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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Two Amazing Words
Text:LD 32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-07-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Galatians 5

Lesson: Lord’s Day 32

 

THE AMAZING TWO WORDS THAT DEFEAT BOTH:

  1. Legalism

  2. Lawlessness

 

  1. Psalm 24:1-3

  2. Psalm 54:1-3

  3. Hymn 28:1, 5, 6

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Hymn 79: 1, 4, 5

 

Words to Listen For: card, confusion, creeping, challenge, crucified

 

Questions For Understanding:

  1. What are the two dangerous responses to the gospel?

  2. Why is “because Christ” the exact right answer?

  3. Explain the legalism that MIGHT be found in how we think of clothes and the church

  4. What is “internal legalism” ?

  5. What is freedom really about?

* 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,

If you didn’t know anything about the Heidelberg Catechism, you might think that Lord’s Day 31 is a natural place for it to end.

After all, we looked at the amazing comfort that is to be found in knowing Christ and in belonging to Him.

     We looked at the problem: sin.

     We looked at the solution: Jesus Christ.

     We looked at how we are saved by Him - through faith.

     We looked at the content of our faith, the Apostles’ Creed.

     We looked at the preaching and the sacraments.

     And we looked at church membership.  About the gates of salvation, and the keys in those gates.

But now...what else is there?  Why does the catechism continue on?

     We learned about grace

     We learned about faith

     We learned about Christ who brings them together and makes it all work…

What else is there to our Christian faith then?  To add anything else seems to be...legalistic...right?  After all, we have been set free from the law!  That’s what we read in Galatians, right?  We have been set free!  No more law!

And this is the question that Lord’s Day 32 is asking.

If it’s all about Christ...why do we need to do anything else?

But the catechism gives away the punchline a little bit with the end of the question.  Did you notice that?

Why MUST we yet do good works?

We MUST do good works!

And there are two dangerous responses to this statement.

There are those who say: AMEN!  Yes!  We must do good works in order to be saved!  Salvation is God + Us.  This is our part of the equation.  BUT THIS IS WRONG.  THIS IS DANGEROUS.  WE MUST FIGHT AGAINST THIS LEGALISM!

And then, there are those who read the book of Galatians and develop a very different response.  After all, Galatians 3 seems to speak very strongly against the law.  And Galatians 5, which we read, speaks of freedom from the works of the law.  And it contains the trump card of Galatians 5:6 - The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

And it is these people who understand this to mean, that, in Christ, morality does not matter.  Since Christ has followed the law for us, then clearly we don’t have to follow it for Him!  We have been set free to do whatever we want.

And yet, and yet the catechism, a faithful summary of Scripture says that we MUST do good works?  How can we respond to these attacks on the gospel?

It’s not found in a complicated argument.  It’s really quite simple.  The catechism explains it in just 2 words.  Two

[THE] AMAZING [TWO] WORDS THAT DEFEAT BOTH:

  1. Legalism

  2. Lawlessness

We have now come to the third part of the catechism: Our Thankfulness.  While we may not regularly take too much time to look at these headings, it is very important that this Lord’s Day is included here.  More on that in a moment.

This third part comes after the first two: Our Sins and Misery and Our Deliverance.  And just to remind us of its placement here, we find a summary of what has come before, in the question: Since we have been DELIVERED from OUR MISERY by grace alone through Christ, without any merit of our own.

This is the problem and the solution.  This is the gospel.  Our Misery, followed by deliverance through Jesus Christ.

Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace alone through Christ, without any merit of our own, why must we yet do good works?

And how does the catechism answer this?  With two words: Because Christ.  The answer could stop there, but it expands further.

Because Christ.

Wait a minute.  Hold on.  Did the authors of the catechism miss something?  The question seems to be talking about US here.

Since WE have been delivered from OUR misery by grace alone through Christ, without any merit of OUR own, why must WE yet do good works?

Because...Christ?  This seems to be the wrong answer.

