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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:What Is Truly Good?
Text:LD 33 91 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-07-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Romans 7:1-8:11

Lesson: Lord’s Day 33 (91)

 

WHAT IS TRULY GOOD?

  1. The Source of Good Works

  2. The Standard for Good Works

  3. The Shine from Good Works

 

  1. Psalm 138: 1-4

  2. Hymn 28: 1, 2, 4, 6

  3. Hymn 27:1, 2, 3, 7, 8

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Psalm 1: 1-3

 

Words to Listen For: half, tomb, golden, 13, named

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Where can we find “good” ?

  2. What’s the problem with tightening loopholes?

  3. What is the threefold way that Christ fulfills the law?

  4. What’s better than WWJD?

  5. What are 3 ways of evangelizing?  Can you think of more than those shared?

* 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,

What is most important to you?

What are the things that you should devote time to consider, to think about, to ponder?  Answers may vary, but Philosophers have come up with the concept of the “Big Three.”  The 3 things that should be sought out and understood:

  • The Good

  • The True

  • The Beautiful

 

     What is truly GOOD?

     What is truly TRUE?

     What is truly BEAUTIFUL?

And even though these three questions come out of Eastern and Greek Philosophy, they are good questions for Christians to ask as well.  

They can remind us of the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, inspired by God Himself: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Honorable, true, lovely.

This was the goal of philosophers and really, is the goal of each and every human being to discover these qualities and put them into practice.  

But as time has gone on, when we are 2500 years past Plato, and 2000 years past the letter to the Philippians, the ideals have become rather...muddied.  They have become confused, and, for all intents and purposes, they are absent from our society.

     The Good has been traded in for The Nice

     The True has been traded in for The Popular

     The Beautiful has been traded in for The Non-Traditional

As the world strays further and further from God, and from what is Good...we are needed to be light in the darkness.  We must not separate ourselves from the world because the darker the world is, the more they need God’s light.  And so it is important for us, as God’s representatives in this world to ask ourselves the question:

WHAT IS TRULY GOOD?  This afternoon, we will examine together:

  1. The Source of Good Works

  2. The Standard for Good Works

  3. The Shine from Good Works

 

The Source of Good Works

It was the goal of the ancient philosophers to search out the good...but perhaps we need to ask a more fundamental question than they did: Does good actually exist?  Does good actually exist?

It is all well and good to search for something, but not every search yields results.  If good does not actually exist, then searching for it is futile and useless.  This would explain the shift from GOOD to NICE.

So let’s ask this fundamental question.  Does good exist?

Let’s first begin by looking out at the world.  Can we find good in this world?

Well, in this world, good is hard to find.

There are, first of all, evils that the world calls evil: certain kinds of racism, certain riots, wars, there are children who go to bed hungry, people are murdered in cold blood.

These, the world publicly cries out against, and takes steps to stop, but still this evil rages on.

And then there are evils that the world celebrates.  Evils that this world calls good.  Other types of racism, other types of riots, the murder of a baby in the womb, torn limb from limb, children having their bodies mutilated and irreversibly harmed by hormone treatments.  The elderly and disabled are told that their lives have no value, and that death is the best option for everyone.

It is very hard to find real good in the world.

So where else should we look?  Perhaps we should look at ourselves.  Is there good in us?  Is there good in Christians?  Good in the church?

It seems like a simple question. A simple yes or no question: Can we, as Christians, do good works?

This is a question that I posed a few weeks ago to the Junior Catechism class. 

How do you think they answered?

The answer was split, almost in half.

     Many of the students confidently said: NO!  We can’t do good works!

     And many others, equally confident, said: YES!  We can do good works!

One side appealed to Total Depravity - even our best efforts are stained with sin.

While the other side appealed to God’s grace at work in our lives

It was truly wonderful to be there.  There is so much we can learn from our children.

We can learn from them, because both aspects are correct.

Isaiah 64 - All our righteous acts are like filthy rags we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

     We are, by nature, slaves to sin. Even when we have been set free from sin, our old nature is not completely dead.  We must continually die            to it.  Our best efforts are tainted and stained with sin.

But the other side was right too.

     Ephesians 2 - For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

By God’s grace, He saved us.

By God’s grace, He filled us and equipped us to do the good works He prepared for us to do.

You see...without God, we cannot do good works.  Without God, they would be impossible.

So when we look at ourselves as a potential source for good works, we will be sorely disappointed.

Without God we cannot do any good…

And so, isn’t it wonderful that we are NOT without God?

There is no earthly source for good works.  Even when human beings could freely do good works, it wasn’t from us.

