Displaying items by tag: repentance http://www.prca.org Mon, 24 Jan 2022 01:13:10 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb July 2014 Reformed Witness Hour Sermon Booklet http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3688-july-2014-reformed-witness-hour-sermon-booklet http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3688-july-2014-reformed-witness-hour-sermon-booklet

RWH Booklet - July 2014 Page 1The July 2014 radio messages of the Reformed Witness Hour are now available in print form. The four messages were delivered by Rev.Carl Haak, pastor of Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI and contain the initial messages of a series on the OT prophecy of Jonah.

The entire booklet in pdf form is attached here. But you may also find these four messages separately on the website at the links below:

July 6, 2014 - "Arise, Go, Cry Against It" - Jonah 1:1-2

July 13, 2014 - "The Prophet Who Ran Away" - Jonah 1:3

July 20, 2014 - "The God Who Would Not Let Go" - Jonah 1:4-17

July 27, 2014 - "Prayer From A Whale's Belly" - Jonah 2

If you would like to be added to the mailing list to receive these messages in print each month, visit the RWH website and send an email to the address found there. Or send a note to Judi Doezema at the Seminary: doezema@prca.org.

haak@prca.org (Haak, Carl) Reformed Witness Hour Sermons in Print Fri, 01 Aug 2014 21:48:42 -0400
The God Who Would Not Let Go http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3685-the-god-who-would-not-let-go http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3685-the-god-who-would-not-let-go


Message Title: "The God Who Would Not Let Go"
Broadcast Date: July 201, 2014 (#3733)
Radio pastor: Rev. Carl Haak

Dear Radio Friends,

Please open your Bibles to Jonah, chapter 1.  Last week we looked at Jonah, the prophet who ran away.  We left him in a ship headed for Tarshish, the most remote place in the then-known world.  And we imagined that at first the winds were favorable, the sails billowed, the coast of Palestine receded in the distance, and perhaps Jonah believed that God would be tolerant.  Jonah, although he had received the clear commission from God, did not believe that God’s mercy should be shown to those despicable pagans in Nineveh.  He would not go to Nineveh. 

        In his disobedience, he wanted to push away from him as far as possible anything that reminded him of God’s presence and commandment, anything that could remind him of his obligation to God.  He fled from the presence of the Lord, from that place where God was worshiped, where His Word was heard, where prayer was offered, where His people were found.  He wanted it removed from his eyes. 

        We saw, then, that the best of the saints, when left to themselves, are capable of the greatest and most foolish of sins. 

        Today, our focus shifts to the God who will not let go.  The whole picture changes in three words:  “But the Lord” (v. 4)—words that express the sovereign grace of God in the preservation and the restoration of backslidden children.  In verse 3 we read, “But Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord.”  Those words represent our depravity in our sinful nature to choose the way of disobedience to God.  In verse 4, “But the Lord,” we see an expression of the cause of our salvation.

        According to many churches and theologians, almost everything depends upon man, and a little on God’s election and preserving grace.  If that were so, it would have been the end of Jonah.  If God’s dealings with Jonah depended upon Jonah himself, God would have said, “Jonah, you did it now.  You disobeyed and forfeited any right to be called My prophet.  I’m casting you away.”  But that is not how God works.

        God has elected Jonah to a task.  God had a purpose with Jonah.  And God would not let go and allow Jonah to destroy himself.  He would restore him. 

        But that way of restoration is hard.  Do not abuse the doctrines of grace.  Do not play with the seriousness of disobeying God.  The way back for Jonah would be slow and hard, and it would break him in pieces.  The way of hell is easy.  The way of grace, of restoration, is severe, though it be blessed.  Jonah, in his disobedience, rebelled against God, and he involved others in his rebellion.  Now the Lord is going to work and bring him back.  He is going to restore him to obedience. 

        Let us look, then, for a few moments at the God who would not let go.

        “But the Lord,” we read, “sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken” (v. 4).  That is a very comforting truth.  That shows that the hand of God reached out for Jonah.  God’s purpose was to bring His child to repentance.  And we see, first of all, that the repentance of the child of God, and of Jonah, was due to God’s initiative, it was due to the activity of God Himself.  “But the Lord sent out a great wind” (v. 4).  “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish” (v. 17).  “The Lord spake unto the fish” (2:10).  “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah” (3:1).  God takes Jonah in hand and says, “You, by the weakness of your flesh, by your foolish disobedience, and by your carnal mind, have chosen the path of disobedience, which will lead you to destruction and bring ruin upon all around you.  That is what you did.  But you have not silenced My love for you.  My purpose is to bring you to repentance, Jonah, because (Ps. 89) My covenant is sure; no change can it know.  Lamentations 3:  ‘It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.’  Malachi 3:6:  ‘I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.’”  God brings you to repentance.  God changes the heart.  God’s love tracks you down.

        We see, then, that God is going to restore a man who walked in blatant disobedience.  His divine love takes the initiative. 

        But we marvel at the diversity of the means of God.  What Jonah had tried to do, of course, was preposterous and shows the folly and the stupidity of his sin.  To flee from the presence of the Lord?  God calls Himself “the Lord of hosts.”  All the creation, all of its creatures, man, ocean and wind, insects and fish are His army to do His will.  God uses first the element of wind.  “The Lord sent out,” literally “hurled,” a great wind into the sea.  And that stormy wind fulfilled His word.  It blew harder and harder.  As the narrative goes on (v. 11), “the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.”  As the captain and the sailors questioned Jonah on the deck of the heaving ship, more and more became the waves of the sea.  It is as if the Lord says, “What shall I use?  All is at My disposal from the tiny cut worm which will eat the root of Jonah’s gourd (chapter 4), to the air current and the weather patterns.  They are all My servants.” 

