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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:Gospel Rest
Text:LD 38 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 4th Commandment (Resting)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Singing: Ps. 84:1,2; Ps. 92:1,2,6; Ps. 42:1; Hy. 1A; Ps. 84:5,6

Reading Malachi 3:6-12; Acts 2:42-47; 1. Cor. 14:26-40; 2 Cor 9:6-15
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

I proclaim to you the Word of God under this theme:


Gospel Rest calls us to:

1. Maintain the ministry of the gospel
2. Attend the celebrations of the gospel
3. Live daily according to the gospel

1. The fourth commandment has everything to do with the gospel.
The rest the gospel gives us and calls us to.
This can be clearly seen when we compare the two versions of the 4th commandments as we received them in Ex. 20 and Deut. 5.
There is a difference between the two versions of the 4th c't.
Not in the commandment as such, but in the reason given for it-for keeping the Sabbath day holy.

In Ex. 20, the reason why Israel was to keep the Sabbath day holy and rest from their work was: (Exo 20:11) For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Here the Lord God reached back to the first week of world history.
He made everything in six days.
Then on the seventh day he rested.
He blessed that day and made it a holy day.
A day set apart from the other six (that's what holy means).
God required Israel to follow this example.
That they copy this pattern of six days of work and one day of rest.
One day of the week set apart to devote to the worship of God.

In Dt. 5, the reason given as to why Israel was to keep the Sabbath day holy and rest from their work was a little different from Ex. 20.
There is no conflict / contradiction between the two.
Rather, the one builds on the other.
The reason for keeping the Sabbath day holy as proclaimed in Dt. 5 builds upon the reason as stated in Ex. 20.
In Dt. 5 the reason is: (Deu 5:15) Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

In Dt. 5 Moses told Israel to observe the Sabbath day in commemoration of the gospel.
In memory of how God had set them free.
Israel was to remember that once they'd been slaves but now they were free.
God had liberated them.
God had set them free from slavery.
They were to rest one day out of seven in memory and in celebration of their deliverance from the hard work, the slavery, the terrors and horrors of Egypt.

So not only was the Sabbath day a day upon which the people worship God as their Creator, it was also a day on which they worshipped him as their Redeemer.
The 4th c. for Israel was about the gospel of salvation.
For the deliverance from Egypt was a type, a foreshadowing, of the deliverance from sin-the salvation God's people enjoy in Christ.
As God brought his people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, so God has brought his people out of sin and slavery to the devil by the victory of Christ on the cross.
The 4th c. pointed forward through time to the cross of Christ and the precious blood he shed for our sins-to redeem us.
His recreating work.

The HC understands that very well.
And so it begins the way it does by saying that in the 4th c., God requires us to maintain the ministry of the gospel.
For it is by way of the ministry of the gospel that God advances the gospel of salvation from slavery.
It is through this ministry that the good news of salvation by the blood of Christ is proclaimed near and far away.

What does the HC mean with maintaining "the ministry of the gospel?"
In very concrete terms: the church budget.
Every aspect of the church budget.
Everything on the church budget has to do with the ministry of the gospel.
On that budget you find items related to the work of mission (foreign and local-Brazil and SM), the local pastoral preaching ministry, maintenance of a church building, costs related to being a member church in a federation of churches, and things as mundane as office and janitorial supplies.
You also find costs related to running a theological college.
The HC makes special mention of that: The schools too must be maintained.
That's the Theological College where preachers of the gospel are trained.
The biblical basis for a Theological School is found in (2 Tim 2:2) where Paul said to Timothy: And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
In obedience to that, we operate such a school so that the true apostolic doctrine may be propagated.
It is the task of the church to ensure that men are trained to be preachers.

All these things you will find on the church budget.
Each item in some way is there for the sake of the gospel.
In order to share in the cost of that, we give of our first fruits.
(I remind you of the ann't in the bulletin of last week.
The consistory reminded us that we are to give of our first fruits.)
Everything we have has been given us by the LORD.
And in order to maintain the ministry of the gospel, we give some of it back to God-the first fruits, not a little bit of what I just might happen to have leftover at the end of the month or year.
In the fourth commandment, God requires each of us to do our share in meeting the expenses the Lord has laid on us.
In maintaining the various aspects of the gospel ministry.
If we refuse to do that, we are robbing God.
If we have an income; if we are gainfully employed; if God gives us work and an income from the work-if we contribute nothing to the church budget, we are a thieves.
And we demonstrate that we do not love the gospel.

