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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:A Saviour Finally Found
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Added:2022-11-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Luke 15:1-10

Lesson: Lord’s Day 6

 

A SAVIOUR FINALLY FOUND

  1. He Was Not Lost - We Were

  2. He Was Not Absent - He Was Hiding in Plain Sight

 

  1. Psalm 31: 1, 11, 14

  2. Hymn 16:1, 5

  3. Hymn 19: 1, 3

  4. Hymn 1

  5. Psalm 111:1, 5

  6. Hymn 37:1-2

 

Words to Listen For: case, floundered, home, firstborn, fish

 

Questions For Understanding:

  1. Is the gospel similar to an ancient roman legend?  Why or why not?

  2. What’s the Great Paradox?  What is its answer?

  3. Were we looking for God?  While dead in sin?

  4. Where was Jesus in the Old Testament? (Various answers)

  5. What is the only right response to the gospel?

* 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,

Have you ever heard of the character Damocles?  Damocles and his famous sword?

It’s not a story that your teachers or parents would tell you.  It’s not exactly a comforting bedtime story.  And yet, it is a story that illustrates an important point.

It’s a Roman legend.  A fable really, made popular by the Roman philosopher Cicero.

Damocles was a regular man who found himself in the court of the very wealthy and powerful King Dionysius.  When he saw the luxuries of the court, he approached the king and began to compliment him, hoping that his flattery would allow him to share in the wealth and comfort of the king.

And eventually, it did!  King Dionysius invited Damocles to live the life of a king.  He was ushered into a room with beautiful woven tapestries on the wall, he was seated on a golden couch in a room where incense was burning, and was fed with the most lavish foods.

Everything was just as he imagined it…until Damocles looked up.

There above him he saw a sword.  Razor-sharp, suspended right over his head by a single horse-hair.

King Dionysius said that this was the price of kingship.  All these lavish things do not come cheaply.  They are not easy.  When you are king, there is a price on your head.  You live your life in constant danger.  Constant fear of assassination attempts and political coups.

Damocles then begged the king to go back to his ordinary life.  He could not handle the threat of the sword, even with the lavish comforts of kingship.

And this is how we might feel about the gospel sometimes.  When we hear the gospel, it is a mixture of good news and bad news - the good news of our inheritance in Christ, true, lasting, heavenly riches, far better than any golden couch - we will reign on the throne with Jesus Christ!  Far better than tapestries and incense, we will be in the presence of God!  Far better than lavish food that will just leave us hungry in a few hours, we will feast at the marriage feast of the lamb!

But then the bad news…the wrath of God.  What we heard this morning.  God’s righteous wrath over sin.  A wrath that threatens sinners with an eternity in hell.  Far worse than any razor-sharp sword.

And like Damocles, we may want to run away.  The gospel with its promises and threats, the covenant with its blessings and curses… “I don’t want ANY OF THIS.  THE COST IS JUST TOO HIGH!”

But unlike Damocles, we cannot run from this.  The gospel is not just the reality for Christians.

The gospel is the reality for each and every one of us, whether we believe it or not.  There is wrath.  There is a hell below each of our feet.

And as we heard last week in Lord’s Day 5, since we are now under the heading Our Deliverance we might think that all the bad news is all behind us.  But that’s not exactly the case, is it?

Lord’s Day 5 spoke of temporal and eternal punishment, and the burden of God’s eternal wrath.

Lord’s Day 6 speaks of the justice of God, paying for sin, and the burden of God’s wrath.

The bad news is still all around us.  But the good news is there too.  Not just temporary comfort to make us forget about the sword, but truly a Saviour who solves the problem, who removes the sword from its place, a Saviour who forever shuts the gates of hell.

The problem of our natural hatred (Lord’s Day 2), our depraved nature (Lord’s Day 3), God’s justice (Lord’s Day 4), God’s righteous wrath (Lord’s Day 5) is answered in Lord’s Day 6, as we encounter:

A SAVIOUR FINALLY FOUND

  1. He Was Not Lost - We Were

  2. He Was Not Absent - He Was Hiding in Plain Sight

 

A Saviour Finally Found: He Was Not Lost - We Were

Over the last several Lord’s Days, we have been searching for something…or rather, searching for SomeONE.

If you look at just the text of the catechism, there is no hope at all in Lord’s Days 2-5.  Not a single line.

Where the the hope to be found in our inclination to do exactly the opposite of what God commands in His Law?  Hatred instead of love?

