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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:May we live to hallow God's Name
Text:LD 47 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy from 1984 Book of Praise

Psalm 135:1,6

Hymn 5:1,2

Psalm 145:1,2,5

Hymn 13:3

Psalm 66:1,2

Read:  Psalm 145

            Romans 11:22-36

Text:  Lord’s Day 47

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

Brothers and sisters in Christ

Human beings tend to be selfish creatures.  By nature, our fallen nature that is, an underlying question that affects our motives and our choices is, “What is in it for me?”  What is in it for myself, for my family, for my church, for my community, for my country?

Even as Christians, it feels natural to be quite self-focused.  I like to dwell on my personal relationship with Christ.  I go to church asking how I am going to be blessed because I went.  I like the church service to be such that I enjoy it.  As I worship, I want my needs to be met.  I think and pray about how the Lord has blessed me, how He has forgiven me, how He cares for me.  I want the sermons to be full of personal application so that it speaks to me.  In truth, when we think about our relationship with God, we often begin and sometimes also end with the question, “What’s in it for me?”

That is not to say that considering ourselves, our lives, and our feelings in worship is all wrong.  If it was, we could not hold on to such a personal confession as the Heidelberg Catechism.  “What is your only comfort in life and in death?  That I am not my own but belong to Jesus Christ. . .”  And consider all those questions of how do certain doctrines benefit you.  In the Bible, many of the psalms are also very personal, describing the relationship between the individual and the Lord.

But why do we worship God?  What is the most primary, the underlying reason for us coming to church this afternoon to hear His Word explained?  Is it to have an easier life?  Is it to get something out of it, to help us on our way?  Is it to help us get to heaven?

May we all be blessed for coming to church this afternoon!  May we all be comforted and encouraged in our Christian life.  May it help us all in our journey to live with God forever.  But we are looking for something greater, for something deeper.  And that is a sense of the wonder of the glory of God!

“Grant us first of all that we may rightly know Thee, and sanctify, glorify and praise Thee in all Thy works” answer 122 of the Catechism tells us.

That is an echo of Psalm 145 - “I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever.  . . . I will meditate on the glorious splendour of Your majesty and on Your wondrous works.”  (Psalm 145:1,5.)  God, Your Name is great!  God, Your Name is glorious!

Since our primary purpose is to glorify God in all that we think, say and do, we need the ability to do that.   But, as we learned in answer 115 of the Catechism, we can not glorify God unless we pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit.  We need to ask God to give us the ability to glorify His Name.  Or, to put it another way, to hallow His Name.

The word “to hallow” conveys the meaning of “to make holy, to set apart for holy use, to respect greatly, to venerate.”  In the Lord’s prayer it is the translation of a Greek word that means “to sanctify or make holy.” 

But of course we can not make God’s name holy, because it is holy already!  So what this petition “Hallowed be Thy Name” basically means then, is that we are asking God to help us to really know Him – not just superficially, inadequately or improperly, but rightly and sincerely.   And when we really know Him, His Holy Name will be respected and venerated; it will be worshipped and glorified.  As the Catechism teaches us, when we pray “Hallowed be Thy Name”, we are praying a request, a petition that we might get a sense of the wonder of the glory of God’s Name.  We pray that through what God says and does we might get a better understanding of God’s glory, and so in response we will praise and honour His Name in all our thoughts, words and works.

This afternoon I wish to preach to you the word of the Lord as given to us in the first petition under the following theme and points:

May we live to hallow God’s Name.

1. May His Name be hallowed in us.

2. May His Name be hallowed through us.

1. May His Name be hallowed in us.

We are indeed a selfish lot overall.  Trained to look out for “number one”.  Encouraged by the society we live in to think about my goals, my happiness, my pleasure, my dreams.  Encouraged to be little gods and goddesses in our own little kingdoms where there is no Higher Being than ourselves.

The Western world has not always been like that.  At the time of the Reformation there was a clear confession that we live under God for His glory.  But since that time there has been an erosion of a God-centred life in which we hallow His Name. 

This really started at the time of what is now known as the Enlightenment, which took place in the late 1600’s and 1700’s.  At that time, there was a  major shift from taking God’s Word as the basis for life to starting with human reasoning and rational explanation.  It was an attempt to unlock the secrets of the world without acknowledging God, His works or His Word.  The focus was taken away from God and directed at man and his rational reasoning.  It was a refusal to acknowledge God’s almighty power, His wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy and truth as displayed in His works.  By the way, the Bible does not call this “Enlightenment” but a darkening of the mind!

