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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:How Then Shall We Honour?
Text:LD 39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 5th Commandment (Obedience)
 
Added:2022-07-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: 1 Peter 2

Lesson: Lord’s Day 39

 

HOW THEN SHALL WE HONOUR?

  1. Through the Lesson of the Garden

  2. Through the Lesson of the Home

  3. Through our Struggle in this World

 

  1. Psalm 93:1-4

  2. Psalm 97: 1, 3, 5

  3. Hymn 74:1-4

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Psalm 8:1-3

  6. Hymn 46: 1, 2

 

Words to Listen For: shattered, mischievous, mailbox, Justin, 0%

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Why is the 5th commandment so hard to follow?

  2. When do children start rebelling?

  3. How is the home a training ground for parents?

  4. What does honour mean?

  5. What is the key 4-word phrase that brings it all together? How should we understand this?

* 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,

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who told me the story of when he hiked with his children around Yosemite Falls.  All the way to the waterfall, the children were scrambling over the pieces of shale like mountain goats, but when they drew close to the waterfall, when they first heard the thundering water, my friend sat his children down and explained to them the danger of the waterfall.

This waterfall is beautiful, but it’s also dangerous he said.  We have to be careful when we’re hiking close to it, because the spray will make all the rocks around it very wet and very very slippery.

The kids were only half-listening, and thought to themselves, “It’s okay, we’re really steady on our feet.  Maybe it’s a danger for Dad, but not for us!”

They nodded along, just to get Dad off their back, but as they hiked closer, they saw another hiker being carried out, with his arms around two of his friends, and his legs like jelly.

You see, this man wasn’t careful on the slippery shale.  He made one wrong move, slipped, and was knocked unconscious.

Thankfully, he was hiking with some friends, and they helped him back to his feet, and helped him out of there.

Thankfully too,  this shocked the kids into listening to what Dad was saying.

Be careful when you’re hiking by the foot of the waterfall.  The rocks are super slippery, and so every move, every step is a decision.  So make it a good one.  Walking is easy, but this is treacherous.

And our commandment for this afternoon is just like this waterfall hike.  On the surface, it seems so easy.  Honour your father and your mother.  Of all the commandments, this seems to be one that is within our reach.  Well...this one and the next two.  But as we will see, each one of these “easy commandments” are actually much more difficult, much more treacherous, than we would first think.

As we examine our hearts this afternoon, and think of how we have broken this commandment, along with the rest of them this week, let us learn the answer to the question:

HOW THEN SHALL WE HONOUR?

  1. Through the Lesson of the Garden

  2. Through the Lesson of the Home

  3. Through our Struggle in this World

 

The catechism, as it has for the first four commandments, teaches us, by drawing on other texts in Scripture, that the simple words of the commandment are not the entirety of what God has to say on the topic.  

These simple words: Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to honour.  This commandment is both deeper and broader than it first appears.  The catechism shows us that this commandment is broader when it explains that it is not only about father and mother, but about all those in authority over me.

This commandment, then, is about teachers, elders, babysitters, bosses, and even government officials.

It also shows us that it is deeper, as the easy, vague, non-threatening word “honour” is further explained by the words “love, faithfulness, submission, and obedience.”  We see that this “simple commandment” has just become wet, slippery, and treacherous.  Every move we make, every step we take is a decision.  And we have to make it wisely.

And I’ll be honest with you, when understood in this way….this commandment, maybe more than any of the others...this commandment is a real struggle for me...and I don’t think I’m the only one.

     Submission...even to those whom I deem to be unworthy of authority?

     Obeying foolish laws that lack common sense?

     Honoring those who represent everything that I fight against?

If I think about this for too long...the very idea makes my blood boil...and I think that, maybe with a few minor differences, you are the same as I am in this.  Submission is hard.

And we may wonder why.  Why does THIS COMMANDMENT affect me so much?  Why is THIS COMMANDMENT so hard for me to follow?

I’ll tell you why.  The commandment to honour those in authority over us is so difficult because it is directly opposed to our human nature.

But it wasn’t always this way.  For a time, and we don’t know how long, but for a time, there was perfect, happy submission between man and God.

We don’t know how long it was for Adam and Eve in the Garden...that they were in perfect relationship with God and they didn’t desire anything else...but we know that it did happen.

We know that, for a time, they lived perfectly as they were created to do.  As each one of us was created to do.  Created in the image of God, but still unique from Him.  Still different.  We were created to serve, to worship and obey.  We were created to submit - and all of this was good.