But in reality, congregation, this is the exact right answer.  These two words: Because Christ explain everything.

Any other answer here would lead us astray.

     Because God demands it - would lead us into legalism.

     It’s not a necessary part of Christianity, and we do not HAVE to do good works - leads us into lawlessness.

But Because Christ...this is THE ANSWER.

Because Christ.  Because of His loving redemption of us.  Because we are now co-heirs with Him.

Christ changed the ROLE of good works, but not the NEED for them.

And that is why our good works are discussed here in the third section of the catechism.  They do not belong in the first section on our sin - as though our good works have no use and belong to our old life.  As though they belong to a life of slavery, but now, since we are redeemed, we are freed from obedience.

And our good works do not belong in the second section on our salvation - as though we earn anything by them.  Our good works are not put on a divine weigh-scale and weighed against our sins to see which one comes out on top.  As though only those who have earned salvation can actually achieve it.

But they are here, in the third section, on SERVICE.  Not sin, not salvation, but service.

And it is this understanding of salvation that the Galatians struggled with.  You see, there was a group known as the Judaizers who had brought confusion into the church - demanding that all Christians, both Jew and Gentile, had to live like Jews, following the Old Testament laws - and not just the moral laws, but the ceremonial laws too.  They taught that Christians had to be circumcised to be accepted by God.

That Christians had to stay away from unclean foods, and all the rest of the 613 laws the Israelites followed in the Old Testament.

For those who did not do these things...well...then maybe they weren’t saved at all.  Somehow Christ’s work had to be completed by the ritualistic following of Old Testament Laws.

And this is the problem with Legalism.  Legalism, insisting on following the law of God for your salvation...this makes YOU your own Saviour instead of Jesus Christ.  Legalism is idolatry!  Legalism is idolatry.

For what does the catechism say?

     Because Christ

         Having redeemed us by His blood,

         Also renews us by His Holy Spirit

         To be His image.

The catechism does not say: because Christ, having  only saved you halfway, now demands that you make up for what He was lacking!  By no means!  May we never say this or even think this.

For Scripture is clear that Christ is a complete Saviour.  His salvation does not go by half measures.

     We are saved by grace alone

          Ephesians 1

     Through faith alone

          Galatians 3

     Every ounce of our salvation is won in the death of Jesus Christ alone

          1 Peter 3

     The faith we need to receive that salvation is created in our hearts by the Holy Spirit alone

          1 Corinthians 12

     The good works that flow out of that faith are prepared in advance by God the Father alone

          Ephesians 2

It is the work of God alone.  From the beginning to the end.

And it is easy for us to think that we do not struggle with legalism.  After all, we do not abstain from pork, thinking that this will save us.  We do not circumcize our sons as a sign of the covenant...so we’re all good, right?

But if we take a good look at ourselves, we can find legalism creeping in.

Let’s examine this for a moment...because there are those who falsely accuse the Canadian Reformed Church of legalism - I couldn’t ever go to your church!  It’s too legalistic!  The men wear suits, the women wear dresses, you sit in hard wooden pews and sing old songs.  And...you read the 10 commandments each week!  What’s that about?

It is not legalistic to wear nice clothes to church

It is not legalistic to value the law of God - more on this in the second point.

It is not legalistic to wear nice clothes to church...but when you look down on those who do not dress as you do?  

Then legalism has crept in.

But in these false accusations...isn’t there a little bit of truth?  Not in WHAT WE ARE DOING PHYSICALLY, but in our minds and our hearts?  In how we FEEL about what we do?

When I wear a suit to church, I do it out of respect and love for God, and out of respect and love for my brothers and sisters in the church.  Since you cannot see my heart, an easy way to show how much I value leading worship, how much I take it seriously, is by coming to church well put together.

It would be distracting and take away from the gospel message if I ascended this pulpit with bright pink hair, wearing a tshirt and ripped jeans, with my arms covered with tattoos.

