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Author:Rev. Pete Van't Hoff
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Brockville, Ontario
Title:The Twofold Response to the Gospel
Text:CD 1 Art. 4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: NKJV
Song book: Trinity Psalter Hymnal
Welcome and announcements
Silent Prayer (respond w/? 558 “Hear Our Prayer, O Lord”)
Call to Worship
Confession of Dependence & God's Greeting
? Psalm 121-A "I Lift My Eyes Up to the Hills"
Congregational Prayer
Offerings:  1) Church   2) Middle East Reformed Fellowship
? Psalm 11-B "The LORD Is My Refuge"
Scripture: Revelation 20:11-21:4
Text: CD I:4
Sermon: "The Twofold Response to the Gospel"
In presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are only two responses and each comes with consequence.
1) For Those who Remain in Unbelief
2) For Those who Receive and Embrace Jesus the Saviour
Prayer of Thanksgiving
? Hymn 510 "Come, Ye Disconsolate"
Confession of Faith: The Apostles' Creed
? Hymn 560 "The Apostles' Creed"
? Doxology: Psalm 136:1,2,6 "O Thank the LORD, for He Is Good"
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Pete Van't Hoff, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,

There is an uncountable number of things, observations and thoughts that make us different from one another. From how we look, to how we feel, to our very own and individual genetic make up even, to say the least, we are different from one another. I think we can all agree that our individualism is being worshiped these days. “Who are you?” is the question of the day and society wants to pride itself upon the idea that the answer to such a question is unique to each one of us. And each one of us, ought not question the answer of others.

At the risk, then, of being criticized of further categorizing a humanity that doesn’t want to be boxed in with labels that connect us together, I think we can all agree that Scripture puts us all into one category, right away (Genesis 3). That category being, and I won’t even use the word ‘sinful’ which we are, but ‘fallen.’ I’ll use another word. I have thought long on this, in light of our great commission calling, in light of our mission centeredness, I’ll use another word that I have grown warm to, in regards to all of humanity, that is, each individual body and soul, born from Adam and Eve forward, born from Noah and his wife, from that time forward and until Jesus returns, every one of you and everyone else, in my heart and in my prayers, needs to be seen as ‘savable.’

We must all begin here because only God knows for sure. Of the savable, only God can separate humanity into two more groups. Today we come to the twofold response to the gospel. From the savable, God saves, through the Person and work of His Son, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, a people unto Himself, leaving then, a second people unto themselves. From the savable, some will believe and some will not believe. There are consequences to both, both in this life and in eternity coming. Today we turn in God’s word to some of the final words found there (Revelation 20:11-21:4). Today we dwell upon God’s word summarized from the Canon’s Article 4 of its First main point of Doctrine. God saves through the gospel of His Son. In presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are only two responses and each comes with consequence.

1) For Those who Remain in Unbelief  2) For Those who Receive and Embrace Jesus the Saviour

Firstly, for those who remain in unbelief. How cruel, we are told, that is, those of humanity who believe in the divine inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, and holiness of the Bible, how cruel of God, we are told, to condemn an entire group of image bearers to everlasting destruction.

The first sentence from Article 4 of the First Main Point of Doctrine, entitled, Divine Election and Reprobation, begins with “God’s anger remains on those who do not believe in this gospel.” From this we follow that God’s anger that remains, has made those who do not believe the gospel angry. Why?

Well, at first, no one wants to be punished. Pain hurts. The individualistic society in which we live has agreed that pain hurts and thus has declared that one should keep one’s opinions of others to one’s own self. Being individualistic, neither man or God may have an opinion on how one chooses to live one’s own life. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, what is the big deal?

Is that the standard then? Is “as long as you’re not hurting anyone else,” the standard? Is it your standard? Is it how you want to be treated? But then have you now forced your standard, however gracious to you, however gracious you think you are being to others, onto someone else? Haven’t you now forced them to abide by your laws? Is that not unfair to them? How cruel of you to enforce your standard of living upon someone else? You see where such thinking goes. It turns in on itself. It only works when you’re alone. And we’re not alone.

We are a society of image bearers that as a society ought to want to get along with one another. Whose standard wins? Apparently, what we have seen is that what is good for you is not good for me. A certain theory of relativism has been proclaimed. My truth is my truth. Yours is yours. Well again, that only works until our worlds collide. For example, my truth may be that I want to keep the job I have, or that I want a better one. Perhaps your job. Your truth may be that you want to keep your own job, or that you want mine. So that’s not going to work. Is there a standard that can work.

Society has been attempting to work such things out since Adam and Eve’s children were born. And I tell you, the further we stray from God and His word, the worse off we become. Savable humanity, just doesn’t want to listen and doesn’t want to be held accountable for the consequences of its actions. And I cannot resolve in my mind, a man-made system that can offer what the gospel offers.

For just a moment, I will add that the devil will do everything in his power to convince savable humanity otherwise. Just look at the temptation of Adam and Eve at Creation (Gen. 3).

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Now listen to him at the temptation of Jesus Christ (Luke 4).

3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,

To keep you,’

11 and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,

Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

I tell you that the devil will try to make this earth operate like a utopia just so humanity won’t look to heaven for salvation.

But there is no salvation in the laws of man as directed by the devil. His anger is also based on wanting to be like God, or rather, a god unto himself. He had the choice too, to obey, chose not to, and is now angry about the consequences of his actions. But a more righteous anger shall prevail, against those who will not listen to the method God has chosen to be rescued from this broken place. God doesn’t require humanity’s advice on how to save His people from their sins. We shall contemplate such things in the second point of today’s message.