After the so-called Enlightenment came what is known as the Modern Age, from about 1750 – 1900.  In this time it was stressed that man could become perfect through education and Science.  It was the time of world history that gave us Charles Darwin.  What the Bible taught about sin and the limitations of man was ignored and it was thought that we would just keep on improving and becoming perfect individuals.  Once again, God’s glory and the hallowing of His Name was denied.  Instead, man glorified himself by discovering his own explanations to the world and putting himself in the place of God.

 The First World War was a wake-up call to the idea that man would keep on improving but what replaced the Modern Age was not a returning to the God’s Word and praising Him for His works, but an emphasis the self, on personal rights and private morals.  The Western world has become even more self centred and lives for the fleeting pleasures of life.  The world’s values revolve around gathering wealth, shopping,  beauty, sports and leisure.  There is the idea that we ourselves have become the cause and the source of all good things. 

And we Christians live in that kind of a world.  We Christians have the values and the philosophies of the world indoctrinated and underlined pretty well every single day.  And one of the dangers for us is that we end up having a split world view where we separate science from religion, religion and politics, daily life from church life.  Where God is put in a box to be taken out and glorified only in certain situations.

Psalm 145, however, teaches us something different.  This psalm teaches us how to glorify God in all of life.  It is what is called an acrostic psalm.  In the original Hebrew language, each verse begins with another letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  It is then, the “A to Z” of glorifying God. In this psalm, David praised the Lord for what He has done:  he praises God for His might acts or wondrous works, His goodness, righteousness, compassion, mercy, His Kingdom, and also the way the LORD preserves His children.  Indeed, all of creation and all of God’s work in our lives point to Him and call us to praise His Name.

“Hallowed be Thy Name.  That is, Grant us first of all that we might rightly know Thee, and sanctify, glorify and praise Thee in all Thy works.” 

The first thing we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer is that we have a right understanding of who God is and how He wants His Name to be hallowed.  But in order to do this, we also need to have a right understanding of who we are.  That we are not little gods and goddesses.  That the world does not revolve around us.  That are not living so that we can get the most out of life for ourselves.  But that we are called to reflect the glory of Another.

And this was well understood not just by the writers of our Catechism, but by all the leaders of the Great Reformation.  The Reformation taught that we must have a God-centred faith and life that in the first place glorified and so hallowed His name.  Soli Deo Gloria, they said, “To God alone be the glory!”

One of the great texts of the Bible that the Reformers used to speak of how God must receive all the glory is Romans 11:36 – “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.” 

All things are of Him, through Him and to Him. 

John Calvin explains this verse in part as follows:

“Paul shows that we are far from being able to boast in any good of our own against God, since we ourselves have been created by Him from nothing, and now our very being depends upon Him.  He concludes from this that it is right that our being should be directed to His glory.  How absurd it would be that the creatures, whom He has formed and sustains, should have any other purpose than to show forth His glory!”

All things are of Him – that means, there is nothing here that did not come from God, and so He deserves the glory for it all.  Psalm 145:10 “All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, and Your saints shall bless You.” 

And all things are through Him – that is, God did not just create things, but He upholds them as well.  Psalm 145:16, “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

And all things are to Him – that is, they exist for God to display His greatness and His glory.  Psalm 145:11,12 [Your works] shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom.”

Romans 11:36 is a wonderful expression of praise, declaring that God is the “A to Z”, the Alpha and the Omega of all things, and for that reason He must receive glory.  But in its context, Romans 11:36 points even  more to God’s greatest work, to our salvation.  It is through His grace and by His power that God saved us to be His children.  The greatest place of all where we see displayed the almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy and truth of God is in His work of redemption, in the sending of His Son to save a people for Himself.

When He was on earth, our Lord Jesus confessed in John 12:27,28, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save Me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your Name.”  And then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”  God’s Name was glorified in the coming of Christ.  Through the life of Christ and the miracles that He did, the earth witnessed the glorious majesty of God.  But it is in the death and resurrection of Christ, where the justice and mercy of God come together that call us to exclaim, “Glory to God in the highest!  Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised!”

And  this is also how we need to reflect on our personal salvation, on our only comfort, on how various doctrines benefit us.  For when we see what God has done in us, how He has taken away our guilt, how Has breathed life into dead bones, how He has made us a new creation, then all we can do is stand in awe of our Creator, Redeemer and Re-creator and exclaim:  To God be the glory!  Great things He has done!

