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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Our Salvation Was a Long-Shot
Text:LD 23 59-60 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace
 
Added:2022-07-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

Lesson: Lord’s Day 23 (Q/A 59 & 60)

 

OUR SALVATION WAS A LONG-SHOT

  1. What We Were

  2. What God Declared Us To Be

  3. How This Happens

 

1. Psalm 62: 1, 4, 7

2. Hymn 1

3. Psalm 18: 1, 2, 6, 9

4. Hymn 28: 1, 5, 6

5. Hymn 82: 1, 3, 4

 

Words to Listen For: spoiler, tough, mountaintops, neighbour, $10 000

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Why do we tend to skip Lord’s Day 23 in our theology?  What was the metaphor used here?

  2. Why are we no different than the Ephesians?

  3. What does God say instead of “I love you the way you are?”  How is His response so much better?

  4. Explain (or draw!) the number line of divine declarations

  5. How did God re-invigorate missionary David Morse’s missionary work in India?

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


Congregation of Jesus Christ,

We all love to root for the underdog, don’t we?

Whether our favorite hockey team is the Canucks, or we get emotional when the tiny rebellion destroys the powerful evil empire, or a hobbit makes it all the way to Mt. Doom despite all the odds.  We love to cheer on the underdog.

We always want to see good triumph over evil, but when it is an underdog story, it is just that much more satisfying.  That much more amazing.

In the movies, we know what is going to happen.  We know that Darth Vader won’t defeat Luke Skywalker.  We know that Sauron can’t win against Frodo.

But this is real life, and in real life, when we are in the middle of it, and we ourselves are the underdogs, it isn’t quite so easy to be positive and sure of what’s going to happen.  And yet, our God tells us the end of the story.  Our God has shown us the odds that are against us, overwhelming odds, and He shows us His strength and His power.  This, purely and simply, is the gospel.

OUR SALVATION WAS A LONG-SHOT.  We’ll look at:

  1. What We were

  2. What God Declared Us To Be

  3. How This Happens

Our salvation was a long-shot.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I am saying that our God is the underdog, that Satan is much more powerful, and God just barely managed to accomplish His purpose.  That’s not it at all.  Every metaphor has its limits...and we reach those limits far more quickly when we don’t understand the metaphor.  So let me explain it.

Our salvation was a longshot...FOR US.  In this story, WE are the underdogs, and our God is the hero whose power is ultimate.

But how did we get here?  How did we get to this point?  Let’s back up.

Question and Answer 59 are a good place to start:  But what does it help you now that you believe all this?

What does it help you that you believe all this...what exactly is the “all this” that our catechism is referring to?

It is everything that came before.  That section of the catechism that we just finished examining together.  Our Christian faith, summarized in the Apostles’ Creed.  Lord’s Day 23 is the transition from the former section that began all the way back in Lord’s Day 7.

And here is the challenge for us.  The “what now” of it all.

You believe all the basics of the Christian faith.  That is wonderful.  But it’s not enough.  It’s not enough for you just to know these facts in your mind.  There has to be more!

And there is more!  But I think that far too often, we jump right from the foundation, right from the root of the plant, to the fruit that is produced.

Far too often our theological understanding skips out on Lord’s Day 23.  We go right from the content of our faith (Lord’s Day 7-22) to the good works mentioned in Lord’s Day 24, completely skipping out this very important Lord’s Day.  When we go from root to fruit, we are missing something in the middle that is vitally important.

Because, in the Christian life, there is not a direct connection between the head and the hands.  Our loving actions towards others in this world cannot just be motivated by our head knowledge.  We hear it every Sunday yet again, the fulfillment of the law is love.  We are to love with our minds, it is true, but also our soul.  Also our heart.

The Christian life is about head, heart, and hands.  In that order.

We must know God in order to love Him.  But we must love Him in order to love each other.

And that is what Lord’s Day 23 is teaching us.  Lord’s Day 23 is here, tugging at your heartstrings.  “Don’t let it just reside in your head...but let it make its way down to your heart.”

What does it help you now that you believe all this?

IN CHRIST, I am righteous before God and heir to life everlasting!

If you want, you can think of answer 59 as the trailer for the movie about the underdog that shows the end.  This is a spoiler of what is to come. And we will get there, but everything in its time.

Let’s look at exactly why our salvation was such a long-shot.

For this, let’s take a look at our reading from Ephesians 2

     And you were dead in the tresspasses and sins in which you once walked.

The Apostle Paul doesn’t really mince his words, does he?

You were dead.

Could there be an underdog with more of a challenge than this?

We were dead in the trespasses in which we once walked.

And to make matters worse, we didn’t realize it.  We didn’t realize that we were dead, because we were breathing, and talking, and walking around.  But, in the most important sense of the word, we were dead.

We were SPIRITUALLY dead.

We were dead in our trespasses and sins.

And it is easy to say, “Well, that’s the Ephesians, not us!”  But this applies to us too.  This applies to us when we understand this spiritual death.  This spiritual death is sin.  This spiritual death means walking in the way of sin, and letting it control your actions.  Whenever we sin, we are walking in the way of sin and death.

