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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
 www.frcsr.com/fellowship/melville/
 
Title:Restore unto me the joy of your salvation!
Text:CD 5 art. 4-5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Struggling with doubts
 
Preached:2021-12-12
Added:2023-11-27
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Greeting

Psalm 32:1

Law of God

Psalm 6:1,2,6

Prayer

Read:  Psalm 51

Psalm 51:1,2

Text:  Canons of Dort chap. 5, art. 4-5

Hymn 18:1,3

Prayer

Collection

Hymn 63:6,7,8

Blessing

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When it comes to sin, especially more serious sin, we often find ourselves asking, "How could he do that?"  How could David, for example, a king of Israel and a man after God's own heart, not only commit adultery with Bathsheba but then also have her husband Uriah killed?  Or how could one of our fellow Christians, a brother or sister in the faith, someone we thought we knew so well commit such a serious sin?  Or how could I, who never stopped believing in God and the gospel, fool myself into thinking that I could handle things, that I had my desires under control, that it was not so bad, only to be caught up in a web of lies, of deceit and of sin?

  These are troubling questions that Christians will face.  Sin and the ongoing power of sin, even in the lives of believers, never cease to both shock and disappoint us.

  But there is also another question that we need to think about:  what are the effects of such serious sins?  What do they do, not just to us and to those around us, but what do they do to us with respect to our relationship with God?  And then how can we be restored back into favour with God with the weight and the burden of sin removed and we once again experience the joy of salvation?

  Turning to Psalm 51 and making use of the Canons of Dort, chapter 5, articles 4 and 5, I preach God's Word to you under this theme:

Restore unto me the joy of your salvation!

1. How joy is lost

2. How joy is restored

 

1. How joy is lost

One of the most terrible feelings for anyone is the feeling of being deserted, of being thrown aside, abandoned and ignored.  Some of our children experience this as school.  Some of you may have experienced it in your families, in what were once close relationships, at work or even at church.  But that feeling of being deserted is far worse when we feel that we've been abandoned by God.  Listen to how this is described in various psalms.

Psalm 6:1–3,

O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. 2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. 3 My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?

Psalm 22:1–2

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Psalm 32:3–4

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

And Psalm 51:11

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

In each of these psalms there is a crying out to God with the feeling of despair, of pleading with God to hear us and to turn his face toward us and to grant us the peace of his presence.

But why is it?  Why do we feel that way?

Before we get into the matter of serious and unconfessed sin - and I will be preaching about this - it is important that we first acknowledge that a sense of spiritual desertion is not always because of specific sin.  For many Christians the experience of spiritual desertion is real , and there are many people, also godly Christians who have suffered the fear of being deserted or abandoned by God.  Martin Luther struggled with this for much of his life and it was not because of sin.  Many Christians who have believed the gospel, even embraced the doctrines, the teachings of grace concerning election and the perseverance of the saints have battled depression and a heaviness of heart.  In times of war, of sickness and pandemics, natural disasters or else personal tragedy and troubles, godly men and women have wondered whether or not God had forgotten them or turned his back on them.  The Bible also teaches us about this, with the assurance that God will never forsake his people.  He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  And doubts come, we are to comfort one another with the promises of God and the assurance that his word can be trusted.  We'll be learning more about this, and we will be comforted and encouraged through this, when we look at Chapter 5, Article 11 of the Canons.  But for now, if you are one of those who is often depressed and struggle to feel the full assurance of faith, hold on to those promises of God and be assured that not even these thoughts and feelings can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

  But for others among us, the joy of salvation is lost because of sin.  Psalm 38 teaches us that in verse 3.

There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.

And this is also the cause for David's loss of the joy of salvation in Psalm 51.  Psalm 51 was written by king David after had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had seen to it that Bathsheba's husband Uriah would be killed in battle.  And now, having been confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, he pleads with God to have mercy on him and to take his sin away.  "Purge me with hyssop", he pleaded in verse 7, "and I shall be clean; washi me, and I shall be whiter than snow."  And earlier in the psalm, in verse 2-4,

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

What David is describing in this psalm is not only the seriousness his sin, but also the consequences of his sin.  And particularly, then, the consequence of his sin with respect to his relationship and walk with God.  That's why he pleads in Psalm 51:8,

"Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice."

And verse 11-12,

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

 For David, the joy of salvation was gone.  For David, the nearness of God's presence appeared to be gone.  For David, the gift of God's Holy Spirit was in danger of being gone.  And the reason for all of this was because of his sin.  Sin had created a wall between God and David, and this was a wall that David could neither climb over nor break down.  And that's why he was so desperate.  That's why he was so depressed.

  And that's something that we need to know and understand also.  Listen to what article 5, chapter 5, of the Canons of Dort says about the effects of sin.

By such gross sins, however, they greatly offend God, incur the guilt of death, grieve the Holy Spirit, suspend the exercise of faith, severely wound their consciences, and sometimes for a while lose the sense of God’s favour . . ."

Our sins greatly offend God.  When we sin, we offend the One who created us in his image, and he is angry with a righteous anger because of this.  When we sin, we incur the guilt of death, that is, we experience deadly guilt and we groan in our misery.  And when we sin, we grieve God's Holy Spirit.  We cause him pain, hurt and sadness.  It is the Holy Spirit who guides us in the way of truth and who directs us in paths that are right.  And when we turn aside from the way of truth and when we reject the paths that are right, and he is truly grieved. 