2. May His Name be Hallowed through us.

In this sermon, I have made a very close link between hallowing God’s name and glorifying Him.  This is not a new idea:  in His Genevan Catechism, John Calvin explained the petition “Hallowed be Thy Name” as follows:  “The Name of God is His renown, with which He is celebrated among men.  We pray then that His glory may be exalted above all and in all things.”  Calvin teaches here that all our living must be to the glory of God.

Notice how the Heidelberg Catechism says something similar in the second part.  “Grant us also that we may so direct our whole life – our thoughts, words and actions – that Thy Name is not blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised.” 

To glorify God, to Hallow His Name, is to honour and praise Him in all that we think, say and do.  And not only that, but the way in which we live must call others also to hallow His Name.

One way we can think about this is as follows.  If God is the sun, then we are called to be like planets, orbiting that sun, and reflecting the sun’s light!  The reason why God created us in His image is in order that we might reflect Him, glorify Him.  That’s what we live for.  And when we pray to Him at the beginning of the day and say “Hallowed by Thy Name” we are asking God, “Will you give me the privilege of reflecting Your glory today?”  And then at the end of the day, we may ask Him, “Have You, O God, seen Yourself in what I said, in what I thought, and in what I did today?  Did I care for others in the way that You would have?  Did I fulfil my destiny today, as Your image bearer?  Did You see yourself in my attitudes and actions?

Did You see Yourself in my attitudes and actions?  The way of the world is to be self centred, to be proud, to assert my rights and ensure that my voice is heard.  The way of the world is to declare that I am god and to become absorbed in myself.  But as Christians, we don’t want people to see us, but God in us.  So that God receives the honour and the praise.

How is that going for you?  What sort of a name does your family have in your street?  What sort of a name does your business have in the way it deals with employees, with suppliers and clients?  How do people observe you as an individual? 

And how is it going in this church?  Do we live together and act in such a way that we encourage one another toward love and good works?  Is there any way that collectively we can change so that we remove stumbling blocks and call each other to hallow God’s Name?

And what is it like in our families?  How we speak and act in our families must reflect the glory of God.  “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”  (Psalm 145:4)

Sadly, we do not reflect the holiness and glory of God as we should.  We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Even as Christians we are often self-centred and think more of having our own name honoured and praised than God’s.

The church, and what is referred to as “organized religion” has left a bad taste in the mouths of many.  The media will pounce on anything that smacks of hypocrisy in the church, and gives full press coverage to matters such as infidelity in the church,  the poor handling of sexual abuse cases, the inappropriate way that some churches seek to pull money from members of their congregation or the public or from the government. 

Amongst the people of Australia, respect for the church is spiralling downward at a fast rate, with a  loss of respect for both God and His people.  Christians are labelled as hypocrites, as bigots, as anti-social.

And in families, the sins of the fathers – and mothers – can cloud a child’s understanding of the glory of God and in some cases lead to that child to have a skewed view of who God is. 

Sadly, what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 2:24, “the Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” is true.  Yes, we can point to those in the world who live in darkness and so oppose anything to do with the Light.  Yes, we can get upset at the biased and anti-Christian media.  Yes, we can point to the weaknesses in our brothers, our sisters and our children.  But when we consider ourselves, the truth of the matter is that we do not reflect God’s glory as we should, that we do not so direct our whole life in order that God’s name might be honoured and praised by all those around us. And for that we need to repent, we need to humble ourselves before God, and we need to go back to God’s Word and understand anew the glory of God’s Name.  We need to absorb the wonder of His Name.  And then we too will cry what Isaiah cried, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips!”

But when the glory of God’s hallowed Name brings out just how far we have fallen from the glory of God, we need not despair.  We do have somewhere to turn.  More correctly, we do have someone to turn to!  The only man who truly reflected the glory of God and hallowed His Name was the eternal Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.  He displayed the glory of God in its fullness.  But He came so that we too could begin to reflect the Father’s glory.  Romans 11:26 quotes from the Old Testament saying, “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”  In Christ we can begin every day anew and in Christ we can begin again to reflect the glory of God and hallow His Name.

But no matter how much we try, no matter how much we strive, no matter how much we work at it, our hallowing of the Name of God is but a small beginning.  We look forward to the Great Day of the Lord, when our Lord Jesus shall return, and make all things new.  And then we too will bow down before the Throne of God saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”  (Rev. 4:11)  And then our selfishness and self-centredness will be done away with.  Then we will glorify God, just as we were created to do, hallowing, sanctifying, glorifying, honouring and praising His great and Holy Name.  Come, Lord Jesus, that the King of glory might receive the honour due His Name!  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 2009, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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