2002 10 20 - Sermon - Our Only Comfort
Our Only Comfort
C. Call to Worship Psalm 98
Our call to worship this morning comes from Psalm 98.
“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD …”
D. Songs of Faith and Praise (Praise Team)
E. Prayer of Confession Psalm 51:1-17
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
F. Words of Assurance
Hear the good news!
Who is in a position to condemn?
and Christ died for us,
Christ rose for us,
Christ reigns in power for us,
Christ prays for us.
Anyone who is in Christ
is a new creation.
The old life has gone;
a new life has begun.
Know that you are forgiven.
and be at peace.
G. Hymn of Praise # “This Is My Father’s World”
H. Prayer of Intercession and Thanksgiving Uncle Dirk or another elder
I. Offering/Offertory (deacons come forward)
J. Hymn # “Not What My Hands Have Done”
K. Bible Reading:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while 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.”
Lord’s Day 1
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 Saviour Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
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:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
Q. What must you know
to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. Three things:
first, how great my sin and misery are;
second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;
third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.
L. Prayer of Illumination
Lord, open our hearts and minds
by the power of your Holy Spirit,
that as the scriptures are read
and your Word is proclaimed,
we may hear with joy what you say to us today.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Are you comfortable? Let me see (walk up to the front row of the pews or chairs and sit on them. Shuffle about, even lie down. Ask some of the people in the front if they are comfortable.) I know, some of you might be thinking, well, if he just gets on with the rest of his sermon I can fall asleep and THEN I will be comfortable.
We live in a world which pursues comfort. The vehicles we drive are increasingly becoming more and more about comfort. Emphasis is placed on smooth riding characteristics, supple supportive seats, and refined audio systems, which soothingly comfort the listeners. Some of these comforts may be efforts to reduce the anxiety that passengers feel when they place their lives in the hands of the driver. Much like the comfort and support of a dentist’s chair and the elevator music piped through the ceiling is an attempt to distract the patient.
The fact is that North American society caters to comfort. We have comfortable homes with central heating and air conditioning, easy chairs, comfy couches, vacations and rest. We can spend our vacations in the Comfort Inn, drink Southern Comfort, get cozy under a comforter and even peruse a catalogue from a firm called “Comfortably Yours”. We have vehicles with every conceivable luxury device, full of all the latest safety devices, such as air bags, ABS brakes, traction control and four-wheel drive. All these things are designed to give us peace of mind, or in other words, to comfort us.
The Heidelberg Catechism, on the other hand, tells us that there is only ONE comfort. There are not many comforts, just one. The root meaning of comfort is one of strength, fortitude and courage. Comfort comes through the knowledge and understanding that we are not our own, but belong to Jesus Christ. It is not just a bodily comfort, but a spiritual one. It is not just a present comfort, but an eternal comfort. It is comfort in body and soul, life and death.
The answer, “that I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ,” is a confession, that we belong to Christ. The reason we belong is precisely stated in the last word Jesus spoke on the cross, tetelestai, which means “it is finished” In the Greek it is written in the perfect tense, which indicates that even though something happened in the past it has an ongoing significance for the present. Indeed, that word was commonly written across legal documents when a fine or bank loan was paid in full. Tetelestai paid in full. Not just back then, but now and for all eternity. Christ paid for our sins; he took them upon himself, and got rid of them once and for all.
That is our comfort. Because Christ accomplished the impossible, we have no other reaction but to offer ourselves to Him, which is to give back to him what is rightfully His. Normally we hear these words in sermons on tithing, but the reality is that all we are, the very fibre of our being, the very life-giving air that we breathe belong to God. Because we are not our own, we, therefore, also are not alone. Jesus stands at our side because he has done all this for us already. He knows what it is like to live here on earth. He experienced it. He wrestled with it. He put up with stubborn people; he ate and drank with the dregs of society. He, the creator of the earth and all that is in it, ate with sinners. He chose to be with the fallen people to save them, to become forever reunited with them, rather than to remain apart from them. Now that is love. Now that is comfort.
“He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. 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. In fact, all things must work together for my salvation.” What a picture. This is more that just a relationship of servant to his or her master, or even of a parent to a child, it is the description of the restored relationship of the creation to its creator.