        You remember that God also used the lot.  Pagan sailors cast lots to find out who was the root-cause of their problems.  They say, “Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us.”  The Lord controlled that.  The lot is cast into the lap (Prov. 16), but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.  So we read, “and the lot fell upon Jonah.”  People call it chance, it just so happened that way.  A sinner says:  “A mere coincidence caught me.  I had it all figured out.  It was perfect.  Just one thing, and who could have known?”  Do you talk that way?  Do you curse “bad luck”?  The lot fell upon Jonah.  Of course it did, because God is in His heavens (Deut. 32).  Be very sure:  your sins will find you out.

        Then God uses a great fish.  Even though translated in the New Testament KJV as a whale, it was simply a great fish.  God prepared one.  The mighty God spoke and brought that fish to swallow Jonah.

        So God is able to use all things.  But in the narrative we see that Jonah’s restoration was not confined only to the brute creation.  That is, the elements God used were not only found in the brute creation, but they included men, pagan men.  That is something to notice.  If you read Jonah, chapter 1, then you see that the pagan sailors were used of God to ask some very probing questions, questions  that nailed Jonah in his disobedience.  God did not have another prophet somewhere hidden in the vessel to jump out and rebuke Jonah.  No, God used unbelieving and idolatrous sailors.  “What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God.  Tell us why this evil is come upon us.  Who are you?  What is your occupation?  What did you do?  Why did you do that?” 

        Has that ever happened to you?  There is shame here.  There is shame when the church is rebuked by the world.  But it happens.  One child of God in disobedience sometimes sees less than even the unbelieving world sees concerning the consequences of sin.  That happens.  Maybe it was your boss who is an unbelieving man.  He rebuked you on an issue involving your faith and walk with God.  He has come to know how you work and your personal life.  And he calls you into his office and says, “Now listen.  You may not do that.”  Maybe it is the neighbor lady who sees you as a wife all upset and she says, “But why are you so upset?  You go to church.  You believe in God, don’t you?”  There is shame here.  Sometimes God uses even the wicked world to rebuke the church.

        There was a very painful and slow process of restoration.  The process that God used with Jonah is often the process that He uses in our lives.  I would be very greatly surprised if there were not many Jonahs listening today.  The Word of God has come to you and to me.  No, it did not come as it did to Jonah with a voice or a vision.  But it came in its inspired Word, a word that has called you to a duty that you are not willing to do, a word that has called you to deal with a sin, perhaps a word that calls you to a certain act of obedience.  It comes to you, as it did with Jonah, at a point where you do not want to obey and you do not want to accept that responsibility and you do not want to put away that sin.  So you, too, go and find your ship and go to sleep. 

        How does God restore us?  The first thing we read is that Jonah is awakened.  The point, perhaps, of greatest tragedy in the narrative is verse 5:  “Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them.  But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.”  Why was he asleep?  The storm was great.  And even though Jonah might have been weary from a two or three-day travel from Gath-hepher to Joppa, that could not explain his sleep in a storm.  Why?  You see, this is the sleep of the disobedient child of God who finds sleep an escape from the terrors of conscience.  Awake he could not but feel the terror of his conscience.  Sleep sometimes does what drunkenness can do.  It provides an escape from reality.  Jonah does not want to wake up to the reality of what he has done.  A sleepy man is oblivious to reality.  Jonah is utterly oblivious to the danger in which he has exposed not just himself but the whole crew on the deck.  He is down below asleep.  In the path of disobedience, he sleeps.  Disobedience can be like a drug, a sedative.  Disobedience can do to your soul what no sleeping pill can do.  The further you go in the disobedience, the deeper comes your stupor. 

        The shipmaster’s words were abrupt.  “What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.”  When God will bring us to repentance, to a clear understanding, God does not immediately fix everything.  It is not simply that you say a prayer (of Jabez) and now all is OK from then on.  Oh, no!  That is not the Bible.  God wakes you up to your sin and to the danger that is come because of your sin.  He woke Jonah up to the reality that, in a sense the pagan mariners saw, this was no ordinary storm.  This was God’s judgment, this was God’s chastening hand.

        Are you a Jonah today?  Do you know God’s first work?  God will use whatever He pleases to hurl into your ear, “What meanest thou, O sleeper?  What do you mean, father, to cast your whole family into a turmoil because of your sin?  Son and daughter, the storms are brewing in your household.  There is no trust.  There are bad attitudes.  There is bitterness and bickering, resentment because of your sin.  It is high time to awake out of your sleep.” 

        Sometimes we congratulate ourselves on our ability to sleep in a storm.  Well, if that means, as with David in Psalm 4, that as a humble, repentant child of God we are leaving to God the outcome of our fears, good.  But if you sleep when crashing around you are broken relationships, yelling, bickering, and distance, and when the life of your whole family is subject to the waves of trouble and you are not bothered by it, it is high time that you awake. 

        The second thing that God did was to bring an indictment of Jonah’s disobedience.  When Jonah appeared on the deck and he was singled out by the lot, questions came pouring from the sailors:  “Who are you?  Why did you do this?  What is your occupation?  What people are you from?”  Every eye was upon him.  There is an irony here.  Jonah refused to preach to pagan Ninevites.  Now, in spite of himself, he is about to do exactly that.  He is going to preach a pretty good sermon, he is going to leave a pretty good testimony before these unbelieving sailors who have come with the indictment, “Why did you run from the presence of the Lord?” for he had told them that he did.  “Why hast thou done this?” 

        Now suppose yourself to be Jonah.  Why?  The question that is put to you by a heathen man, “Did your God provoke you to flee from Him?  Did He deal harshly with you?  Did He give you a calling without any encouragement to be with you?  Is your God, then, a harsh taskmaster, so that you have to run away from Him?  Why?  Why have you followed the ways of the world?  Why did you set your heart upon them, you who know the Scriptures, you who know fellowship with God?  Why?  Why did you do that?  Is it because the fellowship of sin is better than the fellowship of your God?  Produce your reason.  Has God been a wilderness to you?  Do you have a better friend than your God?  Have you found His promises unfaithful?  Has the world been better than God to you?  Why did you do this?”

