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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Blessings of Belonging to Christ
Text:LD 1 Romans 14:7-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Added:2024-05-10
Updated:2024-05-10
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

I Have No Other Comfort               
Not What My Hands Have Done
Like A River Glorious
It Is Well with My Soul       

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


    “The Blessings of Belonging to Christ”
Romans 14:7-8; H.C. Q&A 1
 
We live in a highly individualistic culture. Our culture teaches that each individual is self-sustaining, able to do whatever they want because we are autonomous; we are answerable to no one. 
 
That is not just the teaching of our culture, but that is the teaching of the world ever since its fall into sin. At the heart of Adam and Eve’s sin was their desire to be autonomous, to be their own masters without having to give any allegiance to the Lord. The apostle Paul describes that as futile thinking” as people are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Eph. 4:17-18).
 
The idea that we belong to ourselves and have to answer to no one is described in the poem by William Henley entitled Invictus. The poem concludes:   
 
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
 
One of the comments listed below the poem, as readers on the Internet express their thoughts, says: “In Invictus by William Ernest Henley the line ‘I am the master of my fate’ really sticks out to me because I feel that I am the leader of my life and no one can control me or tell me what to do.” That sentiment sums up exactly the mindset of our fallen world. 
 
By contrast, the catechism, as it follows the teaching of Scripture, points out:
 
… I am not my own,
but belong—
    body and soul,
    in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
 
The catechism is speaking specifically about those who by grace have saving faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation from sin. Yet, in a broader sense, everyone belongs to God, even William Henley, the author of Invictus
 
We are made in the image of Almighty God and thus all humanity belongs to him and will be answerable to him on the last day. The phrase, “You will meet your Maker” springs from the truth that even rebellious, unbelieving people will have to give an account one day to their Creator, to Almighty God.
 
However, we who believe in Jesus belong to him in a very personal sense. We belong to him in a personal sense because, first of all, he has bought us. Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul notes: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20) The catechism puts it this way: “He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.”
 
One of the Scriptures that the catechism uses as a reference is that challenging and beautiful passage in 1 Peter 1:18-19. The challenge is actually in the preceding verse, verse 17, which says: Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” And then the verses that the catechism references, verses 18 and 19: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
 
Both the catechism and the Scripture point out that the payment for your sins and mine was not a partial payment. When Jesus shed His precious blood, he made full payment for your sins and for mine. The catechism emphasizes “He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood.”
 
In the third stanza of the classic hymn, It Is Well with My Soul, we sing:
 
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! (Horatio Stafford, 1873)
 
The Lord will never ask you to pay part of the penalty for your sin. He knows it is impossible for you and for me to pay even the slightest fraction toward the great debt of our sin. As another hymn puts it: 
 
Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
                       (Not What My Hands Have Done, Horatius Bonar, 1861)
 
As the Lord pays the penalty for our sin, we are also set free from the tyranny of the devil. Tyranny is described in the dictionary as “a rigorous condition imposed by some outside agency or force - (such as) ‘living under the tyranny of the clock.’”  That is an accurate description of the devil, as far as it goes. He is a tyrant. But the catechism explains that part of the blessing of salvation includes being “set…free from the tyranny of the devil.”
 
The devil still attacks. He is still prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking Christians to devour. But he is defeated. He knows his time is short and his end is certain, so he works hard and he works maliciously, but we are set free from his tyranny.
 
The catechism references John 8:34-36 where Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever, the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
 
And, the author of Hebrews adds: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…”
 
I don’t know about you, but I am very thankful that I am not autonomous, that I am not the master of my ship and captain of my soul. I’m so very thankful that I belong, not to myself, but body and soul to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
His Watchful Eye and Perfect Will
 
Not only has he paid for all our sins with his precious blood, setting us free from the tyranny of the devil, but the catechism points out that “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven...”
 
Here again, he watches over everyone, just as everyone is answerable to him, whether they acknowledge that or not. Certainly God saw the actions of Pharaoh as his heart was hardened against Moses and against the Lord. God saw the actions of Eli’s immoral sons; God saw the actions of the hypocritical Pharisees. As Hebrews 4:13 declares, “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.”

But he watches over those whom he has bought in a very special and personal way. As the Psalmist says: The Lord watches over the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:6) The catechism references Matthew 10:29-31 with these words of Jesus: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
 
The knowledge that God watches over us, knowing the number of hairs on our head, should be of great comfort to us, especially when we consider his motives in watching over us. His ultimate motive springs from the everlasting love that he has for you and for me. It is the love that springs from the Council of Redemption where Christ willingly offered to be our sacrificial Lamb, even before the world was formed.
 
Out of that motive of eternal love comes the willingness to purchase something, in the case of Christ, his willingness to purchase us, not with silver or gold, but with his own precious blood. And when you purchase something, you watch over it and care for it. Have you noticed how someone cares for a new car? They scan it for dings, dirt, strips of tar, and bugs. They wash it, either by hand or in the car wash. They watch over that new car meticulously because it is a major investment in their lives.
 