Where is the hope to be found in learning how we were CREATED, if we are no longer like that?

Where is the hope found in learning that our merciful God is also a just God who is terribly angry with our sins?

And where is the hope found in learning that the only one who could possibly save us has to be a human being, but also more powerful than any human being?

But our hopeless situation comes to an end in Lord’s Day 6!  And we have been waiting for it!  Desperately!

 

Put yourself in the position of the catechism, really the position of believers for the majority of history.  Each and every believer before they encountered the full gospel.

And I say the FULL GOSPEL because the gospel in shadows and ceremonies was there since the entry of sin into the world.  This we will hear more of later in the sermon.

But put yourself in this position.  We have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of CHRIST in the catechism.  And, to be honest with you, in the other catechism sermons…I cheated.  I couldn’t wait til preaching Lord’s Day 6 to mention Jesus Christ, and so you got bits and pieces throughout.

But imagine, instead of having to wait for MONTHS to read of Jesus Christ in the catechism, you lived your entire life in the darkness without Him.

Waiting your entire life, waiting throughout the generations, trying to discover salvation.  Trying to untangle the great paradox of the Old Testament.

 

Do you remember the Great Paradox?

The words that called us into worship this afternoon, God’s self-declaration to Moses…this is the Great Paradox.

The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger,

and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast

love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but

who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the

fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the

fourth generation.

How is this a paradox?

Simply in this: How can God forgive iniquity and transgression and sin, but also not clear the guilty?  How can God PUNISH SIN and FORGIVE SIN at the same time?  It just doesn’t make sense!

Well…it doesn’t make sense until we encounter the cross.

But putting ourselves in the position of believers thousands of years before the cross…it is a paradox.  The paradox of JUSTICE AND MERCY.  How can it be both?

And so believers floundered about in the darkness.  In confusion.

That is not to say that they were not SAVED, that is not to say that there were not moments of great joy in the Lord, great comfort, and figures of great faith…but there was no CLARITY on the issue of salvation.

“God is just, He will punish sins, but He is also merciful, He won’t punish MY SINS…maybe.”

And the people BELIEVED IT…the people LOVED IT…but they didn’t UNDERSTAND IT.

 

Now, one of you will say, “Is this quite accurate?  Isn’t it true that we are lost, that we are blind, that we are even DEAD in our sins…” so… can we actually say that the people were looking for a Saviour?  That they were searching for Him?

Well, yes, it is fair, it is accurate.  We are born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts. Our sins actually reveal a longing for more.  A longing for eternity.  A longing for the blessings of God.  For more pleasure, for more joy than a regular life on this earth can give us.

Our idolatries, when we search after other things to worship…reveals that our hearts were made to serve.  We were created as LITURGICAL BEINGS.  Created as those who are meant to worship.

It is our sin that has blinded us to the truth, but not to the DESIRE FOR TRUTH.

Let me say that again, its a deceptively complex thought.

Our sin has blinded us to the truth, but not to the DESIRE FOR TRUTH.

We can’t make our way to God, but we do know, deep down, that we are on a road…somewhere.  We are born with innate desires…desires that can only be satisfied by God.

This is what is known in the Canons of Dort as the LIGHT OF NATURE.

When we fell into sin, though we fell far, though we are totally unable to return to God on our own, our God did not let us fall THE WHOLE WAY.

There is, left in us, some light of nature, whereby we have SOME THOUGHTS about God - there is some kind of higher power out there, creation tells us this, our hearts tell us this…there HAS TO BE MORE!

We have some thoughts about God, and we have some thoughts of how we should treat each other - some notion of the difference between right and wrong.

And though this is not nearly enough to save us…it is enough to make us search.  To make us wonder.

When we search for God, some kind of higher power, something MORE…we might end us worshipping idols, or celebrities, or creation, or even devoting our lives to trying to figure out if aliens exist.  “There has to be more than just life on earth” … well … you’re right … there is extra-terrestrial life out there…but not as little green men…but angels and demons, and God Almighty!

So lost…knowing that there is Someone out there…knowing that there is right and wrong…but fumbling our way through, becoming idolators, as we serve false gods, becoming sinners as we write our own moral code instead of God’s…

We were so far from God.  But we have to recognize the truth of the old saying: When you find yourself far from God, ask yourself “who moved” ?  When you find yourself far from God, ask yourself “who moved” ?