        Then the third step in the restoration was Jonah’s acknowledgment.  Jonah evidently told them what he had done.  He confesses that the Lord, the God of heaven, who has made the sea and the dry land, is his God.  He is a Hebrew.  He was God’s servant.  “I fear God,” he said.  “I reverence God.”  That is all good.  But it comes short of a clear and simple confession:  “I sinned.  I will arise and go to Nineveh.  I will obey.”  Jonah did not say that. 

        At this point, although Jonah begins to acknowledge a few things, he is still a mass of contradictions.  He says to these sailors, “I fear God, but I’m on this ship in disobedience to His command.  I am an Hebrew, a friend of God; but I’m running from His presence.  The God of heaven made the sea and the dry land, but I’m running from Him.”  The backslidden Christian is a mass of contradictions.  The child of God overtaken in a fault is the most contradictory thing on the earth.  The beauty of an obedient life is symmetry.  Symmetry is when everything is in proportion.  This is something beautiful.  It is when confession and walk of life are consistent.  But for a child of God to walk in disobedience, he becomes a mass, a bundle, of contradictions.

        The full repentance of Jonah is going to be learned in the belly of a fish.  Jonah did not get to the point of full repentance on the deck of the ship.  It is going to take being cast into the sea.  God’s purpose is to restore Jonah to obedience, not sacrifice.  God’s purpose in repentance was to bring Jonah back to where he went wrong.  God’s purpose with Jonah was not that he be drowned in the sea, but that he go to Nineveh and preach the preaching that he was told.

        Repentance leads one to obedience.  But even strong measures of the storm and drowning at sea did not bring Jonah to the point where he would get up and obey God.  He had to go down to the belly of a fish to learn to do that. 

        The pagan sailors asked him, “What shall we do to you that the sea be calm?”  What could he say?  Could he say, “Repent of your sins and turn to Jehovah and serve Him like I do”?  No, he could not say that.  Could he claim ignorance, could he say to the sailors, “I don’t know what to do.  Give me an oar and let’s row”?  No.  He knew exactly why this storm had come.  And it was getting worse. 

        What could he say?  Did he say this:  “Sailors, it’s very obvious what God wants me to do.  God called me to go to Nineveh.  I have to obey God.  Captain, put the bow of this ship back toward Palestine.  Point it towards Nineveh.  And I assure you that the moment the bow is pointed toward Nineveh the sea will be calm.” 

        But Jonah did not say that either.  He said, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you.”  There is acknowledgment there, all right.  There is an accepting even of the justice that his sin deserves:  death.  But, you see, God did not call him to death.  He called him to obedience.  Repentance is not just being awakened.  It is not just being indicted.  It is not just acknowledging your fault.  It is not even saying that “my death will be justice.”  Repentance is more.  Repentance is the hardest yet of all.  Go back, the long way, to where you went wrong.  And this time obey.

        That is where God’s grace is going to lead Jonah.  Sometimes death is easier.  Sometimes we are brought by God to see just how far down we have gone.  The consequences, the long consequences and the guilt are upon us.  And we would say that it is easier now to acknowledge my sin and die.  “Cast me into the sea.” 

        But God would not have it.  “No, child of God.  I’m going to bring you back, over many miles, in a fish’s belly, back to my command.  And I’m going to show you the blessing of obeying Me.  You see,” says God, “you’re going to go back where you got off the road.  That is what you have to go back to, and, by grace, in My mercy, you will begin anew.”

        Do you see yourself?  Do you walk away from God?  Do you say, No?  Listen.  The way of disobedience appears cheap.  You can pay for it with what you have in your pockets.  You have the fare.  But the way back, you cannot find, you cannot buy it.  It is all of God’s grace.

        God does not let us go.  In His mercy and grace He brings us back.  He gave His Son to forgive our sins and to ransom us from all of our folly.  God shows His mercy when He arrests you in your sin, when He wakes you up, stops you, indicts you, calls you:  “Son, daughter, obedience to Me in love—that is the path that will bring you blessing and peace.”

        Let us pray.

        Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word.  We pray that it may enter into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  Defeat our proud natures and humble us to obey Thee.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

haak@prca.org (Haak, Carl) Reformed Witness Hour Sermons in Print Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:21:45 -0400
Corporate Responsibility and Ezekiel 18 http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/publications/cr-news/item/3310-corporate-responsibility-and-ezekiel-18 http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/publications/cr-news/item/3310-corporate-responsibility-and-ezekiel-18
Corporate Responsibility and Ezekiel 18

“The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel” (Eze. 18:1-3). 

A brother writes, “Having read Prof. Hanko’s explanation of federal responsibility in the Covenant Reformed News, this morning I read Ezekiel 18, which seems to directly contradict what he says. Perhaps he could address this passage.”

The question is a good and important, and I am pleased that I have an opportunity to answer it.

The proverb to which the children of Israel referred, “Our fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (2), was used by the people who were in captivity. They had been brought there as a part of a band of Israelites taken to Babylon while Jehoahaz was king. A later captivity, when Zedekiah was king, was the final one. The seventy years Judah had to be in captivity began with the first captivity.

Ezekiel was brought into captivity along with the former band of captives and ministered to them at the River Chebar. He had a difficult time of it, for the captives were rebellious about their punishment. By quoting to Ezekiel this ancient proverb, they meant to say that they were in captivity unjustly. They had not done anything worthy of such a dreadful punishment. They did not hesitate to admit that their fathers had committed sins that made them worthy of captivity, but not they. And so, they complained, they were being unfairly punished for their fathers’ sin. That was a terrible indictment of God’s justice.