And so, whether you are a Christian or not, you are walking around with death in your body.  We are all walking around with death in our body.

And our catechism explains it in a more literal way, explaining the metaphor of Ephesians 2.

My conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil

Let’s unpack this a little, shall we?

My conscience accuses me

What the catechism is talking about here is a conscience that has been redeemed.  A conscience that has been informed by God’s law.  Because our natural consciences, just like the rest of us, are dead in sin.  Without the intervening work of God in our lives, our consciences wouldn’t do us any good.  But the conscience that has been raised by Christ, informed by God’s law...well that conscience does the difficult work of accusing us.

My conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned

This isn’t a nice message to hear, but it is important.

It’s important, because it is truthful.  A hard truth, when it has to do with your eternal salvation, is better than a comforting lie.  And we are told this comforting lie far too often, aren’t we?

We are told this comforting lie that:

“God loves you the way you are”

and

     “Don’t ever change!”

But the truth, however difficult it is to hear, is far better in the long run.

The truth is actually love.  And true love is sometimes tough love.

This is the love that our God has for us.

He DOESN’T say “I love you the way you are”

but rather,

He says: “I love you TOO MUCH for you to STAY the way that you are.  I’m stepping in, I’m going to work with you, and heal

you with my love.”

The first step is for us to see ourselves as needing God.  The first step is for us to let our redeemed conscience be seared by God’s law.

I have GRIEVOUSLY sinned.

There is no such thing as a small sin because we do not have a small God.  Each of our sins hurts Him immensely.

Because our God is not cold or dispassionate, saying “Oh well.  They chose sin over me?  Fine.  Then they will reap the consequences.”

Don’t forget...our God IS STILL just.  He IS STILL holy.  There are consequences for unfaithfulness...but through it all, there is love.  There is a never-ending love for us from God, and love when met with unfaithfulness on our part NECESSARILY MEANS pain on His part.  His love and our unfaithfulness means His pain.

I have GRIEVOUSLY sinned against all God’s commandments and have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil

Each and every one of us has broken God’s law.  We have violated each and every commandment.

While we might be tempted to think that we’re okay because we’ve never murdered anyone or cheated on our wife or husband, we learn in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount that by hatred, we commit murder in our heart.  That by lusting after someone, we have committed adultery in our heart.  That when we act in an un-Christian manner, we cause others to blaspheme the name of God because of us.

We. Are. Lawbreakers.

And not only that, not only have we committed sins in the past, but, even after we have been rescued from sin, our hearts long to go back to it.  We are still inclined to all evil.

By nature, we love to sin.  It’s not just what we do, but it has infected our mind and our heart.  Sin isn’t just what we do, but it is a real part of who we are.  Each and every one of us, whether we have a new nature, made after the image of God, or not...each and every one of us has an old sinful nature.  And it longs to sin.

This is the accusation of God’s Word.

And this is the accusation of our conscience.

It’s true.  We are guilty.

And it’s hard to hear this.  It’s hard to preach this.  I would much rather preach on happier things.  I would much rather spend time on mountaintops than in these dark valleys.

But.  This is the teaching of Scripture, this is the teaching of our God, and it resonates in our hearts.  Because it’s true.

But just as the catechism does not stop here, in the middle of answer 60, so too does our God not leave us in this miserable state of sin and brokenness.  Our God does not leave us, the ultimate underdogs, in our dead state of sin, but rather, He amazingly and graciously declares us to be both innocent and righteous before Him.  Our second point.

At the beginning of the sermon, we put a pin in answer 59, because answer 59 is part of the divine rescue.  It is the key that makes us, the underdog, victorious.  Now is the time to return there.

What does it help you now that you believe all this?

In Christ, I am righteous before God and heir to life everlasting.

No more an underdog!  We aren’t dead anymore, but rather, exactly the opposite!

By faith, we are more alive than we have ever been!  For what is life, but being in tune, being in step with the God of life.  Our righteous and holy God.  When we are sinful and He is righteous, we are dead.  But when we have been made righteous as He is righteous...that is when life truly begins!

And it is not from ourselves, but it is because of Jesus Christ.  And how could it be from ourselves?  We were DEAD!

But in Christ, we are RIGHTEOUS.  No longer dead, but righteous!

And how is this possible?

Let’s look at our catechism again, answer 60 - we are righteous BY TRUE FAITH.  More on this faith next time, but for now, let us focus on the righteousness.

To set the scene, let’s start again at the beginning

Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them and am still inclined to all evil

This sets the scene...and what a scene it is.

YET GOD

The gospel in 2 words.

YET GOD, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ.

Because of Christ’s work, God’s wrath was satisfied, and we are declared righteous and holy.

These two declarations aren’t quite the same thing, and it is important that we know the difference.

But for these divine declarations over our lives, we must picture a number line.

Picture a number line with me.  We have zero in the middle, negative on this side, and positives over here.

And we started all the way on this end over here (Right hand), completely in the negatives.  Dead in our sins.  Deserving of punishment from our righteous and holy God.