The prophet Malachi spoke about that.
Many of the people of Israel in the time of Malachi were not contributing to the maintenance of the temple (the gospel ministry).
God said to the people (Mal. 3:6ff): You are robbing me!
By not giving the tithes and offerings, you are robbing me!
For robbing him, God put them under a curse.
The people did not contribute their tithes and offerings because they thought they'd get ahead, materially.
But they didn't.
God sent bugs to devour their crops, and prevented their vines from bearing fruit.
And he challenged them.
God said to them: (Mal 3:10) Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

The Apostle Paul, in 2 Cor 9, challenges us to be generous with the money God gives us.
To use the money God gives us generously for the advancement of the gospel in the world and in the lives of others.
He speaks a little proverb that, like almost all proverbs, "tells it like it is."
(2 Cor 9:6 NIV) Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

The challenge, warning and promise, goes out to us as well.
Let us all do our part in maintaining the ministry of the gospel in accordance with how the Lord has blessed us-be it with much or with little.
The fourth commandment requires it of us.
If you love the gospel, you will do so gladly.
Christian giving is a thankful response to the gospel.
It is one way of showing thankfulness to God's indescribable gift.
(2 Cor 9:15 NIV) Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
The "indescribable gift" is, of course, the Son of God our Saviour.
God is the first giver.
He selflessly gave us his only Son to be our Saviour.
That's the gospel.
All Christian giving is just our response of thankfulness for this gift which is beyond description.

2. The second thing that God's requires of us in the 4th c. is that we diligently attend the church of God on the day of rest.
That we attend the celebrations of the gospel.
For that is what we do on Sunday.
On the Lord's Day, the day of rest.
We drop most of our regular weekly business, come to church in order to celebrate together the great things God has done for us in Christ Jesus his Son.

The cat. says that, on the day of rest, we diligently attend the church of God, i.e., the worship services.
To do something diligently means to do something with constant faithfulness, perseverance, and effort.
To be conscientious in doing it.
You won't quickly allow something to come in the way.

We diligently attend the church of God to do several things:
* To hear God's Word.
* To use the sacraments.
* To call publicly upon the LORD.
* And to give Christian offerings for the poor.

The skeleton of an order of worship is given there.
It comes from Acts 2:42.
We read there about the practice of the early post-Pentecost church.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

As the members of the early church gathered together:
* they devoted themselves to the Word of God (as the apostles taught them);
* they broke bread (the sacrament of the Lord's Supper);
* they prayed (called upon the Lord);
* and had fellowship (our giving Christian offerings for the needy flows forth from our fellowship and the love we have for each other as fellow Christians).

During the time of the early church, there were those who had the gifts of prophecy, of revelation, of speaking in tongues.
Revelation was not yet complete.
There was no NT yet.
The inspired writings of the apostles had not yet been collected in what we today call the NT.
The Old and New Testaments are God's all-sufficient revelation for the church of today and tomorrow.
But before the inspired writings of the NT had been written and collected, God gave prophets to teach and, at times, to give revelations to the church -- in order to edify the young church.

We can read about how Christ gave these gifts to the congregation in Corinth.
Paul said that it was good for the church in Corinth to have these gifts for the edification of the congregation; however, he places a qualification on how they were to function as a blessing to the church: 1 Cor. 14:40 -- ...everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
To that we can add what Paul wrote in v. 33: ...God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

During the time of the Reformation, the church reformed the liturgy of its worship service, striving to bring it back to what it looked like in the time of the early church.
Back to the simple beauty of the ancient church.
It took the basic order of worship from Acts 2:42.
It took the rules from 1 Cor. 14, that everything should be done in a fitting way.
It needs to fit with what we are doing.
And what we are doing is worshipping our God, our Creator and Redeemer.
It should be done in an orderly way.
Bringing these things together, the Reformed church has, since the Reformation, structured the worship service around: teaching, sacraments, prayer through word and song, and fellowship.
The Reformed church also paid heed to what Paul wrote in 1 Tim 4:13 -- ...devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

One Reformed church will conduct its worship differently than another.
That's no problem.
Historical and cultural differences come in to play.
That's obvious and nothing to be embarrassed about.
But any Reformed church worthy of the name Reformed will conduct an orderly worship around the preaching of the Word of God, the sacraments, calling corporately upon the Lord, and fellowship.