But the claim they made by quoting this proverb and the answer of the Lord shows that the proverb did not apply to them at all, and that, in fact, the proverb was not true.

It is, first of all, necessary to read the rest of the chapter. God makes several points in the chapter. The Lord emphatically makes the point that He is just and righteous in all His ways, and that if a man is just and righteous, he will not be punished. That is, if such a man thinks that he is totally sinless and yet must bear the punishment his fathers deserved, he is totally mistaken. 

In fact, God says, that even if a man sins and repents of his sin, he will not be punished (21). A man dies for his own sin, not for anyone’s else’s sin.

Ezekiel 18 teaches that the will of God’s command is that sinners repent of their sins, serve Him and keep His commandments. And if sinners turn from their sin and repent, God is quick to forgive and bless. Every man may be assured of this. Even if a man has very wicked parents, but lives himself a holy life, he will not be punished. God is merciful and gracious. But He is also perfectly just.

What then about corporate responsibility? 

The way to escape such corporate guilt is to repent of it personally. And repentance means:

1) That one acknowledge his own part in the sin. 
2) That one do what he can to eradicate the sin. 
3) That he openly condemn the sin and show others why it is a sin against God. 
4) That he not commit the same sin, but drive it out of his life, by Jehovah’s grace.    

There is another element in all this, however. God punishes sin with sin, lesser sins with greater sins, and He does this in generations. The sin of which a father, for example, is guilty is ultimately the responsibility of the children. God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children (Ex. 20:5). That responsibility is evident from the fact that the children commit the same sin not only but even magnify the sin in their own lives. Then the sin of their father becomes their sin as well, and when they are punished, their punishment is for their own sin.

I have repeatedly seen in other families and among my own relatives what this rule of God means. Parents with a family may, for some reason or another, leave the true church. They take their children along. They join a church where the gospel is not preached in all its purity. The children drift farther from the truth than their parents. And, in time and in future generations, the children do not even go to church any more.

If, however, there are a few who confess the sins of leaving the true church, turn from their sin in repentance and seek forgiveness in the cross, they will not be punished for their sins and will, by repentance, experience the blessings of escaping the judgment that comes upon their fathers.

There is always forgiveness and salvation to the one who turns from his evil way—even when it is the same evil way in which his parents walked. But such a one repents of this sin—and repents of his parents’ sin when he turns from that wrong way.  Prof.H. Hanko (emeritus)

hanko@prca.org (Hanko, Herman) Covenant Reformed News Sat, 26 Oct 2013 19:54:55 -0400
Prayer From a Whale's Belly http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3686-prayer-from-a-whale-s-belly http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3686-prayer-from-a-whale-s-belly


Message Title: "Prayer from a Whale’s Belly"
Broadcast Date: July 27, 2014 (#3734)
Radio pastor: Rev. Carl Haak

Dear Radio Friends,

In our last message on the prophet Jonah we praised God who did not let His disobedient prophet go but was committed to restoring him to the path of obedience.  We learned that Jonah tried to run from God.  He did not believe God’s mercy should be shown to heathen Ninevites, the very people who were Israel’s enemies.  And he challenged God’s sovereignty, he challenged God’s very right to show mercy to whom He would show mercy and to harden whom He will (Rom. 9).  And in his disobedience, Jonah went down, down, and down.  He tried to get away from everything that would remind him of God and of his obligations to God. 

        But God did not let him go.  In the narrative of Jonah, chapter 1, we saw that God reveals His power to bring His child back.  We saw that it was God’s initiative, that God uses the whole creation at His disposal.  He brings a storm upon the ship.  He controls the role of the dice to point the finger to Jonah.  And He even used pagan men to begin the process of rebuke.  We saw that God’s process of bringing Jonah back to the place of obedience was first of all to wake him up to the reality of his sin; to indict him through the means of unbelieving men; and to have him acknowledge his sin and his worthiness of death.

        We emphasized last week that God’s purpose was to restore Jonah to obedience, not to drown him.  Jonah, even when he was cast overboard from the ship, was not in the place of full repentance.  For that, God prepared a great fish to swallow him up.  And there Jonah, in his misery, is brought by grace to repent and to turn fully to God.

        Today we are going to look at the prayer that Jonah offered from the fish’s belly in the second chapter of Jonah—perhaps the only time in history that prayer came from that place.  But any place can be a place of prayer.  There is no place like a fish’s belly, under three or four hundred feet of water, that so calls for prayer.  And there is no place where prayer will be more likely simply to magnify God and turn to Him alone.

        Jonah was brought very low.  That was the purpose of God.  God’s purpose was to show His grace and power.  As we come to this prayer, you should note with me that this is not all that Jonah prayed.  He was there for three days.  And he prayed without ceasing.  We have here only a summary of his prayer.  Secondly, you should note that the prayer is not, perhaps, organized with divisions and sub-points.  When you are in distress, you pour out your heart to God.  But there are two things that come out in his prayer.  First of all, his great distress and overwhelming fear.  “I cried…from the belly of hell….  I am cast out of thy sight…water compasses me and brings me down…my soul faints within me.”  Secondly, the prayer is characterized by faith in God’s mercy.  “He heard me.”  And that is before Jonah was delivered.  He says, “He heard me … I will look toward Thy holy temple…I will remember the Lord…salvation is of the Lord.”  Those two thoughts:  Jonah’s great distress, and his faith in God’s mercy, leapfrog over each other until at last Jonah is restored to obedience.

        “Then,” we read, “Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly.”  It was a great fish, probably a whale or some other large fish not known to man.  We know that unbelief jeers and howls in mockery at this.  Clarence Darrow, in his great trial, said concerning a witness:  “Why, a person could believe this man’s testimony as easily as he could believe a fish swallowed Jonah.”  Well, we believe that a fish swallowed Jonah.  It is a fact.  A miracle, yes, but a fact.  Our God, who raised Jesus from the dead, could certainly cause a great monster of the deep to come alongside a boat when His prophet is thrown overboard and swallow him.  Besides, we have Jesus’ word on this.  When the unbelieving Sadducees and scribes asked Jesus for a sign to validate His claim as the Messiah, He responded (Matt. 12:39, 40), “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”   The reality of Jonah being swallowed by a fish, and Christ’s resurrection, go together.  This is reality, no myth. 