But the problem is that now we have a broken image.  The mirror shattered.

What happened?

What happened for that image to be broken?  What happened for that submission to become something bitter?

Well, it was sin.  Sin is what happened.

The issue here of submission, the issue here about honour and obedience...breaking this...was the first sin.  Satan awakened in us the desire to be our own gods.  Why would you want to show GOD to other people?  Are you content being HIS IMAGE?  Why not be YOUR OWN IMAGE?  Why would you be content serving?  Wouldn’t you rather reign?

It is, as John Milton put it in his epic poem: Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.  This is Satan’s argument - to himself, the other fallen angels, and to Eve.

But when he presented this to Eve, he didn’t tell the whole picture.

BETTER TO REIGN he said - and then, under his voice, in hell, THAN TO SERVE, again, under his voice - in heaven.

You could reign or you could serve...what will you choose?

You will not surely die, but you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

But the serpent lied.

The serpent lied to Adam and Eve that they would be like God.

Adam and Eve were already as close to God as they could have possibly been - they were created in His image!  In true righteousness and holiness!  Adam and Eve already reigned as much as they possibly could have - they were given dominion over creation!  But it wasn’t enough.

In a futile attempt to gain what they could never have, they lost the blessing that they already had.

They wanted to be independent from God...and so that’s what they got.  But what they didn’t realize, is that, with the loss of God, there was also the loss of everything good.

And even though there was this punishment, even though the taste of independence from God was so bitter...it was addictive.  This is what happened in the Garden.

So...beloved...what is the lesson of the Garden?  What can we learn from this?

However much our sinful flesh tells us we hate submission and obedience...this is what we were created for.  This is what will truly satisfy our soul.

Honour, submission, obedience...this is our true nature.  We’ve only forgotten.  We have been poisoned against it, Satan throws up deception after deception to keep us in slavery to him - BETTER TO REIGN THAN TO SERVE.  But what Satan is offering doesn’t exist.  Not even Satan will reign in hell forever.  At the end, even HIS knee will bow, and he will declare, through gritted teeth, through wailing and gnashing of teeth...that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Honoring those in authority over you...no matter how unpleasant it is...the alternative is worse.  This is what we learn from the Garden.  In trying to “have it all” Adam and Eve lost it all.  They became their own gods, and immediately realized that they were very poor gods indeed.

It was the lack of honour, the lack of submission and obedience that caused sin to enter this word, and thousands of years later, it was honour, submission, and obedience that caused salvation to enter this world.

Jesus Christ our Lord perfectly submitted to the will of God.  The second Adam succeeded where the first Adam failed.  The first Adam failed to obey a simple commandment in paradise.  The second Adam obeyed all the commandments in a fallen world, attacked on every side.  He submitted, He honored, He obeyed...unto death - even death on a cross.

This is the lesson of the Garden.  But we aren’t in the Garden anymore.  We can’t go back and make the right choice that Adam failed to do - and we don’t have to.  Because Christ did that for us, on our behalf.  But we do have another training ground where every step is a decision where every step could be treacherous.  The home.  Our second point.

The struggle of Adam and Eve didn’t stay in the Garden, but rather, that bitter but addictive taste of independence from God…each one of us has inherited that same addiction.  We know that it’s bad.  We know that it’s wrong.  We know that it is foolish for us to go our own way.

And yet we still do it.  We have inherited this curse from our first parents...and so the deck is stacked against us from the start.

Children have this addiction.  Right from the start, don’t they?

They have it, even from the womb, but it begins to come clearly into sight when your infant becomes a toddler.

It’s wonderful, it’s beautiful to see that little bit of personality...if your child is mischievous, if your child is curious...you see that in your child.  It’s wonderful, but it’s sobering, because when you say “don’t go in there” when you say “don’t play with this toy”... that’s exactly what they want to do.

There is that rebellious streak within us, right from the moment we are conceived in our mother’s womb.  We inherit that rebellious streak.  The deck is stacked against us...every step is treacherous...but that is why we are given families.  To teach us, right from the start, the difference between good and evil.  To teach us that what we naturally feel in our heart is wrong, and that there’s a better way of living.

This is the reason why the 5th commandment is given in the language of parents and children.  It’s because, for both parents and children, the home is a training ground for honour and obedience.

Let’s take a look at the parents first.

Parents have the unique experience of being both authoritative and submissive.