And it was Jesus’ death on the cross that took us from the negatives to zero. (middle)

It was His death that satisfied the righteous wrath of God.  We heard about this last week in our Lord’s Supper form: God’s wrath against sin is so great that He could not leave it unpunished, but has punished it in His beloved Son Jesus Christ, by the bitter and shameful death on the cross.

You see, our sins, walking in the way of sins and tresspasses earned us something with God - it earned us condemnation and judgement.  We sinned against God, we broke His holy law, and there are severe consequences for that.  Severe consequences that end up with us being apart from God and all His blessings for eternity.

But the first part of that number line, that first movement, from the negatives up to zero...that took away God’s wrath.  God’s wrath was satisfied, because it was poured out on Jesus Christ.  It was poured out on that Good Friday, and Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath.  He drained it dry, so that, for His people, there remains no more wrath, no more condemnation.

Because of the death of Christ, we are declared “innocent” in the eyes of God.  Our sins were finally paid for, and we were neutral in His eyes.  Not sinful anymore, but not righteous quite yet.

But being neutral with God isn’t enough.  And so, there is another side to the number line. 

Getting us from zero to the positives...this requires good works.  Not our good works, stained with sin, corrupted and self-seeking, but truly good works.  PERFECT works.  And again, the only possible way for this to happen for us was through our Saviour Jesus Christ.

What does our catechism say?

Yet God imputes to me the perfect righteousness and holiness of Christ.

Each and every perfect day that He lived on this earth, loving His God perfectly, loving His neighbour perfectly...this was given to us.

Those countless hours our Saviour spent in solitude and humble prayer?  Credited to our account.

  • His righteous anger against those who would desecrate the temple?  It is as if we did it.
  • His love for the tax collector and the Samaritan?  It is counted as our righteous work.

Just as we heard in our call to worship this afternoon from Isaiah,

     He has clothed me with garments of salvation

     He has arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness

Because, you see, when God, our righteous Judge, when God looks at us now,  He does not see us as lost sinners, dead in our trespasses anymore.

Instead, when our God looks at us, He sees forgiven sinners, raised by His power, clothed in the righteousness of His Son.

This amazing reversal, this amazing change...from the ultimate underdog to the ultimate victor, loved by God, chosen as an heir to life eternal...how can this possibly come to us?  We aren’t deserving, how could we possibly earn it?  How does this amazing exchange happen?  Our third point.

A few years ago I heard the following true story.  It’s a little long, but bear with me, because it is worth it.

 

There once was a missionary named David Morse, who went to India to preach the gospel.  But there was a problem.  The Christian gospel seemed too easy to many of the Indians.  The idea of being saved by grace didn’t work for them.  

And after some time, with few observable results, Morse was about to leave.  It was then that a man named Rambhau stopped

by his home.  In his hands was a small wooden box.  Rambhau held out this box to Morse, and when the missionary opened it, he saw a beautiful pearl - large and flawless.  A thing of rare beauty.

Rambhau explained that this pearl had been acquired by his only son: a pearl diver.  He had seen the pearl and dove down to get it, but he stayed underwater for too long.  He got the pearl, but he died.

Rambhau was so thankful to Morse for his hard work in India, that he wanted to give him the pearl.  He would never see Morse again and wanted him to know how much love he had for him.

Morse was suddenly struck with inspiration and said to Rambhau: "This is truly a beautiful pearl.  Let me buy it from you.  I will give you $10 000 for it."

Rambhau was stunned.  “What do you mean?  This pearl is beyond price.  It cost the life of my son.  Whatever you would pay me for it would be an insult to his memory.  I will only give it to you as a gift.”

And David Morse, armed with this new illustration about the love of God and the gift of grace, went back to work preaching the gospel in

India, starting in his own house, with Rambhau.

 

You see...our salvation is a gift.  From beginning to end.

Without any merit of my own the catechism says.

You and I did nothing to deserve it...and how could we...we were dead!  WITHOUT ANY MERIT OF OUR OWN, our God swoops in, and saves us, the underdog.

Out of mere grace

Grace is how we were saved.  By grace, through faith.

Grace.  God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  G-R-A-C-E.  The broken body and the shed blood on the cross.

For though this salvation is FREE for us, though we enjoy the benefits of salvation by free grace, let us never think that free grace is the same as cheap grace.  For our salvation was anything but cheap.  It required sacrifice.  It required suffering.  It required pain.

But, because of the love God has for us, it was all worthwhile.  His hands of blessing are open wide, and He is pleased to bless His children.

He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.

Our past life, a life that was really death, our past life of sin and failure has been cast into the heart of the ocean, and is remembered by our God no more.

It is all by grace.  We have done nothing to deserve it, and even our faith...even our faith is not what earns us our place in God’s family, but rather, our faith is the empty hands by which we clutch onto Christ’s righteousness.

By the hands of faith, we cling to the cross of Christ and say: I once was lost, but now I am found.  I was once blind, but now I see.  It is grace that has led me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

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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