We conclude this first point bowing before His word revealing what John was told to write at the end of Revelation 20. The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, to say the least, is a difficult book to fully comprehend. This book concludes God’s word to His people. It wraps up what He began to tells us in Genesis, at creation. It brings warnings. It declares war. It bonds the spiritual world to the physical and it reminds us that in due time, the physical trials and burdens we carry, shall be done away with. I think one of the most important things the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ brings to us, is conclusion.

And John is told to write. Verse 11 speaks of the old passing away.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

Verses 12-13 speak of judgement.

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

Verses 14-15 speak of hard truths.

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

The first sentence from Article 4 of the First Main Point of Doctrine, entitled, Divine Election and Reprobation, begins with “God’s anger remains on those who do not believe in this gospel.” But secondly, for those who receive and embrace Jesus the Savior, we have other consequences to consider.

The second sentence from Article 4 of the First Main Point of Doctrine, entitled, Divine Election and Reprobation, continues with “But those who do receive it [that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ] and embrace Jesus the Savior with a true and living faith are delivered through him from God’s anger and from destruction, and receive the gift of eternal life.” There is so much we can say here. The joy of such deliverance has to outweigh the fears and anger of not being found worthy. Assurance of salvation is a big problem for many. The Canons address it, and Lord willing, we shall come to it, but for now, be encouraged, all you who are struggling. Salvation is not dependent upon your strength, but the Son of God’s as seen through His earthly life, captured for us here in God’s word. This is where we need to begin with our assurance.

The Old Testament professes of His coming. Think of the woman’s Seed of Genesis 3:15. Think of Enoch who, while living in a sinner’s world, did not see death (Gen. 5:24). Think of Noah and his family preserved through the world-wide flood (Gen. 6-9). Think of Abraham drawn out of Haran into a land that he did not know and the promised of God, given to him and to his offspring (Gen. 12). Think of Israel in Egypt, drawn out by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, slaves no longer (the first half of Exodus) and then see Israel, around Mount Sinai receiving God’s law of good living for the trip back to the Promised Land (the second half of Exodus). See King David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel) and God’s promises to him at 2 Samuel 7.

Now see the failures of these fine humans. These we cannot worship. Note the exile of Israel then Judah due to their failure to recognize God’s good laws for their living (1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles). Note the trials in the minor prophets where godlessness seems to reign and where it seems that God has stopped speaking to His people. Children, note the title page to the New Testament in your pew Bibles. Go ahead, turn to Malachi Chapter 4 and then turn one page over. That single page is worth more than 400 years of history.

For 400 years, God’s people are to wait for further revelation from God. Children, some of you have grandparents and know them well. From your grandparents to you, is 3 generations. For 20 generations, no new revelation from God is given. Do you think God’s people could remember their heritage without Divine intervention? Do you think they would have been able to hold onto God’s law and His promises without the Holy Spirit? Dear believer, even in the darkest moments of our disbelief, the Spirit is still present and working. Rest assured.

More than 400 years later, the Gospels tell us of the Son of God, according to the fulness of the Father’s will, born into humanity to do for it, what it has failed since creation to do. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John capture His real, human life in all of its sinlessness, in all of its perfection. Paul summarizes it beautifully for us in his letter to the Philippians.

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:5-11).

And the New Testament Church is born, and yet not really. In the Old Testament, Christ’s people always were. They lived by faith (Hebrews 11) of the coming of Salvation. We live by faith in His return. We have been congregating and have been preserved through many of the same trials that our brothers and sisters of faith have been congregating and have been preserved through in those days of old.

In these new days, the full revelation of God’s word has been given. Our ancestors lived through days where through prophets and apostles, revelation was given by God. We have their work to count on until our Lord returns. The Revelation of Jesus Christ has commented on these days and on future days coming. We know that the days to come will be full of trial. We have already seen prophecy from the Bible come true. Who are we to deny its truthfulness in the days to come. Many have grown fearful of the war that is waged against God’s people. We pull out passages speaking of the dragon (Rev. 12), the beast of the sea and the beast of the land (Rev. 13), bowls of judgement (Rev. 15-16), the scarlet woman drunk with the blood of the saints and her pet the scarlet beast (Rev. 17) and finally of the satanic rebellion (Rev. 20).

Dwelling upon such things can leave us overwhelmed. Everything fallen is set against everything godly. Is there no relief? God’s people are hated and persecuted. They are killed all the day long. If there is a thought and a way to defy God, satan has surely thought of it and encouraged his fallen angels and the reprobate to pursue it. My answer to all of this, beloved, is to keep reading. You cannot stop, in God’s word where it speaks to such trial and tribulation. When we read these things know that God is all too well aware and has chosen to train us for what yet is coming. Keep reading!

Dear believer, here is when your faith, long held and worked in you by the Holy Spirit becomes sight.

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

For those who receive and embrace Jesus the Saviour, this shall be your future. For your name was written in the book of life. It was there because your salvation was worked out by your Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He endured the Father’s wrath against your sins. You have been judged based upon His works, not yours. Your works have been an expression of your thankfulness and even in these shortcomings, the Son has made you ready and renewed to worship your God, in fulness and in truth.

This is what God does with the savable. Some, He leaves to themselves to face the choices they have made. And Some He takes unto Himself, in the name of His Son, as a ransom of His love. This is the two-fold response to the gospel and each one comes with consequence. Which one is for you? Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Pete Van't Hoff, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Pete Van't Hoff

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