Was it God who ran from us?  Was it God who became lost, and we had to go searching to bring HIM HOME?  By no means!  It was Adam and Eve who ran away.  It was Adam and Eve who plunged themselves and all their descendants into the thick darkness of sin.  We were the ones who were lost.  Lost: without God, without hope in the world.  We were so lost, we should have died.

But God refused to give up on His wayward people.  He brought us to His side, in His mercy, meeting with His people again and again, revealing to them who He was.  Revealing to them hints and pictures of how the Great Paradox COULD and WOULD be solved.  For ever since the fall into sin, there was the gospel.  Ever since the problem came into the world, there was a solution.  Jesus Christ was always there, hidden in plain sight.  Our second point.

It is here that we turn to our catechism a little more closely.

Question and Answer 16 and 17 flesh out what was needed.  WHO was needed.  We know this.  This was already addressed in Lord’s Day 5 - the WHAT was explained there, and the WHY is revealed here.

Imagine that the writers of the catechism are backing up, getting a running start into the revelation of our Saviour.

And so, going over old grounds once more, they are winding up to reveal the answer.  To reveal our mediator, our Saviour, the perfect sacrifice who would bring us reconciliation.

Who is this Mediator?  Have we been able to find our Saviour after our long search?  A search for us that wasn’t really that long, but in the timeline of history, a search that lasted thousands of years.

Who is our Saviour?  It is Jesus Christ - the only one who could possibly fulfill these requirements.

And with the benefit of hindsight…it is so obvious.

 

In Jesus Christ, the veil is removed, in Jesus Christ, those who were walking in darkness have seen a great light.

In Jesus Christ, we gaze, as it were, into the full face of God.  And suddenly, all the prophecies, all the clues, all the hints, all the mysteries, the shadows and the ceremonies of the Old Testament fall into their place.  It all, suddenly, makes SO MUCH SENSE.

From where do you know this?  That is, “who told you that Jesus Christ was the way to God?”

Well…it was a long time coming.

The answer is given to us: From the holy gospel

And let us stop briefly here.

When we hear the word “gospel” our minds go right to the first four books of the New Testament.  The books that we call The Gospels.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

But gospel simply means “good news.”  And there was good news, the specific good news of salvation through a Mediator long before the New Testament was written.  This the catechism rightly goes on to explain: 

The Holy Gospel, which God Himself first revealedin Paradise

Note that the answer here is not “The Holy Gospel which the angels who announced, first to Zechariah in the temple, then to Mary in her parent’s house, to Joseph in a dream, and finally, to the shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem.”

No!  Not at all!  The gospel is not purely a New Testament phenomenon.  The gospel was there, already in Paradise.

Genesis 3:15 - And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.

ALREADY IN PARADISE!  Minutes after sin entered the world, the gospel was there, right on its heels.

God does not allow the bad news of sin to exist alone.  He is so gracious, so persistent in His pursuit of us, that as soon as there is a problem, as soon as one of His precious children is suffering, is struggling, He is right there to help.

Now, that help sometimes includes rebuke!  In Genesis 3, the gospel comes in the middle of a calling out of the serpent, the woman, and the man in their respective sins.

But in the rebuke comes love.  Or, rather, the rebuke and the love don’t just GO TOGETHER…they are one and the same.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend.

And this help, this love, this gospel hope continues all throughout the thousands of years between that first proclamation of the gospel and its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

It was a gradual unveiling of just who it was who would save us.

That first proclamation of the gospel said that one of Adam and Eve’s offspring would defeat the serpent.

How do you think Eve felt as she held her firstborn son Cain - would he be the promised Saviour?  And then she was blessed with Abel.  Maybe one of these two boys would restore that fellowship with God!

But it would not be Abel…for he was murdered.

It would not be Cain…for he was the murderer.

And then the generations started coming and they didn’t stop coming.

At the time of Enosh, grandson of Adam and Eve, people began to call upon the name of the Lord.  They gathered together in belief, they gathered together for worship, and do not doubt that they gathered together to hope and long and pray for the promised Saviour.

But then, 9 generations later, in the days of Noah…the people of the earth weren’t any closer to a Saviour…instead, in their evil, they seemed to take after the serpent.

God sent the flood - an outpouring of His righteous wrath over sin - but saved Noah and his family, an outpouring of His merciful and gracious love.  There was hope, there was salvation, and a Saviour was coming.

Then there were the patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

To Abraham, God gave His covenant - a promise to bless all nations through his descendant.  In Jesus Christ, all nations are welcomed in.

