The sermon of today is drafted from the first part of our catechism, it is called “The Lords Day 1”, were it asks you in person as follows:
What is your only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head, indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.
Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.
What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
First, how great my sins and misery are;
second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery;
third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.
This morning we will think about our lives as Christians. Can we agree with the words and say: I am thankful to my God, because I’ve learned how He saved me from my sins and misery? What do we know about the joy of the comfort which Jesus gave us when we live or die? Let me put this in other words. We know that we are no better than people who do not believe in Christ Jesus. We too are sinners and (1Joh 1:10) if we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. But do we live a thankful live before God, because we know Jesus?
I like to explain this with an example. When a child on school do not listen to a teacher, they will faces some kind of punishment. Now, when that happens the child must, maybe, stand with his nose against the wall when the other children are having their brake. Now, thats a live of sin and misery! If you stand with your nose against the wall, you are not happy. But when their time is over, then the teacher will let them go. They have paid for their disobedience and will be able to play freely again. The child will even say ‘Thank you’, because they are happy to play again. They know now what went wrong, they also know now what will happen, but they also are thankful that it is all over now. They go to play with joy of the comfort that they are free.
The same applies to Christians; they learnt from the Bible how great their sins and misery are. Apostel Paul wrote (Rom 3: 9-11): What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” Whether you are a Christian or not, we all suffer from the same problem.
But when you believe in Jesus, you know that you are set you free from that. Only a teacher can set a child free from its punishment. Only Jesus can set a sinner free from his or her punishment. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:2).
Understanding the gospel means that we know about this incredible gift of God. God does not only forgive us our sins, but He also sets us free from the power of the devil. This will be true when we are alive, but also on the moment we die. Yes, we can be grateful for this, now we have to learn to live this new life. Because we are Gods child forever and ever!
But our struggle is: How do we carry on? I mean, when life gets tough and we feel the doubt in our hearts, how can we be so sure? If other people sees the trouble in our lives, what can we answer? Is there some kind of prove that we are a true children of God? What do we say to ourselves, when we discover all kind of sins? Can we believe we indeed are living heartily willing for God.
I think it is good to start with the teaching of Jesus. Lets read in John 8:31-34. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. What Jesus is saying to them, is that they are not saved because they are decants of Abraham. The same applies to people in church. One is not saved, because you attend a church each and every sunday. Let me give you an example. If you are going to watch a game, you will not become a player. If you want to be a player, you must be involved and go to train and practice yourself. Watching a game is not the same as playing a game. This is what Jesus meant.
Oké, we get that point. If we want to be a disciple of Jesus, we have to hold to his teachings. But than the difficulty comes in. Because what will happen when things go wrong? What if we sin? Are we than no longer children of God? Yes, we are, but we have to listen to our trainer. The holy Spirit is like a trainer of a team, He is there to lead the team. Apostel Paul put this in an other way, he wrote (Rom 8:12-14): Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Being a member of a team you must train hard. But does this imply you will always win? For some people it is hard to believe, but sometimes even the Sharks loose a game. But does that means that they are not the Sharks anymore? No, of cores not.
The assurance of being a child of God does not come from a live without sins or misery. The assurance comes from the Holy Spirit, who has been given to Christians (Rom 8:15-16). For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. When you become a player you will receive a shirt with a number on it. This tells you, you are a member of the team and everyone knows your place.
This can be compared with Gods Spirit. His presence is like a shirt of a team. He gives you a place in church that everyone knows. When you become a Christian you receive the holy Spirit. The Spirit assures you, you are a child of God, you can cary on even if you struggle in live. You do not have to do it on own strength, it is the work of the holy Spirit who makes us hardly willing to live for God.
Therefore we know that Jesus gave His own life for us, to set us free from sin AND power of the devil. Two things. Is someone asks us: ‘What did Jesus do for you?’ We answer two things. He paid for all our sins AND he redeemed us from the power of the devil. We have to remember them both. Being paid for our sins means: ‘All our fines were paid off.’ Redeemed from the power of the devil means: ‘No prosecutor will come after you to get those fines to be paid again.’
Now, let us firstly take a look at those fines. Everyone knows that driving through a red trafic light, in front of a police is a stupid thing to do. Because you will be fined by the officer, who was on the spot. The police officer will stop your car and write down your details, what you did wrong—I mean which law you transgressed—and the place and time you did it. He tears off that piece of paper and give it to you, that’s your fine. You may go, but you have to pay it yourself, because you violate the law.
The same applies to when someone transgressed the laws of God. It is not difficult to understand that the price have to be paid. But it will not do to come with a 10 or 20 Rand bill and pay it to God. Because our sins are só serious, that we even deserve a death penalty. This is why we need to come to Jesus Christ… If we accept Christ in our lives, we accept His death to becomes ours. Jesus want to take your fines because he has already paid for it. He wants to take them to God and God will tear them in two. Because in Jesus God will accept the payment of Jesus and He accepts us as we are.