We do not know how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, but there was time for them to walk and talk with God in the cool of the day.  And so, for those days, weeks, or hypothetically years, Adam and Eve did good works.  They were fully human, and they did good works.

But even this, was from God - for He was the one who CREATED THEM in true righteousness and holiness.  In His image.

Since the beginning, the source of good works was God, and now, thousands of years later, the source of good works continues to be God.

WE are not NATURALLY GOOD.  The world will tell you that the problem is education.  The world will tell you that the problem is the patriarchy and the unconscious racial bias.  And so, we can build ourselves a brave new world by subjecting our children to the falsehoods of critical race theory.  We can build ourselves a brave new world by taking away power from men - not just wicked and abusive men, but all men, simply because they are men.

IT IS THROUGH THIS THAT WE WILL SAVE OURSELVES!

Do not be dragged down by this thinly veiled racism and sexism.  Are there wicked men?  Yes!  But they are wicked because of SIN, not because of their gender.  There are wicked women too.

Are there wicked white people?  Yes!  But they are wicked because of SIN, not because of their race.  There are wicked people of other races too.

The source of our evil is inside of us.  In our broken sinful nature.  And no amount of re-education can fix us.  The only cure, the only way for us to begin to break these patterns is through Jesus Christ, the true vine.

The only hope for this world is repentance and conversion through the cross of Christ.

We do not need our sinful nature re-educated, we need it killed.  We need our sins nailed to the cross of Christ, and put away with.

We do not need the good parts of ourselves strengthened, we need them to be resurrected from the dead, through the empty tomb of Christ, and put on like a new garment.

The catechism says it this way:

     But what are good works?

     Only those done out of true faith

It is through Christ granting us the gift of faith in our hearts, worked there by the Holy Spirit, that there is any hope for us.

And it is still a process.  Just because we have faith in our hearts does not make every Christian do only good works all the time.  But rather, our conversion is ongoing.  It is not about one act of faith, long ago, it is living by faith, as we heard in our call to worship this afternoon.  The righteous will live by faith.

To live by faith is not just putting your trust in Jesus Christ for salvation as if that’s it.  We are called to live by faith every day.  Every time we pray, we are exercising our faith, getting stronger, our old nature becoming more and more dead, and our new nature becoming more and more alive.

Living by faith is not a one off action.  It’s not a dimly remembered confession in front of the church, or in your bed one night when you were 5 years old.  But rather, it is a present, vivid, costly, constant and enduring faith in God.

A faith in God, despite appearances, despite the difficulties of our lives, despite our feelings, despite our despair over the world, despite disappointments we may have with the church.

This is your faith, and these are your good works.

But make this more practical for us! I hear you asking.  This makes it seem like good works are it’s just about a spiritual...something...in our hearts, and yet, at the same time, it’s not just an emotion.  Can you give an example?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  I can, because the catechism does, and because Scripture does.  The standard for good works.  Our second point.

If goodness does actually exist, as the philosophers agree it does...what is the best way to achieve it in our lives?

Morality cannot be legislated they all say.

If only we could just have an iron-clad, loophole free document…

But it’ll never work! They say.

Because if the heart is not in it, it doesn’t matter what is written in the document.  Even if all the loopholes are tightened, if what the heart desperately wants is to commit acts of wickedness, new loopholes will be found.

Loopholes are sought out and used only by those who have no true love or care for the other.

If the human heart is truly depraved, then a to-do list of moral behaviours will not have the desired effect.

A list of all the immoral behaviours that human beings are supposed to avoid will not be able to completely stop the stream of wickedness bubbling up in the human heart.  Because if it could, then Jesus died for nothing.  Surely, making a list is easier than sending a Saviour.  But the Law would never have worked.  The Law DIDN’T work.  We heard that in our reading.

But God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.

The Old Testament law could not put an end to sin.

Moses, the human law-giver, still sinned.  Moses, the humblest man, still did not fulfill the righteous requirements of the law, and he died without entering the Promised Land.

The people of Israel, at the foot of Mt. Sinai, looking up at the thick darkness that covered it...they refused to worship the One True God, and instead, made a golden calf.

The law and the prophets, and evil the animal sacrifices could not put an end to the sin of God’s people.  The Law was helpless to fight the evil at work in their bodies.

The law was helpless, and so the people were hopeless.

Again, our reading gives the answer: BUT GOD, did what the law could not do and sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, and He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

But what does it mean?

How does this fit with what the catechism says?

That good works are done in accordance to God’s law?

Didn’t the Messiah replace Moses?

Didn’t the Lord replace the Law?

By no means!  For Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it!