In how they parent, mothers and fathers are to be obeyed, and they themselves must obey.

How does this practically work itself out?

When Mom and Dad run the home, they have to make rules for the household.  Making a list of chores, and curfews.  Deciding what to do when a child misbehaves.

And there’s something that happens with first-time parents.  They realize just how much their children imitate them.  They realize just how much of themselves, the good and the bad, is present there in the children.

And in trying to parent little versions of themselves, they can see their flaws all too well.  In the mirror of their children, parents see their flaws, and they see how they need to do better.  Parents are the authority, and they need to be a good one.

But parents also need to obey.  Parents need to obey the commandment to love their children.  To raise their children in the way that they should go.  Parents need to fulfill the vows they made at baptism.

Listen to this description of parenthood given to me by a young father:

Sometimes I have a bad day, and I’m pretty grumpy when I get home from work.  But then, the tug of a small child on my pant leg.  It’s my son, and he wants to be picked up.  He has sticky hands and desperately needs a bath.  But I see his little face, and that love wells up inside of me.  My troubles are forgotten for the moment, and I revel in the joy of my son, tossing him in the air, hearing him giggle.

That’s how it works sometimes.

But there are other times too.  It’s 3AM, and I hear crying.  My son has thrown up in his bed, and I have to clean it.  It is at that time that I have to submit to the call of fatherhood, even when all I want to do is sleep.

I’ve learned that fatherhood is a prime opportunity for training in gospel love.  My son requires a lot of me, and I have to give of myself, whether I want to or not.

The home is A training ground for parents, but it is THE training ground for children.

This life is like a waterfall hike.  Each and every step is treacherous, there are pitfalls everywhere.  Not just outside yourself, but even inside of yourself.  We are attacked by the devil, the world, and our own flesh.  How can we possibly walk safely?

We can walk safely when we are taught, when we are trained up in the way that we should go.  Right from the start, children, you are called to obey and honour your parents.  As soon as you begin to understand even a little, you have to obey.  One of the first words a child says is “no,” and so, one of the first things parents have to teach their child to say, with their mouth and with their heart, is “Yes Dad.  Yes Mom.”

Children, you must obey and honour your parents...and not just when they make it easy by calling you down to eat your favorite meal, or by telling you to check the mailbox for your birthday gift that’s coming.

But you also must obey and honour your parents when it’s hard.  When it’s difficult.  When you’re grumpy, and you would rather do just about anything else.  Coming down for dinner when it’s broccoli, checking the mail when it’s just bills.  You must honour and obey when you’re told to vacuum the house, when you’re told to do your homework, when you’re given a curfew.

And why?  Why do you have to do this?  Is is because your parents are right all the time?

I’m sorry parents, but I’m going to give up one of your secrets…

Children...Mom and Dad aren’t always right.  They aren’t always right.

Mom and Dad have lived a lot longer than you have, Mom and Dad know a lot more than you do, but they’re not perfect.

You don’t obey them because they’re always right.  You obey them because this is what you are called to do by God.

This is what you are called to...and you will fail.  You will fail at this, just like your parents will fail in their parenting.  But that doesn’t mean that the home is a bad place.  That doesn’t mean that the home isn’t a wonderful gift of God.  Because failure...failure isn’t final.  Failure isn’t permanent.

Each and every step is a decision, so make it a good one.  If you slipped on your last step, take a deep breath, and ask dad where you should put your foot next time.

Each step is a choice.  Obedience is a choice.  Honoring your father and your mother is a choice that you make.  No-one can force you to do it.  There will be consequences if they catch you disobeying, but Mom and Dad won’t see every rebellious act that you do.  They won’t hear every complaint out of your mouth.

It’s a choice that you make - submitting, obeying, honoring, and loving.

The home is the place where we are taught, parents and children are taught, hour by hour, day by day, year by year...that our hatred of submission doesn’t have to be permanent.  We see the blessings of when submission and honour work out perfectly.

Mom and Dad honour their children, showing them true love and servant leadership by putting the needs of their children about their own needs, and the kids honour Mom and Dad by listening to them, and obeying their instructions.  This is what happens in the home.

So...what is the lesson of the home?

The deck is stacked against us from the start.  Our first parents, Adam and Eve, didn’t help us, but rather, they cursed us.  They gave us this addiction to independence from God.  Their sin blinded our eyes to the truth.

But God.  But God stepped in and granted us the blessing of parents who will help us.  Of parents who will teach us.