Having purchased us, the Lord watches over us. But when we get stained with sin and dinged and scratched by the troubles of life, God doesn’t quit watching over us. Usually, once that new car gets its first dent or ding or a long scratch, it’s not watched and cared for with the same devotion as when it was new. But the devotion of Christ for us never wanes. He faithfully watches over us and cares for us. As the Lord says in Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
            
Another specific reason why our Lord watches over us is also listed by the catechism. After speaking about how God watches over us, the catechism assures us: “in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.” The salvation of his people is central to the work of Christ. Earlier the catechism had referenced John 6:39-40, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
 
And, at times, to get the attention of his people, he allows great sorrows to come into their lives, yet he turns those around into good. In the words of Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
        
In my own life, the loss of a job that I loved and had committed my life to, seemed at the time to be an inconsolable disaster. It seemed to be the worst possible thing to ever happen to me. But it was the best thing: it led me to the Lord, to church, and to meeting the woman who would become my wife. 
 
And my situation is not unique. Many others have found that the tragedies of life are used by God to be blessings in disguise for believers. As the catechism summarizes Scripture it points out: “All things must work together for my salvation.”
 
Because we have been purchased by Christ and belong to him, body and soul, we are assured of eternal life. The catechism teaches: “Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, also assures me of eternal life.”  However, not all Christians have the same level of assurance. Sometimes as Christians, we doubt our salvation, especially if we fall into a persistent sin pattern. The evil one is quick to come and accuse us.
 
But one of the reasons God gave us his Word is so that we may know – with great certainty – that we are saved from the tyranny of the devil and belong to our faithful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 1 John 5:13 assures us: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
 
What a comfort to know – in life, and also at the doorway of death – that we are saved from sin and have our place guaranteed in heaven.
 
Years ago I went to visit a man who was scheduled for triple by-pass heart surgery the next day. I wasn’t sure how he was taking the news. I didn’t know him that well. But as I talked with him, he said, “This is really a win-win situation. If the surgery is successful, I stay here on earth. I love my family; I can see my grandchildren grow, and be here for my children. And if it isn’t successful, I’m brought home to be in glory with Jesus. Either way you look at,” he said, “it’s a win-win situation.”
 
Only a Christian has that assurance. It is the comfort and the assurance that the Apostle wrote about in Ephesians 1:13-14: In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
 
Those who believe that they are the “master of their fate; the captain of their soul” have no comprehension of the comfort, assurance, and peace that we who belong to Christ have.  
 
Wholeheartedly Willing and Ready
 
Not only does the Holy Spirit assure us of our salvation; He also makes us, in the words of the catechism, “wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
 
The Apostle Paul stands as a striking example of one who was wholeheartedly willing to live for the Lord. In Philippians 1:21 he wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Later, in Philippians 3:7-11, he added: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
 
Unfortunately, our wholehearted willingness to live for Christ often weakens and wanes. Like the flame of our faith, it can flicker in the winds of life. But as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, and reminds us of our only comfort in life, we are enabled to become “wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him” who has redeemed us. When by his grace we have true saving faith, we will recognize that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). And then we will willingly and wholeheartedly seek to do those deeds for the glory of God, as a testimony to unbelievers, and for our own spiritual good.
 
A Peace that Surpasses Understanding
     
Third, the comfort and peace we have through saving faith in Christ surpasses all understanding. Some people may wonder why the Heidelberg Catechism begins with the concept of comfort. Many catechisms begin by teaching the nature of God or the duty of man to serve Him. Why, then does the Heidelberg begin as it does, with comfort? 
 
When the catechism was written (1562) there were many refugees in Heidelberg. Many had lost their jobs and homes; it was a time of great economic hardship. The economic hardship was evident in famine and disease, and the thirty-year war broke out as well. There was also animosity between Roman Catholics and Protestants. It was a time that was anything but comfortable. The people of that day suffered greatly.
 
But is it any different today? Our world is not a comfortable place to be, and if we find comfort, we can be sure that it will not last long. Life on earth, ever since the fall of our first parents into sin, has been cursed rather than comfortable. 
    
Yet the true Christian has a comfort that transcends all understanding. A true Christian can experience comfort even when no one else can. Philippians 4:6-7 are verses to memorize and meditate on: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
 
Horatio Spafford, the author of the well-known hymn, It Is Well with My Soul, understood that truth well. Spafford was a Christian businessman living in Chicago when the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 swept through his business and ruined him financially. Short­ly af­ter that, while cross­ing the At­lan­tic, all four of Spafford’s daughters died in a shipwreck. Only Spafford’s wife survived, and sent him the terse telegram, “Saved alone.”  Weeks lat­er, as Spafford’s ship passed near the spot where his daugh­ters died, he wrote:
 
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
 
Only a Christian knows that peace, and it only comes when we realize the truth of Scripture beautifully summarized by the catechism when it asks: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”
 
A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
    body and soul,
    in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.  – Amen.
 
 
 
bulletin outline:
 
For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves
alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.
So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. – Romans 14:7-8
 
                       “The Blessings of Belonging to Christ”
                                 Romans 14:7-8; H.C. Q&A 1
 
I.  Our culture tempts us to think that we are autonomous, self-sustaining
    individuals. But the Catechism, following Scripture, teaches that as
    believers in Jesus we belong to Him, “body and soul, in life and in
    death” because:
      1) He has bought us (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), freeing us from the
           devil’s tyranny (John 8:34-36; Hebrews 2:14)
 
 
 
      2) He watches over us (Psalm 1:6; John 6:39-40)
 
 
 
      3) He works all things for our salvation (Romans 8:28)
 
 
 
II.  Because we belong to Christ:
      1) We are assured of eternal life (1 John 5:13; Ephesians 1:13-14)
 
 
 
      2) We wholeheartedly strive to live for Christ (Philippians 3:7-11)
 
 
 
      3) We have comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding
           (Philippians 4:6-7)
 
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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