Our Saviour fulfilled the ceremonial law through His death -  becoming the final and eternal high Priest, becoming the final sacrifice for sins.

Our Saviour fulfilled the moral law through His life - being perfectly obedient to His Heavenly Father, and crediting it to our account.

And our Saviour, through His Spirit, fulfills the moral law in our lives.

If the heart is not willing, then morality cannot be legislated through a list.

But if the heart is MADE WILLING, by receiving the life-giving Spirit, connected to the vine, then there can be a list that serves, not to SAVE, but to GUIDE.

And this is why we read the 10 commandments each and every week.  This is why our next Lord’s Day begins to go through them for us.

The 10 commandments, the moral law, serves as a guide for our thankful living.  As a guide for good works.  It cannot PRODUCE these good works in us, only Christ can do that.  But when Christ is at work, then we can begin to do these good works - as Christ works them in our lives.

Good works aren’t something ethereal.  They are not something unattainable, but they are real and practical.

________________________________________

Many years ago, when I was a child, there was a fad that started.  A fad of wearing rubber bracelets around your wrist with the letters: WWJD on them.  Maybe some of you remember this.

WWJD - What Would Jesus Do

It wasn’t too bad of a reminder, but ultimately, especially for children, there were just so many scenarios that we don’t read of Jesus experiencing in His earthly life.

I’m being bullied...what would Jesus do?

     Well...Jesus was never bullied...so I don’t know!

And the adults would have to explain that even though Jesus was never bullied on the playground, he was abused by the Roman soldiers.  But in that case, He never opened His mouth...and so maybe in this case, What Would Jesus Do wasn’t the right question to ask.

And so, a more accurate, and a little less catchy abbreviation would be: WDGS - What Did God Say?

What Did God Say.

This is the ultimate question we must ask.

  • Before we turn on the news

  • Before we ask our conscience

  • Before we look at what the Pastor said (though hopefully he is faithful to Scripture)

Look in God’s Word.

Can I be mean to my brother since he was mean to me?

     Look in God’s Word - Bless those who persecute you.  Bless, and do not curse.

Can I tell a little white lie if it’s not hurting anyone?

     Look in God’s Word - Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices

Can I disobey the government for no reason?

     Look in God’s Word - Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist    have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed

Can I skip church for no reason?

     Look in God’s Word - let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together

And not every problem, not every moral question is quite this easy to solve.

I will say what we are all thinking - in these times, when some churches are disobeying the government, they are not doing it for no reason.  They have their reasons.

In these times, when we are not gathering together in the church building, we are not making these changes for no reason.  There are reasons.

There are times when morality is difficult.  Just recently here in BC, classis met for 13 hours, and we will be meeting again this upcoming week because of difficulty in knowing what is the right and Biblical path forwards on this particular issue.

But in so many other cases in our lives, we try to make things more grey than they actually are.  God’s Word is black and white about so many different moral issues.

Let us not, due to our stubbornness and sinful nature make black and white issues grey.

  • Abortion is murder, not health care.

    • This is a black and white biblical issue.

  • Combining worship with Muslims is idolatry and polytheism, not multiculturalism.

    • This is a black and white biblical issue.

  • Scheming, manipulating, and lying to others to get your own way is the wicked overflow of the heart.  The ends do not justify the means.

  • Gossip and slander, spreading rumours, is not acceptable, even if you tell yourself it was out of care for the other person.

Morality, and Good Works are rarely dealt with in shades of grey.  There is a right answer, and there is a wrong answer, and we have to show real spiritual strength to follow our God.

God’s Word, first and foremost is our guide, not, as the catechism says, not those things based on our own opinion or on precepts of men.

Congregation, doing good works is impossible, but it’s not difficult.

Doing good works is impossible for us in our own strength, but we have been given God’s strength.

Doing good works is not done through trial and error, or walking through the pitch blackness without a guide.  For the Word is our Guide.  It is a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path.  God’s way is clear in so many things.  We just need the strength to follow it.

And when we know what to do, and we do it, there is something special that happens.  There is a shine.  Our final point.

Have you ever had it where something happens in your life...some kind of healing, or a special joy in your life, and it is like a weight has been lifted off of you?  I hope you have, because it is an amazing feeling.

You stand a little taller, your smile a little wider, and the sinking feeling in your stomach isn’t there anymore, and you don’t have to hide it.

This is what it’s like when we understand the role of good works in the life of the Christian, and we begin to do them. 

This is what it was like for Martin Luther! 