To Isaac, God provided a substitute - a ram in Isaac’s place for a sacrifice.  In Jesus Christ, our Saviour Himself was the ram.  He was the lamb of God sacrificed in our place.

To Jacob, God promised that the sceptre would not depart from Judah’s house.  Jesus Christ, our eternal King was from the house and line of Judah.

It was all coming together.

 

Just looking at the psalms:

  • Psalm 2 speaks of the Lord’s Anointed as King over the nations, worthy of worship

  • Psalm 16 tells of the Holy One of God not being left in the grave

  • Psalm 22 speaks of the Suffering Servant, crucified for our transgressions

  • Psalm 40 tells of the one foretold to come and do God’s will perfectly

  • Psalm 72 speaks of the King who reigns forever in justice

  • Psalm 87 tells of the spiritual rebirth of the nations, welcomed into the heavenly Jerusalem

  • Psalm 118 speaks of the stone the builders had rejected becoming the capstone

 

A picture was being made.  The curtain was being pulled back, bit by bit, and revealing God’s eternal plan.

  • A picture of a man who was also God.

  • A servant who was also a King.

  • One who would die but be resurrected

  • One who would be the Ruler and Founder of the Heavenly City that welcomes in all peoples.

And the Holy Spirit through the prophets kept adding to the picture of just who it was who would come and solve the great mystery.  The great paradox.

Through Isaiah, we learn that He will be born of a Virgin and be called Immanuel.  He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Through Jeremiah, we learn that He will be the righteous branch, from the house of David, and will reign as King.

Through Ezekiel we learn that there will be a new covenant made with Him, where we will receive a heart of flesh in the place of our heart of stone.

In Daniel, He is the rock that destroys the kingdoms of this world and fills everything with His glory.

  • In Hosea, He is the faithful husband.

  • In Joel, He is the one who pours out the Spirit

  • In Amos, He is the booth of David

  • In Obadiah, He is the one who destroys the wisdom of the wise

  • In Jonah, He is the fish who saves a wayward prophet

  • In Micah, He is the one born in Bethlehem, who is from ancient days

  • In Nahum, He is the message of peace, published on the mountains

  • In Habakkuk, He is the one to crush the head of the house of the wicked

  • In Zephaniah, He is the King of Israel, the LORD who is in the midst of His people, who rejoices over you with gladness, and exults over you with loud singing

  • In Haggai, He is the fulfillment of Zerubbabel, the signet ring of the LORD

  • In Zechariah, He is the angel  of the LORD who clothes His priest in pure garments

  • In Malachi, He is the faithful husband, the one who is not a tyrant, who does not torment and abuse and trap His wife.

Beloved congregation - this is your Saviour!

The One who was SO CLEARLY PICTURED in the Old Testament, promised from of old.  The only one who could possibly save us.

 

He was then gloriously revealed at the incarnation.  That day where, as we heard not too long ago, literally split history in two - BC - before Christ, and AD - Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord.

At just the right time, our Saviour came.

And finally…finally our darkness was cleared away and we saw the answer to the Great Paradox.

We saw the one who matched His wanted poster.

 

WANTED: A SAVIOUR WHO CAN ACTUALLY SAVE

It was Jesus Christ.

 

The One who, on the cross, took the justice of God for our sins.  God was JUST and sins WERE PUNISHED.

He did not just forget our sins, He did not leave them unpunished, but He did punish them, in His Beloved Son, on the cross.

But He also showed mercy - He showed Himself to be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.

He did not clear the guilty - our sins were taken away, and we were therefore declared innocent.

He punished the guilty - our sins were put on Jesus Christ, and He was declared guilty, experiencing the full wrath of God.

Sins were punished - justice.

We did not have the bear that punishment - mercy.

 

The Paradox has been resolved!

Our Saviour has come!

 

We have found Him!  So let our joy be like that of the man who found his lost sheep, calling the neighbours to rejoice, to celebrate with him.

Let our joy be like that of the woman who found her lost coin, calling those around her, “Rejoice with me!”

This is the only right response to our Saviour.  This is the only right response to our salvation.  Joy and celebration with all those around us.

For we are not like Damocles of old - all the blessings of salvation, all the blessings of the gospel, but with the constant threat of the wrath of God hanging over us like a deadly sword.

For the sword has already fallen.  If we look up, we will not see a sword about to pierce us, but rather, we will turn our eyes heavenward and see the One who was pierced for us.

He received our punishment, that we might receive His reward and feast at His banquet table in glory, forever, staring at the face of our Answer, our Mediator, our Brother, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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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