God stepped in and granted us the blessing of children who will give us opportunities to show that gospel love.

Each and every step we take is a decision, each and every step we take is an opportunity, and we do not have to take these steps alone.  The blessing of the family unit is that it is a unit - this is how God has created us, and this is what prepares us for our struggle out in the world.  Our final point.

So far, you might be wondering why I have this strong and visceral reaction against the fifth commandment.  So far...we know that it’s hard...but it’s not impossible.  The Christian home is a blessing, and even if it’s hard sometimes to submit to our parents, even if it’s hard sometimes to submit to the call to servant leadership over our children...it’s not impossible.

But here is where the rubber meets the road.  In the world.

God gave us parents, He gave most of us Christian parents who try their best to properly lead us and guide us...but the government?

The government isn’t Christian.  It hasn’t been for a long time now.  The best we can hope for in the government is that it leaves us alone, right?  The government either hurts the church and hurts Christians, or it does nothing.  How can we honour a government that has no love for the church, and no love for God?

It’s a challenge for sure.  It is a challenge that raises my hackles and makes my blood boil.

Now, there are those who define “honour” rather narrowly.

We are to HONOUR those in authority...not OBEY them - there’s a difference!

As long as I don’t insult our Prime Minister or our Premier...I don’t actually have to listen to them!  And if the occasional insult slips out...as long as it’s factual, then I’m okay.  There’s nothing technically wrong with referring to our Prime Minister with our voices dripping with sarcasm, calling him the RIGHT HONORABLE Justin Trudeau.

But are you sure about that?  Is that really what the catechism teaches?  Is that really what Scripture teaches?  

What does our reading say?  Our reading from 1 Peter 2 is in full agreement with the catechism...or rather, I should say, our catechism is in full agreement with Scripture, when it says in verse 13 - Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution

Be subject.  If you want to make the argument that Exodus 20:12 doesn’t really mean obey...be sure that 1 Peter 2:13 does.

Be subject to every human institution.  Just like Jesus was subject to his parents when they wrongly rebuked him for being in the temple.

Just like the demons were subject to the power of Jesus Christ, just like creation was subjected to futility at the fall.

Be subject.

And then, just in case Peter’s readers would wonder if he meant really meant EVERY human institution, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives a list:

Who is included?

  • The emperor - at this time, the emperor Nero, who persecuted Christians

  • Governors - Governors like Pontius Pilate, who crucified Christ

  • Masters - men and women who owned slaves

    • Whether they be good and gentle, or unjust

What Peter is saying here is pretty black and white.

BE SUBJECT.

As the catechism says: submit myself with due obedience.

In my excitement to explain this, I skipped over a very important phrase here.  Just four words, but it is key to Peter’s argument.  It is the connection between verses 1-12 and verses 13-25. 

Why? WHY should I submit to evil emperors, and godless governors, and even slave owners?

FOR THE LORD’S SAKE.

Be subject FOR THE LORD’S SAKE, to every human institution.

This is KEY.  If you forget everything else, don’t forget this.  Because this is the key to softening our hard hearts when it comes to the authorities.  If we miss these four words, we miss the most important thing.

And these four words are important in two ways.  They are important because they show the limits of our obedience, and they are important because they show the reason for our obedience.

These words show the limits of our obedience to the government.  Submit FOR THE LORD’S SAKE...you cannot submit for the Lord’s sake to something that the Lord hates.  That doesn’t work.  As Christians, we are not simply to be known as those who do everything the government says at all times.

I will use myself as an example.

As a minister of God’s word, I am HIS AMBASSADOR, sent to proclaim HIS WORD, and shepherd HIS FLOCK.

  • Therefore, if it becomes illegal for me to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, I will disobey.

  • If it become illegal for me to preach that the Bible is the ultimate source of truth, I will disobey.

  • If it becomes illegal for me to preach that Jesus Christ, and not Baal, and not the Government, is Lord...I will disobey.

Because the 5th commandment, and 1 Peter 2...they do not mean that we must blindly follow every human institution.  Each and every time that we obey, we must make that informed choice. 

Each and every time that we disobey - and these should be few and far between - we must make that informed choice. Shall I self-sacrificially obey, for the Lord’s sake? Or shall I, self-sacrificially, disobey, for the Lord’s sake?

But we cannot use the weakness and sinfulness and corruption of the government as an excuse to disobey ANYTHING THEY SAY either.  If we can obey both God and the Government, WE MUST.  Even if it is unpleasant.  Even if it hurts.