It would be missing the point of worship if I specifically dressed in such a way as to make my brothers and sisters uncomfortable.  This would be sinful.  But wearing a suit is not sinful, and wearing a suit is not legalism.

But it does becomes legalistic if any of us...the pastor, the elders, the greeters by the door...if someone came with bright pink hair, a tshirt and ripped jeans, arms covered with tattoos...if someone was earnestly seeking God, and this is what he looked like...it would be legalistic and sinful if we told him to go home and change.  That God WILL NOT ACCEPT HIM unless he puts on a 3 piece suit and has the perfect windsor knot in his tie.  This is legalism.  And it DOES HAPPEB in our churches.

Maybe for some, it is not said, but there is an arrogance, there is a sense of wicked pride that some of us may feel when we look at this visitor and think: God, I thank you that I am not like this man!  My hair is combed and is within the natural human range of colour.  I wear a suit, and make sure none of my pants have even the smallest rip.  I would never tattoo my body.  Thank you for making me me.

If you didn’t recognize this prayer, it is the prayer of the Pharisee, slightly updated for our time and place.  This is a prayer that God was not pleased with.  This is a man who did not go home justified.

But rather, it was the humble tax collector, the outsider, the one who didn’t fit in, who beat his breast and said, “God, mercy on me, a sinner!”  HE was justified.  HIS prayer was heard and blessed.

And maybe this isn’t you.  Or, if it is you, and you’re working on yourself in this area, challenging yourself to be more loving and accepting, opening your arms as wide as Jesus did, then that’s wonderful.  But that doesn’t mean you’re done with legalism.  That legalism is defeated in you.  You might have a problem with internal legalism instead of an external legalism.

This is a challenge for me.  A difficulty that I struggled with a lot in my Ontario days.  I would speak to my my elder and professor about in quite a bit.

There are days, I said, there are days when I sin worse than other days.  When I just give in to sin without thinking about it.  And as I lay down at the end of the day, and reflect on the last 24 hours, I am filled with guilt.  I am filled with so much guilt that I cannot pray...except for this one prayer: Please don’t come back today O Lord.  Give me another chance.  Do not let me end my life on a sinful day.  Tomorrow I will be better, and then you can return.

Do you see the problem here?

Each and every day is a sinful day.  Whether it was a bad day or a good day for me...it was a sinful day in the eyes of God.

I was not legalistically judging others, but I was legalistically thinking that my salvation rested on my obedience.  I did not want Christ to return and find me sinning.  I wanted to be perfect for Him.  And this is a wonderful desire to have - to be perfect...but it’s legalism to think that I can be perfect on my own, in my own strength.

I have to remember those two words: BECAUSE CHRIST.

     I am saved BECAUSE CHRIST.

     I am loved BECAUSE CHRIST.

     I am justified BECAUSE CHRIST.

     I do good works BECAUSE CHRIST.

It’s not because of me!  My good works aren’t about me, about earning anything before God.  

It is at this point that we might be thinking: Good works - what are they good for?  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

     If our good works aren’t the foundation of our salvation

     If our good works don’t add to our salvation

     If our good works don’t make God love us more…

Why would we do them at all?

And this is the second dangerous response to the gospel.  This is what is known as LAWLESSNESS.  Our second point.

Legalism is dangerous, there is not doubt about it.  And lawlessness, what theologians call Anti-nomianism, could be seen as the opposite problem.

     On the one hand, you have those who are obsessed with the law, thinking that it will save them.

     On the other hand, you have those who reject the law, misunderstanding their Christian freedom.

So maybe, all the legalists could use a good dose of lawlessness, and all the antinomians could use a good does of legalism.

But the answer for one false belief is not the opposite false belief!  The solution for one disease is not another disease, but rather the cure!

And it is the same cure for both legalism and lawlessness.  Those two words: BECAUSE CHRIST.

     For those who say: I must do good works to earn my salvation...look at Christ.

     For those who say: I don’t have to do good works at all...look at Christ.