But there is more to this. Because Jesus did not only payed off for our sins, He also set people free from any evil power. In Heb 2: 14-15 we read: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. The apostel John wrote it as follows (1 John 3:8): The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. Jesus defeated him when He rose from the death. Therefore, we do not fear eternal death any more, because Jesus took our place for us.
Now, let me tell you this. If you today feel the power of darkness in your live, than do not hesitate to come to Jesus. If you still believe that there is any power still urging on your life, come for prayers. Because we are allowed to set you free in the name of Jesus. We do not only need forgiveness of sin, but also from any power. Therefore I say again: being paid for our sins means: ‘All our fines were paid off.’ And secondly; Redeemed from the power of the devil means: ‘No prosecutor is allowed come after you to get those fines to be paid again.’ A Christians belongs only to Jesus Christ, He paid with blood—which means—He gave His life. He sets anyone free from the power of evil. Yes, we may believe, that we are really free.
This brings us to our next point. Because we do believe now, that Jesus is our Savior. And therefore we must know, we do belong to Him and him alone. Not only today, in church, we belong to Him, but also tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. If we live or when we die, we belong only to Jesus Christ. People, this is a huge comfort, isn’t it? This is like a letter or a parcel. When you sent it, you write down for whom it is. Our adress, our destiny, is know. We know to Whom we belong. Our lives is not a coincidence, but we have a propose.
It must be clear to us that we do not belong to the world or to the devil, but to Jesus. In other words: ‘We are not our own.’ Jesus, He possesses us. Although being possessed is not something we find positive. If we say that someone is being possessed, we think of a negative relationship of which the person can not escape. And indeed that is true. I just mentioned something about evil powers who wants to reign over the lives of peoples. They even try to overpower Christians by influencing their lives. But they have no rights to do so. Because a Christian belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone. Apostel Paul wrote to his friend and companion Titus. He wrote (Tit 2:13-14): …we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Jesus gave himself with His own life to redeem us and to purify us.
Purify means that our lives will change. When somebody buys a house, it mostly is empty. Well not completely empty. Most of the times rubbish and dirt was left behind. When you want to live in a new place, you first have to remove the dirt. When it is clean, than you can live in it. But you are not finished yet. You have to maintain your place, because it will get dirty again. The same applies to our lives. When Jesus comes into our lives, when we became His own, He first have to remove the dirt. He cleanse us from our sins. But than—as live continues—we are not finished yet. We have to maintain our place, because we know we sin again. Each and every day we have to confess our sins, so that our lives continues to be the property of Jesus.
Each and every day we live in front of the eyes of Jesus. We will do so until the day we die. And even then, it is not over yet. Because He will stay with us. Even when we die, we do not die alone. Jesus, He went ahead of us, but came back to assure us that He is the only One who will not forsake us. We are valuable to Him from the first day we became His children, until our last one. Even if we pass away, we will do that in the comfort that He will raise us again. This is what it means that whether we live or we die, we belong to Jesus.
Now what can we say? If we indeed are not our own, but belong to Jesus. If He indeed redeemed us from sin and death, then we can understand that everything in our lives is prevailed by God. This means, that nothing in our lives is unknown by God. He is alway there, even if we think He is not. Even if we don’t feel His presence, He is there. No matter what. Of course this is not always easy, but God will never let you alone, even not in our darkest hours. The Bible tells us that God uses the bad things of our lives to workout our salvation.
I want to share a personal example about this. More than ten years ago, my live was overshadowed by evil powers. The details are not so relevant, in that time I could not feel anything of God. I did not see Him working in my live, but I knew that He was there. As a boy I learnt the catechism, and that knowledge kept me going. Just on the moment I thought I could not stand any longer, we prayed. On those prayers Jesus redeemed me from that power. Now, many years later I can see that God uses that period of time for my salvation.
We all know that—from time to time—we suffer. What can we say about that? Can we blame the devil than? I think we should be very careful to do so. We learnt that the devil has no power over the children of God. If bad things happen to you, you better pray to God. Jesus told us that God will always be aware of our situation. We read Matt 10:29-32. 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. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. You see? Sometime we find it hard to understand what God is doing in our lives. But for me it is a comfort to be in His hands, knowing that He knows me better than I do understand myself.
This is why I just said that if someone must not hesitate to come to Jesus in prayers. He will redeem us, because we belong to Him. According to the gospel of John Jesus said (John 10: 27-30): My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Jesus ís our shepherd and He leads us. He promised us to protect us against the evil one. No one can be snatched of of His hands, because we are the children of God.
In so many cases the Bible assures us that whatever happens to us will work out for the good. We read in Rom 8:28 about it, as Paul wrote: 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. We do not know and most of the times we do not see the purpose of bad thing in our lives. But God is able to use all these things to work together for our salvation. Yes, we are allowed to end any pain and misery. Yes, we will pray for people who are in need. But in our sorrows, we will submit ourselves completely to God. In His hands we are saved even when we die.