        Try to put yourself in Jonah’s position.  He’s been picked up and he’s been flung over the side of a ship.  The waves have poured over him.  In all probability, he was not immediately swallowed but went through all that a man experiences in drowning, maybe even to the point of unconsciousness.  In verses 5 and 6 of his prayer he says that the weeds of the bottom wrapped themselves around his head and he felt the ooze of the muddy bottom.  He came to the roots of the mountains.  Whatever a man experiences in the last moments of drowning, Jonah experienced.  But he came to awareness and consciousness, coughing and sputtering.  And it dawned upon him that he must be in the belly of a fish.  He has air to breathe after a sort.  But he smells the rotting food in the stomach of the fish.  Think of the gastric juices, the stench, the darkness, the slimy, slopping around in the belly of a great fish.  After a while he is aware what has happened.  He has been brought down low, exceedingly low.  He is at the end of the earth.  Now the Scriptures focus, in Jonah 2, not so much on what went on inside the fish, but what went on inside Jonah.  There is where the real miracle is taking place. 

        As I pointed out, back and forth Jonah prays of his misery and his faith in God.  He sees all of his misery as affliction from the hand of God.  He calls the fish’s belly “the belly of hell,” not profanely but because he felt that he had been cast out of the sight of God and he would be abandoned.  He who ran from God’s presence now fears that he is abandoned by God.  He fears that he has had it, that God is done with him.  He is in the depths of despair.

        But then he says, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord” (v. 7). There is the breaking forth of faith.  He says in verse 4, “I will look again toward thy holy temple.”  And in verse 7, “I remembered the Lord:  and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.”

        We need to apply this for just a moment.  In the belly of a fish, wretched, shocked with fear day after day after day, inwardly struggling against the demons of fear, Jonah cries out in faith to God.  Does that describe you?  No, you have not been in a fish’s belly—nothing so dramatic.  But has God, in restoring you, brought you to a place like that?  You struggle with fear that you are abandoned?  You are cast off?  You have only grief and misery?  By faith, God’s gift to you, you cry out to God?  You see, we have a great truth illumined here.  We gain an accurate picture of the spiritual life of a child of God when he is under trial and severe chastisement.  Affliction is the index of the soul.  An index will tell you what is in the book.  Chastisement tells you what God has put in the heart of His child.  Here is Jonah.  Up to this point in the book we see very little of the work of God in him.  We might even say, “How can he be a child of God, that disobedient man?”  But affliction shows the true Jonah.  When Jonah is down in the depths of the sea in the fish’s belly, you find out what God put down deep into him. 

        What does affliction do to you?  In some children of God even the heaviest chastisement seems to produce no spiritual good.  God corrects and they become bitter, resentful, angry.  No sanctified spirit.  But here we see that God’s chastisement is having its intended effect.  The spell of Jonah’s sin is broken, shattered.  And in a humble and broken spirit, he cries to God to restore him in mercy.

        What was the primary concern of Jonah’s prayer?  We might answer that according to our own thinking:  “Get me out.”  Was Jonah’s primary concern simply to get out?  No.  Jonah’s primary concern in his prayer was not deliverance but a return to what he had so foolishly despised.  He had despised God’s presence.  Now, in the belly of the fish, it becomes his greatest treasure.  In chapter 1:3 we read that Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord.  And we saw that that meant that he wanted to put away from himself everything that would remind him of Jehovah.  Jonah did not believe that God was simply confined to a place on earth.  But he wanted to have no dealings with God.  He did not want to have his heart pricked by the Word of God.  He did not want to be told that he was sinning. 

        Now look at his primary concern in the belly of the fish (2:4).  “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.”  Look to the holy temple?  In disobedience he did not want to be anywhere near that holy temple.  But now he looks toward that holy temple.  He looks to God’s presence, not simply to a building in Canaan, in Jerusalem, Solomon’s temple.  In a fish’s belly he did not know east from west, north from south, up from down.  But he says, “Here I am.  And in a sense I got exactly what I wanted.  I wanted to run from the presence of the Lord.  I got what I wanted.  But I can’t stand it.  I must have Him.  What I despised, what I foolishly turned from, what I squandered, I see now as the treasure above everything else.”  Verse 7, “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord:  and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.”  He sees his prayer as a messenger that runs from a fish’s belly to God’s throne. 

        Does that apply also to you and me?  The greatest cost of the sin of a backslidden Christian is that he has forfeited the experience of communion with God.  True repentance is a desire for the restoration of fellowship with God.  The words of the prodigal son, “I will arise and go to my father.  And I will say [what was he going to say?  Do you remember, children?  Was he going to say to his father, ‘I missed the well-spread table’?  ‘I missed my own room’?  ‘I missed all the things that were at home’?  No, ‘I will arise and go to my father and say’], father, I have sinned against thee.”  When you have lost God’s presence in disobedience, either by a deliberate disobedience or by multiplied carelessness and God now comes to chasten you, what happens?  By grace, you cry out, “I must have God!”  True repentance is evidence that the child of God wants the greatest treasure:  communion with God.

        You see, a Christian is not simply someone whose sins are forgiven and now he is off on his own so that he has comfort as he continues in his life of greed or lust or whatever it may be.  If that is the way you view a Christian, then you smear the cross of Jesus Christ.  Jesus died in order that we might have the treasure of Father’s house and fellowship.  When God restores you in repentance, when He brings the pincers of affliction into your life, His purpose is to restore you to fellowship, to have you treasure what you took so lightly, namely, the presence of God.