These answers are the same because the problems are actually a lot more similar than we may think at first.

Both legalism and lawlessness are idolatry.  They are two sides of the same coin.

     Legalism says: I do not worship the God of grace.  I can earn my way to Him.

     Lawlessness says: I do not worship a holy God.  I can live my life any way I want.

For both these errors, the problem is that they have spent too much time looking in the mirror, and not enough time looking at the cross.

Why must we yet do good works?

Not because our salvation is incomplete...but

Because Christ,

    Having redeemed us by His blood

    Also renews us by His Holy Spirit to be His image

    So that with our whole life,

    We may show ourselves thankful to God for His benefits

    And He may be praised by us.

A lawless Christian is a confused Christian, and a lawless Christian is a lazy Christian.

If you think that the gospel means that you can live your life any way that you want now, you don’t truly understand your sin.  You don’t truly understand your God.

For our loving God is still a just God.  Our sins still have an effect on Him.  Even though Christ’s death on the cross happened 2000 years ago, it was our sins today that held Him there.  It wasn’t the nails through His hands and His feet.  It wasn’t fear of the Romans, or to show the Jewish leaders that He could handle the pain...but it was your sin.  It was my sin.  It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished...

It is BECAUSE OF CHRIST that we shouldn’t WANT to sin anymore.  It is BECAUSE OF CHRIST that we should hate sin more and more, and desire to put it to death!

Why do good works?  Why should we resist the lifestyle so wrongly labelled as “Freedom?”

Because of our salvation!

Because we are saved, because we are redeemed, renewed people!  Since we are saints by the work of Jesus Christ, we must not waste this new beginning.  We have been given new life!

     His dying breath has brought me life

     I know that it is finished

We have been given a new life.  Our old life full of guilt and failure is FINISHED!  It has been crucified with Christ.

And now we have freedom.  And what should we do with our freedom?  Should we use it to run back into slavery?  Christ has purchased our freedom...so the first thing you want do is to run back to Satan?  To Satan and his dominion?

Because that is what lawlessness is.  It is allying yourself with the first and worst lawbreaker of them all.  The father of lies.  The Devil.

If you use your freedom in Christ to ally yourself with His greatest enemy...the enemy He SUFFERED AND DIED TO SAVE YOU FROM...then you really don’t understand!

Christ didn’t save you so that you would be a lazy Christian!  He saved you out of love.  He saved you to give you the freedom to do what you have been created to do: to rightly know God, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify Him!

True freedom is holiness.  Holiness and not sin.  Holiness and not evil or rebellion.  Not the freedom to hate God and be His enemy.

For the enemies of Jesus Christ WILL be defeated.  There will be a day when their so-called freedom will be revealed for what it truly is: slavery.  Slavery, not to a kind and loving master who is gentle and lowly.  Not to a kind and loving master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light...but rather, slavery to the embodiment of evil.  Slavery to the one who fights against everything good, everything that belongs to the light.

He doesn’t come to you in his true form, but as an angel of light.  But don’t be deceived, there is nothing but darkness in him.

Those who follow him have no part in the kingdom of light.  The catechism puts it this way:

     No unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, greedy person, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

And this is what we were.  Each and every one of us, by nature, we are all of these things.  We are idolators.  Whether we fall for the idolatry of legalism or the idolatry of lawlessness.  Whether we fall on our faces before carvings of wood or stone, or we follow the image in the mirror.

But it is Christ who has saved us!

Christ Jesus is the answer to our legalism and to our lawlessness.

Why do good works?  BECAUSE CHRIST.

     We are saved by God’s grace, without contribution from our side.  We are not legalists.

     We are redeemed and restored by the power of God to live lives of freedom, true freedom informed by God’s law.  We are not lawless.

It is out of our endless thankfulness to Him for all that He has done in our lives, it is out of thankfulness to Him as our one Redeemer, that we will serve Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and our whole strength, building on His foundation.

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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