  And even more, when we sin, we suspend the exercise of faith, that is, our life of faith no longer functions as it is meant to.  You know for yourself that in your human relationships, a marriage for example, when one person is offended about something, it affects everything.  Your whole relationship suffers as a consequence.  And it is the same in our relationship with God.  Reading the Bible, prayer, coming to Church, listening to the preaching, joining in with other Christians in fellowship, all these things just are not the same anymore.  We feel flat, we feel dull, we feel annoyed and displeased. 

  And, article 5 also says, "we severely wound our consciences."  It could be that our conscience is seared, that we no longer see our sin as sin.  Or, by the grace of God, our conscience troubles us so that we just don't feel right about being in Church, taking the Lord's Supper, opening God's Word or coming to him in prayer.  We know we've done wrong, we know we are living in hypocrisy, and it weighs on us heavily.   And there are even times, article 5 says, that, for a while, we lose the sense of God's favour.  We lose the sense of what it means to live and do all things in the presence of God and we lose the joy of our salvation.

But there is also another way that this all happens.  In chapter 3&4, article 17 of the Canons of Dort, we were reminded of the need to make use of the means of grace, of coming to Church, of applying ourselves to worship, of reading God's Word and listening to the preaching, as well as praying to God.  When we fail to regularly meet together, when we stop being faithful in coming to church and in submitting ourselves to the Word of God, when give up on these things the wonder of the gospel begins to lose its shine.  Then we become apathetic in our worship and in our love for Christ, we no longer worship him with zeal and the joy of salvation is clouded over.  And that in turn will often lead us to sin.  Because when our heart is no longer consumed with a love for the gospel, then our heart is no longer consumed with a love for God.  And then the desires of our heart will shift to someone or something else.  And that then leads to sin, even serious sin.  And that's what chapter 5, article 4 of the Canons tell us.  Let's read that article again.

Although the power of God whereby he confirms and preserves true believers in grace is so great that it cannot be conquered by the flesh, yet the converted are not always so led and moved by God that they cannot in certain particular actions turn aside through their own fault from the guidance of grace and be seduced by and yield to the lusts of the flesh. They must therefore constantly watch and pray that they may not be led into temptation. When they do not watch and pray, they not only can be drawn away by the flesh, the world, and Satan into serious and atrocious sins, but with the righteous permission of God are sometimes actually drawn away. The lamentable fall of David, Peter, and other saints, described in Holy Scripture, demonstrates this.

Serious sins, that is sin that has great and serious consequences, do not normally just "happen" but there is a spiritual flatness and apathy that comes first, where we stop reading the Bible and we fail to pray to God from the heart.  And then the spiral keeps going.  The more we sin, the less we draw near to God and the less we draw near to God, the more we sin.  And but for the grace of God, that's how it would all end.  But for the grace of God, there would be no repentance and no coming back.  But with God there is repentance, and with God there is a way back.  We will see this in our second point.

2. How joy is restored

None of us like to be deserted.  None of us to feel abandoned.  That's true with respect to our relationship with others, and that is especially true with respect to our relationship with God.  But when he takes the comfort of his presence and the joy of salvation from his elect children, God is not just punishing us but he is correcting us.  In Hosea 5:15 the Lord said concerning his wayward people,

"I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me."

That's what God is doing when leaves us for a time in our sin.  That's what he is doing when he takes that joy of salvation from us on account of our sin.  He does this so that we might experience the smallest taste of how things would be should we spend eternity in hell and outside of the loving presence of God.  When it comes to God's elect, his power is so great that he will preserve us in his grace.  But when we, by our own deliberate disobedience, turn away from God's guidance and yield to the lusts of the flesh, then God will pull back from us and he will burden until, in time, we repent and turn back to him.  That's a really horrible experience, however, and therefore, as the Lord Jesus told Simon Peter, "watch and pray that you might not be led into temptation."  But when we do repent, when we do return to the right way, then God's fatherly face will once more shine upon us.  And that gives us the courage to pray the words of Psalm 51.

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions."  (Psalm 51:1)

And verse 14,

"Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness."

And Psalm 51:17,

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

And we know that God will hear us, we know that he will forgive us and we know that he will restore us, because he sent his Son into the world and had him named Jesus, because he would save his people from their sin.  "Purge me with hyssop!"  David had prayed in Psalm 51. "Wash me whiter than snow!"  And God would hear that prayer through the birth of a descendant of David, our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whereas David was "brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did [his] mother conceive [him], the same would not be said of the Lord Jesus.  When the angel Gabriel came to Mary in Luke 1:35 he said to her,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God."

And therefore he was worthy to take our sin upon himself.

"He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

And on the cross he humbled himself, in body and soul, to the very deepest shame and angjish of hell.  Then he called out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" that we might be accepted by God and nevermore be forsaken by him.  It is in Christ, therefore, that our joy is restored and God's favour rests on us once again.

And so then what shall we do?  Never think lightly of sin, nor of the our propensity to sin.  Watch and pray that you may not be led into temptation.  Do not use the biblical teaching of the Perseverance of the Saints, that God will hold on to his own people to the end as an excuse for spiritual laziness or even an excuse for sin.  But rather flee to Christ, seeking your forgiveness and righteousness in him, take delight in the joy of your salvation and find your rest and your comfort in him.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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