        But then we see also the working of faith in Jonah’s prayer.  Jonah begins to acknowledge the hand of God.  He sees that it was God who had cast him into the deep.  We would say, that is the way Jonah prays in verses 2 and 3 of chapter 2.  Now we might say when we read that, “I thought the pagan sailors cast him into the sea.  Didn’t they take up Jonah and cast him into the sea?”  Yes, it was.  But Jonah sees beyond men.  “It was Thou, O God.”  Faith sees to the cause—God’s hand.  That, too, is repentance.  If God sees fit to chasten me and lead me down, it was God’s hand that did that, not fate.  Jonah recognizes that God’s hand had caught him in his disobedience and he submits to God.  Now what happens to you when God begins to affect your life, when He begins to deal with you because of your sins?  And the wind begins to blow and He begins to shake your life all around you?  Do you say, “Oh, things are not very good at home.  Things are not very good with my husband/wife/children”?  Do you say, “Oh, my problem is those people in the church, or those elders, or that church, or my problem is the economy or …”?  Oh, may God stop our stubborn, self-loving flesh and bring us to the point where we say, “Thy hand, O God, is upon me.”  May we acknowledge the living God as the creator and understand that God brings us back to repentance.

        By faith, Jonah recognizes God’s goodness in afflicting him.  He says, “God is bringing me up from corruption” (v. 6).  He says that he will “sacrifice unto God with a voice of thanksgiving” (v. 9).  He even sees God’s goodness to him in the fish’s belly.  Chapter 1:12, he said, “I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.”  He understands that although he deserved death, yet God had preserved his life.

        So he makes use of God’s Word as he prays.  Jonah quoted no fewer than seven times from the psalms in his prayer.  Some of them were verbatim.  The references were these:  Psalm 130, Psalm 42, Psalm 31, Psalm 18, and Psalm 116.  Jonah is using various verses from the psalms mingled into his own prayer—because no book of the Bible so expresses the life of the child of God as the Psalms.  The Psalms are the written, spiritual biography of the work of God’s grace.  Jonah, who was a prophet, and had been a mouthpiece of God, nevertheless, when it comes to prayer, he begins to piece together the beautiful litany of the Psalms applied to his situation.

        You have the Bible, do you not?  Do the Scriptures form your prayers?  How did Jonah have the Bible?  Did he have it on a scroll?  No.  Did he have a candle?  Could he light a candle in a fish’s belly?  No.  How did he know?  He knew it, he had meditated upon it, he had learned it, it was in his heart.

        What about you?  You have God’s Word.  Do you store up God’s Word?  Do you store that Word up for days of trial?  Do you read it regularly day by day?  And in your prayers, does God’s Word come out from your lips? 

        Jonah was brought down in his prayer to confess his sin.  Verse 8, he prays, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”  A lying vanity is an idol, anything that turns you from God.  Whatever takes the place of God is a lying vanity.  Jonah had observed the lying vanity.  That lying vanity was his own will.  He said “No” to God.  He said that his own thoughts and desires were better than God’s.  Jonah made his own god.  “I will do as I want.”  He lifted himself over the Word of God and he forsook his own mercy.  Mercy here is the personification of God, the God of mercy.  Instead of serving the merciful God, Jonah decided he would observe a lying vanity.  Jonah says that, not to excuse but to confess, to acknowledge his sin. 

        Then Jonah goes on in verse 9:  “Salvation is of the Lord.”  I will pay my vows unto the Lord.  I vowed to be a prophet.  I vowed to go where He would send me.  I will pay that vow.  I will go back, the Lord being merciful to me, I will go back and go to Nineveh.  For salvation is of the Lord. 

        That brought comfort.  The taking of a soul from guilt and bondage and forgiving that soul and freeing that soul from the bondage of sin is the work of God.  Salvation is of the Lord.  When you are in a fish’s belly, that much is clear.  Salvation is of the Lord.

        That must be clear to you today personally.  All of our belonging to God and all of our having God as our Father and as the Almighty One who cares for us in Jesus Christ, that was not due to anything of ourselves—not our will, not our work.  We do not take the credit for that.  Oh, you might take the credit today if you are standing on your own two feet in pride.  But not if you are in the belly of a fish with the slime and ooze of your folly and your sin around you.  From the depths, when the waves and billows have gone over our soul, then we know one thing for sure:  Salvation is of the Lord.

        Why did God restore Jonah?  Because He would have Jonah first confess, “My salvation is of Thee, Lord.”  That is why the Lord does not let you go but restores you to repentance. 

        Let us pray.

        Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word and we ask again that Thou wilt write it upon the pages of our hearts.  We pray in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen.

haak@prca.org (Haak, Carl) Reformed Witness Hour Sermons in Print Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:32:55 -0400
Freedom (in Christ) http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3662-freedom-in-christ http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3662-freedom-in-christ


Theme: "Freedom"
Broadcats date: June 29, 2014 (No.3730)
Radio pastor; Rev.Carl Haak (Georgetown PRC)


Dear radio friends,

Are you free?  No, I am not asking about your political standing.  I am not asking if you are a member of a free nation with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Nor am I asking if you are incarcerated in some prison for crimes against the state.  I ask, Are you free? 

        You say, “Of course, I’m free.  I’m my own man.”  But I am not asking you that, either.  I am not asking for your opinion of yourself or of your own will or character.  Are you free? 

        Are you free from the dominion of sin, so that sin does not rule over you?  Are you free?

        Jesus Christ said in John 8:  He that committeth sin is the servant of sin.  He went on in that chapter to say that He alone was able to make men free.  “If the Son shall make you free,” He declared, “Ye shall be free indeed.”  Are you free in Jesus Christ from the dominion and power of sin?  Not that you do not sin, but that you know your sin, you confess it in tears of sorrow before the living God.  It grieves you. 