Submission is really only submission when you do something you don’t want to do.  If you only obey the government when the government is in agreement with you...I have news for you - that’s not submission.  If your children would only obey you when you gave them rules that they liked...that would not be submission.

If, as Christians, we hack up the 10 commandments and say, I only agree with the even ones, I’ll submit to those...this is not submission.

We are to submit, FOR THE LORD’S SAKE.  This is the REASON for our obedience and honour.

This commandment has nothing to do with the identity of the institution.  This commandment has nothing to do with the identity of your parents.  Our honour, or our rebellion...they have nothing to do with our feelings, or even our consciences.

We do not look to ourselves and see if we feel like obeying or rebelling today.

We do not look to the institution and see if they are worthy of our honour or respect.

We do not look and weigh the consequences for rebelling.

Instead, we look to God.  We look to God and we submit FOR HIS SAKE, whether we have to grit our teeth and hold our tongue to do it, or not.

There is no room for us, as God’s royal priesthood, His holy nation, a people of His own possession…

There is no room for us to make excuses and say, “But they have to EARN THE RIGHT to be obeyed.  They have to EARN THE RIGHT to be honoured.”  No.  0%.

You do not start in a neutral position with your parents, or with any human institution.  That’s not the way that life in God’s kingdom works.

Children, you have been given to your parents.  You have been placed in your family so that your parents would love you and care for you, and so that you would submit to them, honour them, and obey them. For God’s sake. This is the starting position.

This is what you were created for...and even more...this is what you were REDEEMED for.

It is AS A SUBJECT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, that you are to be subject to every human institution.

Our acts of submission to human authorities is an act of worship and witness.  It is an act of worship for us to honour those who God has placed in authority over us.  It is submission, ultimately, to God, and to His good will and purpose.  We submit to our parents, we submit to the government, not because of WHO THEY ARE, but because of WHO GOD IS, and because of WHO WE ARE.

God has placed them in authority, and so we submit to His will.

God has placed us under their authority, and so we submit to His will.

And when we do this, we are also witnessing to them: THIS IS THE POWER OF GOD AT WORK IN MY LIFE.  My life isn’t about me and my desires.  I serve a higher power.

There is a higher authority than me, and because of who He is and what He has done for me, I am willing to suffer for His sake.

Instead of speaking our mind, we must learn to mind our tongue.

It is because of Christ that, no matter the turmoil of our souls, no matter how much it boils our blood, we can look authorities in the eye and say, “I will submit to you, I will honour you...but it’s not because of who you are.  It is because of who God is.  You would have no authority if He did not give it to you, but He has, and so I will respect that.  For His sake, for His glory, I honour you.”

If we dishonour the authorities, we dishonour the ultimate authority.  Because our work here, our life here on this earth, is CENTRAL to our relationship with God.  If we behave shamefully, it reflects on everyone around us.  If we behave shamefully, it reflects poorly on who we belong to.  

As Christians, we bear the name of Christ, our great Saviour, and the perfect picture of heartfelt submission...and if He could submit to His sinful parents who did not understand that He had to be in the house of God, if He could submit to the sinful governor, Pontius Pilate, as He was wrongfully condemned to death, for our sake...how can we do any different? 

And I know this is easy for me to say.  It is easy for me to say this from this pulpit.  But I know, that, as soon as I walk down these steps, from the moment I walk out these doors, it won’t be easy for me anymore.  I will have to put my own words into action, and it will be a challenge.

It will be difficult for me to submit this week - and I know I’m not the only one.  It is a challenge to submit.  It is a challenge to obey.  It is a challenge to properly honour.  It’s a challenge in the home, and it seems impossible out in the world.  Each step is treacherous.  Each step is slippery, and we are in danger of falling at every second.  But we’re not alone.

By the provision of God the Father, following the picture of God the Son, and by the Power of God the Holy Spirit, I am willing to grit my teeth, roll up my sleeves, and submit.  Submit to my parents - even though I’m an adult, and they live 2000 kilometers away.  Submit to the elders of this church, even though I am a fellow elder with them.  Submit to the government, even though they neither understand nor love God.

With God helping me, this week will be different.  This week will be better.  I will serve, I will honour, I will submit, and I will obey.  Not for the government’s sake.  Not for my sake, to soothe by aching conscience. But out of love.  For the Lord’s sake.

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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