When Martin Luther discovered that we were saved, not by WORKS, but by God’s grace, through faith, he felt like a new man

As he repeated his prayers, walking up and down the staircase, the words of the prophet Habakkuk, quoted in Romans 1 came suddenly to his mind: “The righteous shall live...by faith.”  Immediately, he ceased his prayers, returned to Wittenburg, and took this as the chief foundation of his doctrine.

Later, Luther reflected, “before those words broke upon my mind, I hated God and was angry with him.  But, when, by the Spirit of God, I understood those words: The righteous shall live by faith, then I felt born again like a new man; I entered through open doors into the very Paradise of God!”

Instead of being bogged down with guilt because though we try and we try and we try…

Instead of living a life completely unsatisfied with ourselves, and angry at God for His high demands…

We can live a life of joy and peace.  We can live a life of contentedness, knowing that we can rest in the finished work of Christ, and what we are doing is works of thankfulness.

When Christ said IT IS FINISHED...He meant it.

We do not have to make up for what He was lacking - for our precious Saviour has no lack in Him or His work.

And when we live these lives of freedom, this radical freedom, this radical hope for an eternity with God, even though we don’t deserve it, there will be something different about us.

We will still cry over the brokenness of life - but our tears will look more like a lament than mourning.

We will still have stress and pressure - but we can handle it a lot better because we have divine strength in our hearts.

We will LOOK DIFFERENT, and people will ask us the reason for the joy we have.

For this is one of the necessary aspects of doing good works.  We do not do good works only for ourselves, to get that peace.  We do not only do good works for others, that they might benefit, when we help the old lady across the road, or serve at the soup kitchen.

The benefit has to be more than just soup.

Good works are done, the catechism says: out of true faith (not from ourselves, check!), in accordance with the law of God...not...based on our own opinion or the precepts of men (based on - WHAT DID GOD SAY, check!) and to His glory.

When we do these good works, we are doing them to the glory of God.

We do them with worship and praise in our hearts, and we do them to spread the glory of God throughout the earth, wanting everyone to take up the song.

We will LOOK DIFFERENT, and people will ask us the reason for the joy we have.

And we will tell them.

And, once again, this is not something intangible or impractical.  Sharing our faith is desperately important, and there’s far more to it than I can share in the little time I have left, but let me give you 3 ways to share your faith.

The Testimonial Style

Think of the Samaritan woman at the well.  Come and see!  Come and see what God has done for me!

Or the man born blind.  One thing I know...I was blind, but now I see!

You see this peace in me...you see that I’m different...that’s because of God at work in my life!  I can’t give you all the smart arguments, but I can show you how my life changed.  It all began with a man named Jesus.

 

Or, if you are the intellectual type...

The Intellectual Style

If you feel comfortable with this, and someone is coming at you with broad statements: The Bible is anti-science!  What you believe doesn’t make any sense!  Then you can challenge them.

You can challenge the lacking fossil record.  You can challenge evolution with the irreducible complexity of organisms.  You can talk philosophically about the Kalam Cosmological Argument, or the Ontological Argument.

And before most of your eyes glaze over with this intellectual style, you can also use 

The Relational Style

Did you know that some psychologists say that being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference?  So many people in this world are lonely, especially now.  So many people just want to be heard, and they want the opportunity to hear you.  Instead of “cold evangelism” where you don’t know the person, be a neighbour to them.  Be their friend.  For what do friends do when they get together?  They talk about what is most important to them.  You will not love the person in order to share the gospel with them, but you will share the gospel with them because you love them.  Get to know your neighbours.  Talk to them across the back fence.  When the time is right, invite them to go to church one Sunday morning, or to a Bible study during the week.  Invite them to dinner, and show them Christ through our prayers before and after the meal.  Show them Christ through your family devotions.  Show them love by showing them Jesus.

 

And when you do, that glow, that shine of God’s love will begin to spread.  It will spread, until one day it covers the whole world, and philosophers will no longer have to search for what is Good, true, and beautiful.

For these three attributes are found, in their fullness, in our Saviour.

He is Good - morally perfect.  The Lawgiver, and the ultimate Lawkeeper.

He is True - He always told the truth.  Each and every promise He made we can be sure that He will keep it.  But He is also the fullness of truth.  The fullness of history.  It all points to Him, and He is its true fulfillment.

And He is beautiful - when we see Jesus for who He is, we will want to bask in His light and His glory forever.  We will want to shout it from the rooftops, for He is so kind, so gracious, so merciful, so marvellous.  His grace is like nothing else, and His love is forever.

     When we do good works, we are inspired by His example.

     When we do good works, we are empowered by His Spirit.

     When we do good works, we do it to His glory.

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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