        And are you free in this sense, that you fight your sin.  You fight against that sin all the time.  You do not want to yield to it.  Are you free in this sense, that you would live a new and obedient life.  That, rather than yielding all of your life, your thoughts, your abilities to sin and to yourself, you would rather, by the grace of God, yield all in the service of Jesus Christ.  Are you truly free?  Free, then, from the damnation and condemnation that you deserve, which is hell.  Free from an awful, ruinous life of pride and sin.  Free to serve God in Christ Jesus.

        We read in the Word of God concerning freedom.  We read this in Romans 8:2:  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”  Paul there declares that, by grace, the child of God is made free, that he has true freedom.

        In Romans 8:1 we have a very precious statement of what is called justification.  Let me read the verse.  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  There the apostle declares that when, by grace, we have been united to Jesus Christ by God’s powerful work, then Christ is our righteousness; then Christ has performed the work for us upon the cross; and then, as God sees us in Christ, we are declared “not guilty.”  The guilt, the penalty, the condemnation of our sin has been removed.  That is what it means to be justified—to be declared by God innocent and righteous and forgiven of all our sins so that we shall not endure eternal condemnation.  That is Romans 8:1.

        But then, in verse 2, the apostle proceeds immediately to another biblical doctrine, namely, sanctification, or transformation.  He says, “For by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [I have been] made free from the law of sin and death.”  In other words, he says that wherever God has declared a justification, a pardon and forgiveness of sin, He goes on to work a sanctification.  The Spirit of Christ is placed within those who are forgiven by mere grace.  And that Spirit of Christ works within them and empowers them to a new life in Jesus Christ, a life that is one of repentance, a life that desires to serve Christ.  We have been set free, free from sin, from the dominion of sin, by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

        Let us ask a few questions about that today.

        First of all, we are set free from what?  And the answer:  the Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death. 

        What is the law of sin and death?  The word law here in the Bible is used to refer to a principle or a power.  The verse is saying that there is a certain principle or power of sin within us that holds us, that subdues us.  The word law in Romans 8:2 does not refer to a code of do’s and don’ts.  It is not a reference to the Ten Commandments, but it is a reference to a principle or a power that works within.  The law here is not like going in the summer to a park or to a campground and on the board are posted the rules:  #1, no fires; #2, no alcohol; no pets; no firearms.  Not law in that sense.  But the word law here has the same idea as when we use that word in science, as for example the law of motion, the law of thermodynamics, or the law of gravity.  We refer to certain principles at work, certain powers at work in the creation.

        Now Paul says there is also a law, there is a principle, that is operative in sin.  Then he says, “Praise God, there is another law—the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” 

        The law of sin and death, then, is the principle or the power of sin.  Paul says in Romans 7:22, 23, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  But I see another law [there it is again] in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law [there it is again] of sin which is in my members.”  Paul says, “There is a principle, there is a law, of sin in my members.  And it is constantly bringing me into subjection unto sin.”

        Well, what are the axioms, or the corollaries, or the postulates of this law of sin and death?  There are especially three.

        The law of sin and death is, first of all, this:  that sin in me (or my human nature as fallen into sin) reacts always in hatred and resentment to God and to what God requires of me.  Paul will say in Romans 8:7 that “the carnal mind…is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”  The carnal mind is enmity against God.  The first postulate of this law is that there is within me irritation with, and the desire to break, the commands of God. 

        It comes out in a little child.  You say, “No, don’t touch that candy dish.”  The child looks at you and reaches out to touch it.  It seems that the good law of God, the commandments of God, provoke and stir up sin within us. 

        Paul says in Romans 7:5, “For when we were in the flesh, the motions [or the desires] of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.”  It is as if the law is the stick that pokes the dog. 

        I remember, as a boy in the second or third grade, a particularly cold winter—sub-zero temperatures.  And at that time many houses would have outside an oil barrel for heating.  And I remember my friend’s father saying to us as we were outside playing that cold day, “Don’t put your tongue on that barrel in this cold weather.  It will freeze immediately.”  Well, we had never thought of doing such a thing.  It had not occurred to our mind.  But when the prohibition was given to us, it was irresistible.  The commandment came, and the desires of rebellion arose. 

        And so it is within.  There is this law within our natures that when the good law of God comes to us and says, “No, don’t do that,” there stirs immediately within our hearts by nature, “Who is God to tell me?”  And we defy that law, so that the skin of our life is torn off and we are brought into pain and misery. 

        That is the first postulate of sin and death—the urge of the sinful nature to violate God’s good law simply because God has told me not to.

          The second postulate of this law is that sin breeds sin.  Sin gives birth to sin.  You cannot contain a spill (an oil spill).  You cannot get it to stop.  It keeps coming and keeps polluting.  We think we can stop it.  But we cannot. 

        What King David thought was just a fling of one night with Bathsheba brought murder and lifelong, horrible, devastating consequences into his life.  He thought it would be just one little sin. 

        You tell a lie in time of trouble and that lie, to cover it up, requires five more.  Parents come home and say, “Were you on the computer while I was gone?”  Or, perhaps, as a little boy, there was the quarter on the counter that Mom left there and you took it.  And then that quarter became a dollar and the dollar became…. 

        We read in the Bible, in Genesis 4, of Cain, who was jealous of Abel.  Before Cain killed his brother, God came and spoke to him and said, “Cain, sin lies at the door, and unto thee shall be its desire, and it will rule over you.”  God thus warned Cain of this law.  He said, in effect, to Cain:  “You’re jealous of your brother.  You pet that jealousy and you think that that jealousy is just like a little pussy cat.  You can comfort yourself by being jealous.  But, I tell you, Cain, it is no little kitten.  It is a lion.  That jealousy is just like a lion, and it’s crouching right now.  It’s outside your door.  It’s crouching to devour you.” 