The gospel is proclaimed and heard.
The people of God gather in a room to hear and listen.
Often this room we are gathered in is called "the sanctuary."
That means "the holy place."
That's wrong.
The sanctuary (the holy place) is in heaven where Christ is.
In Christ and by his Spirit, we are also the sanctuary.
Christ, the holy one, makes us holy by sending us his Spirit.
This building, this room, is not the holy place.
Don't call it the sanctuary.
Call it, rather, the auditorium.
Auditorium means "the listening place."
That's the right name for it.
We come here to hear the gospel.
Oh, at times we make a lot of noise-with our singing!
And that is only right.
But then at other times we are quiet, and we listen.
We hear the gospel.

We do other things hear as well.
The sacraments are administered.
The visible word.
We pray and sing our praises to God.
We confess our common faith.
In line with what Paul taught us, we confess with our mouths what we believe in our hearts.
(Rom 10:9.10) ... if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

It is because of what Paul taught us in this passage that we made a little change awhile ago when the AC is recited.
Rather than the minister asking us to speak AC in our hearts, he asks us to speak with our mouths what we believe in our hearts (as Paul taught us we are to do).
We believe the gospel with our hearts; we confess what we believe audibly with our mouths.

And then, finally, in the worship service we give Christian offerings for the poor.
We donate for the work of the deacons.
The deacons administer the love of Christ by helping those who are needy.
No one of the congregation may go without the physical necessities for life.
In this way we show the love of Christ to one another.
The gospel of God's grace calls us to love one another in this way.

And so we continue to celebrate the gospel.
By listening to the word; by using the sacraments, by prayer, song and confession, by taking care of one another.

3. Finally, we rest more and more from our evil works and let the LORD work in us through the Holy Spirit.

This is tied to what we do on the Lord's Day.
For it is through the hearing of God's word and the use of the sacraments that the Holy Spirit works in us.
And as he works in us, we rest more and more from sin.
As we begin to rest from sin in this life already, we begin to live the eternal Sabbath today already.

This is tied to the day of rest.
But not only to the day of rest.
It has to do with every day.
The 4th c. has to do with every day of our lives.
With how we live.
And the day of rest has to do with every day of the week.
The Lord's Day, the first day of the week, must govern the whole week.
The Word of God which we hear on Sunday must control us the whole week long.
The choices we make, the things we do and say.
The way we live during the week cannot conflict what we do at church.
The songs we listen to must not be at cross purposes with the songs we sing on Sunday.
There may not be a jarring inconsistency between the way we speak to God in prayer and what we confess with our mouths on Sunday and the way we speak to others on Monday.
The love we demonstrate for our neighbour on Sunday by giving Christian offerings for the poor (the needy during the worship service; the other causes that are collected for at the door after the service) -- we need to show that same love for the neighbour throughout the week.

As we let the Lord work in us through his Word and Spirit, we begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.
For it all points to the eternal Sabbath.
We are heading towards the eternal Sabbath.
Each Sunday, each worship service, each sermon, each song, each prayer, each baptism and Lord's table, each offering points towards the eternal Sabbath.
Every day of rest, every worship service, and all that we do here, would have us rest from sin.
And as we rest from sin today, we are beginning to live as we are going to live in the eternal Sabbath of God in the kingdom of heaven.

It's all of one piece.
The ministry of the gospel; attending the Church of God; worship; letting the Lord work in us through his Word and Spirit; resting from sin (more and more); beginning in this life the eternal Sabbath; resting in Christ Jesus forever in the kingdom of heaven -- it's all of one piece.
It all belongs together.

Let us not put asunder what God has joined together.
If we would rest in Christ Jesus forever in the kingdom of heaven, then let us let Him work in us through his chosen means: the preaching of the Word and the sacraments.
Let us be diligent about attending the Church of God and participating in the worship and the fellowship.
And let us live every day as Sabbath people looking forward to the eternal Sabbath in the kingdom of God with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we long for that day.
We are like the faltering deer longing for fresh water.
Like the deer pursued by the hunter, so we feel hounded by our sins and by Satan.
We long for the day of the everlasting worship service when we will stand before God in his holy, heavenly temple, and adore him forever.
Every worship service in this age is a foretaste, be it a very imperfect one, but yet a foretaste of that everlasting, perfect one.
Never are you so close to heaven as when you are in church.
We long for that day, for the everlasting Sabbath.
But we won't need to long forever.
For one day it will be here.
Then our faith will be transformed to sight.
We will see with our eyes what we hear about every Sunday, what we sing about and pray about, what we confess with our mouths.
Faith will be transformed to sight.
And we will rest in Jesus forever. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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