM HIS!

Only in Him can you find a comfort greater than that of any ordinary comfort.  Only in Him can you have comfort that will hold you secure in all the storms of this life, whether they are storms of a physical nature, an emotional nature, or a spiritual nature.  Our God will keep you close to Him in all of these challenges.  You can be certain of that.  You may bend, but you will not break.

______________

Now, you may be curious…you may have been racking your brain for the last 10-15 minutes, wondering exactly why Genesis 5 was chosen as the reading.  Wondering how it can fit with Lord’s Day 1.

While I ENJOY making you wonder, it wasn’t chosen only, or even primarily for this purpose.

When you look at Genesis 5…what do we see?

In your Bibles, you may see as the heading:

  • Descendants of Adam

  • From Adam to Noah

  • The Genealogy

  • The history of Adam’s family

  • The Book of Genealogies

And that’s true.  We see, again and again, HE FATHERED.

This is how life goes.  A father has a child.  The child grows up and has children of his or her own.  And on and on it goes.  A father becomes a grandfather and then a great grandfather

This is a genealogy.  We see many of them in Scripture.

And yet…there is another way to look at this.

This is a genealogy…but it is also what is known as a necrology.

And he fathered is concluded with and he died.

     And he died

     And he died

     And he died.

8 times.  For everyone except Enoch.  Enoch did NOT die, but walked with God.  He was taken away.

But unless you’re an Encoh…and there has been only two like him in the history of the world...unless you’re an Encoh, or you're an Elijah...it is appointed for all men to die once and then to face judgement.

Genesis 5 is a stark and clear reminder to us…not only did all of these men LIVE…all of these men DIED.

For at least one person that I know…it was Genesis 5 that drove Him to Christ.  He had been given a Bible as a gift while he was in prison, and, with nothing else to do, he sat in his cell and began to read.  He read through Genesis 1 and 2 without much effect.  The world was created by God.  Okay.  We must have had a start, maybe evolution, maybe God.  Sure.

Then he read Genesis 3 about the Fall into Sin…too bad, but people make mistakes.

Then Genesis 4 about Cain and Abel.  He found himself in the person of Cain.  Committed a crime, was driven out of society.

But then Genesis 5.

And he died

And he died

And he died.

And it occurred to this man that one day, he too would die.  And what hope can there be in death?

So he kept reading.  And reading.  And reading.

And he came to the New Testament and he met Jesus Christ in those pages.  He met a man who conquered death.  A man who conquered death, not only for Himself, but for all those who would believe in Him.

And he started believing in Him.

Death is still tragic…we know this.  Death is not the way it was created to be.  Death is an invader.  Death is an enemy…and yet…death has been softened.  Death is mourned over, but we do not grieve like the rest of the world who have no hope.  We do not grieve like the rest of the world who have no comfort.

When we cling to the cross, we know that we can never be separated from it, or from the Saviour who bled and died upon it.  Not even DEATH can separate us from Jesus Christ.

We can have comfort no matter what this life throws at us…even if what this life throws at us is DEATH.

And this is not because we do not take death seriously, this is not because we don't understand it or because we ignore it…it is because we know that death is not the end.  Death is not the end of our Saviour’s love, and death does not put an end to our comfort, for indeed, our comfort is forever.  Our final point.

From cradle to grave, our life is spent clinging to the cross.  This is what I said earlier.  From cradle to grave.

And this is accurate.  Once we are beyond the grave, we cease clinging to the cross.

But this does not mean that our comfort ceases.  This does not mean that our comfort stops.  It doesn’t even mean that we stop CLINGING.

We cease clinging to the cross because once we are in heaven, we no longer need a Saviour.  We no longer need a Saviour, because our salvation will be complete.

Salvation, the wonderful process planned before time by God the Father…

Salvation, the amazing process enacted at just the right time by God the Son…justifying us, once for all on the cross…

Salvation, the incredible process enacted all throughout our lives by God the Holy Spirit…sanctifying us, making us more and more holy, bit by bit…

Once we are beyond the grave, we will be glorified.  New bodies, fully restored souls…no need to cling to the cross anymore.

But don’t get it wrong, don’t misinterpret me…this is not to say that there is no need for GOD anymore.  Not at all.  We still cling to JESUS CHRIST…just not His CROSS.  We still cling to God…for heaven without God would literally just be Hell.

The proper hellishness of Hell is the absence of God

The proper glory of Heaven is the presence of God

When we are beyond this life, when we have passed through the portal that is the grave…THERE IS MORE.

     There is more life

     There is more comfort

     There is more God

There is more than we could ever imagine beyond the grave.

And it is THIS COMFORT that makes our CURRENT COMFORT so COMFORTING.

This is a comfort that WILL NOT END.

Our need for the atoning blood of Christ will be over…we will not need to cling to His cross anymore.  We will not need to plead with our Heavenly Father to look at us through Christ…because we will be completely pure and holy in and of ourselves.

We will not need to cling to the cross, but we will, instead, be able to stand before the throne.  We will be able to stand before the throne in confidence, before falling to our knees in adoration.

We will spend an eternity searching out and discovering more and more of God’s grace and God’s love…and never for a moment will we feel a moment of sadness or sorrow.  Never a moment of pain or anxiety, for the old order of things has passed away.

Never for a moment will our comfort be taken away from us, for we will be in the arms of our Heavenly Father, kept safe and secure, clinging to Him, and He to us.

No longer will there be evil or hurt that works for my salvation…for my salvation will be complete.

And we will sing.

We will sing, not a song that numbs us to the reality of a fallen world…but a song that proclaims the comforting and perfect reality of the new world - the perfect reign of our God and King

To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!

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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