The catechism continues: “because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.” This comfort, unlike a sedative to induce sleep, induces gratitude. We cannot DO anything to bring this comfort upon us; it is the work of Christ already completed, which brings this comfort. The comfort we receive motivates us toward gratitude. It is what inspired the Apostle Paul to write in his letter to the church in Rome: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom 12:1). Our gratitude, our response to receiving a comfort far greater than any lazy boy, or Cadillac or mansion, so moves us that we respond immediately by working to become like Christ. Our attitudes will become the same as his.
To summarize, “the [first] question [of the Heidelberg Catechism] declares that it is the only comfort, exclusive and yet all inclusive. The only comfort is the whole comfort… the whole person – body and soul – belongs to Christ. The whole person in his or her entire history – both in life and in death – is Christ’s… because he made the atonement… he brings complete liberation… Christ also watches over me in his comprehensive providence so that “all things must work together for my salvation. Full assurance of eternal life is included… and that assurance leads to wholehearted willingness to live my entire life for Christ.”
So how are we to live out this comfort?
The catechism states it very simply. First, we are to confess to God that we recognize how sinful we are. In every single case, if we each were given a choice to either sin against God or to live for God, we would choose to sin. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit of Christ working in our lives, we are not at all able to choose to serve God. That is the weight, the consequence, and the poison of sin. It is as though we have imbibed a poisonous cancer which slowly eats away at our souls until we die, unless Christ, through the Holy Spirit provides the antidote.
Christ is the antidote. He is the cancer destroyer; he is the sin destroyer. He is the conqueror of death. His sacrifice has completely set us free from all our sins. He has totally wiped us clean. That was what David was writing about in Psalm 51. Cleanse me; make me white as snow. That is what we are. We are clean. In Christ we are already made clean. Some Christians make themselves out to be so clean that they never have any laundry to hang out. On the other hand, I hear Christians stating that they are as white as snow, but when you ask them to describe their white snow it more closely resembles old snow at the side of the road, spotted by mud and dirt. In other words, Christians have a habit of either making themselves too good, or not good enough. We must realize that we are living in the already but not yet. Yes we still sin, but Christ has already paid for that sin. Yes we are clean, but not yet completely clean. That will come when Christ returns in glory.
Thus the idea of the already but not yet serves to allow us to realize that we are free from our sin to live a life of thankfulness. This is the new use of the Law. It is a guide for Holy living. It is no longer a set of rules which, if we break even one in thought condemns us to death, but rather it is a set of guidelines by which we happily serve our God. Did you see the switch? We are no longer under the burden of guilt. Christ took that away, and replaced it with joy. The joy of the comfort of Christ is that we have been freed from the tyranny of the devil to live lives of gratitude to God, to serve him as he served us, and to serve one another in love. Serving one another to the degree that we risk getting stepped on. We are to wash one another’s feet, to do tasks that we may think is beneath us, but in so doing bringing honor and glory to God.
But we are not only serve one another, we are to serve the lost souls of the world. Our scripture passage reminds us of that:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age while 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.
We are to seek out the people Christ has called his very own. We do not know who they are. They could be our neighbors, our friends and coworkers. This scripture does not allow us to sit on our hands. Because the salvation has appeared to all people through the life and work of Christ, we will be held responsible to share this good news with the world. The comfort of Christ teaches us to say “No” to the pseudo-comforts of the world. We can no longer allow the worldly view of comfort describe the Christian comfort. That is why we talk of going outside of our comfort zone. It is not going outside of Christ’s comfort, but rather going outside of the worldly view of comfort. The joy of living and dying in the comfort of Christ motivates us to action, to take up the cross of Christ and share the good news. People need to hear it. People need to hear of the one and only comfort of Christ. If they do not, they will continue to try to discover the true comfort in other religions, drugs, money, and material things. None of that brings true comfort. We know that. Thus not only do we have to maintain our own self-control, but also show others how to do so.
By maintaining our own self control, by making our lives different than the lives of those around us, and by seeking the kingdom of God first all these other things will be given to us. Things like food, and shelter, and yes, even some worldly comforts. People will begin to notice our actions. They will see that we are not like them. They will see the joy of the comfort of Christ in our lives and they will want to experience that as well. So let us respond to the King of Love. He has called our names and given us life despite our shame. He’s shown us the truth in His word, and now we take up His cross and live for His glory. Amen.
N. Duet by Paul and Renee VanStralen “King of Love”
O. Song of Response “Lord, You Have My Heart”
‘ “The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace. ” ’
Q. Closing Song “Here I am Lord”
 Klooster p. 33
 Ibid p. 35
 p. 38
 p. 41.