        And so you say to a sin, “It’s just a little one, it’s just once.  It doesn’t matter.  Don’t bother your head about it.”  So, what once would cause deepest hurt and pain and remorse, now you do not even blush.  In fact, you do not even know that you are doing it anymore.  That is the law of sin and death.  It breeds sin.

        The final postulate of the law of sin and death is that sin does not let go.  Sin embeds itself.  This is true of specific sin, of lust, greed, bitterness, anger, addictions.  There is the law of sin and death.  Addictions are the fangs of the pit bull of sin.  They do not let go.  So, eventually, the job and family and children and everything that you worked for are gone.

        We read in Proverbs 23:29-35 of what is called the addiction, chemical addiction, unto wine—drunkenness, says the Bible.  There the Bible speaks of the person who has redness of eyes.  Who is this that has redness of eyes, and wounds without cause—all kinds of hurt and broken relationships and contentions?  He has eyes for strange women.  The one who has this is the one who has been drinking.  And then read those most distressing words (v. 35):  “I will seek it yet again.”  Sin does not let go.  I will seek it yet again.

        There is a law within our members as sinners, fallen in Adam.  It is in us right now.  This law is operative in our minds and our tongues, and in all the organs of our bodies.  It is real.  It is as real as the law of gravity that holds us to the ground.  And it is irrevocable of ourselves.  It is the law of sin and death.  It leaves us broken and miserable and ruined.

        But we have been set free, declares the apostle.  This is the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is its wonder:  Freedom, true freedom!  Not man-made freedom.  This is true freedom—to be freed from the powers of sin.  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”  Let that Word of God come to you.  Let it roll over your mind and soul with all its glory and power and relief and comfort.  It is really the same words that I quoted of Jesus:  “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”  Jesus Christ is the great emancipator.  His cross not only erased the guilt of our sin and its punishment, but His Spirit, the Spirit of the crucified Jesus, frees me from sin’s dominion. 

        There is another principle.  There is not only the law of sin and death, but there is a greater principle.  It is called the law of the Spirit of Christ Jesus.  The Spirit of Christ frees the child of God from the power of sin and death.  Paul is referring to the authority and the power of the Spirit of life in Christ to bring us unto life.  God, by grace, implants within us this other principle.  It may now be only a beginning principle.  But it is the life in Christ Jesus.  It is the life that is directed toward God.  It is a life that is from Christ Jesus unto God.  It is in Christ Jesus.  That is, it is for those for whom Christ has died.

        Not only is there, as I said, no condemnation, but there is also for them freedom—freedom from the law of sin and death.  The child of God does not simply say, “I am forgiven and now I am content to live in sin.”  That is impossible.  But along with the forgiveness comes the work of the Holy Spirit of repentance and sanctification.

        But still we say, Free?  What do you mean by free?  You yourself said that the law of sin is in our members and remains there.  What do you mean, Free?

        Well, free, not in the sense that sin is gone.  A Christian does not say, “Well, I lived once a life in which I swore and drank and lusted and all the rest.  But now I couldn’t swear if I tried.  And I don’t have any lust in me anymore.”  That is simply not true.  The person who says that is blind, blind to his own self.  The Holy Spirit always works within us (John 16) a conviction of our own sinful nature.  The apostle means free in the sense that this principle of sin is now checked.  It means that the dominion of that principle is broken.  It means that I can contradict the law of sin and death.  It means that the power that I now desire to follow is the law of life in Christ Jesus. 

        It makes us free in two ways.  The Spirit of Christ makes us free, first, in a painful way.  He gives us to know our sin.  The conviction of sin.  He slays us.  The Spirit of Christ introduces me to my sin.  I mean, truly introduces me to my sin and to my problem.  Do you know your problem?  You say, “Well, of course I know my problem.  She is sitting across the table from me.”  Or, you say, “Well, it’s my mother.  It’s my parents.  They’re so unreasonable.”  Or, “It’s him.  If you had to live with him, you’d know what my problem is.” 

        When you speak that way, you speak out of the law of sin in your members.  What you are saying is that your sin, at least in comparison to other people’s, is not so bad, and that what you do and say in your marriage is explainable because of the other person.  As long as you think that way, you are in the bondage of your own sin.  The work of the Spirit of Christ is first to show you yourself, that the tyrant and the evil sinner is yourself.  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.  That was the testimony of the apostle Paul. 

        So the first work is a painful one—the conviction of sin.  But then the second work of freedom of the Spirit is repentance.  And repentance is freedom.  It is to say, “I’m sorry, truly sorry.  I have sinned against heaven and I have sinned against you.”  The devil says, “Don’t say that.  Don’t humble yourself.  Be proud.”  Freedom is repentance.  It is the faith of Christ within our hearts delivering us from the hardness, the darkness, the selfishness, the defiance. 

        Do you repent?  Is your heart soft before God?  Do you know what it is to be broken, in tears, over your own sin?  This is a miracle.  This is the principle of the life of Christ within you.  In Christ we receive this power to repent, to sorrow over our sin, and to desire to walk in a new and holy life.  United to Christ, we receive not only pardon, but also the work of the Spirit bringing us sorrow and repentance and the desire to walk in obedience to Jesus Christ.  That is what it means to be free.  We are free in Christ Jesus.

        Out of the blood of Christ, which has justified me and forgiven me of my sins, I am given the power also to fight lust, greed, anger, pride, and selfishness.  Freedom.

        Out of the love of Christ, and out of the blood of Jesus Christ, I am given not only to know my sin but also to hate my sin and to fight my sin and to desire to serve God.  This is freedom.

        Out of the love and blood of Jesus Christ, I am not only forgiven my sin, but I see that indeed my problem is my sin, and I want to take hold of myself and walk in obedience to Christ.

        How do you approach the battle against sin in your life?  Do you approach as a victim?  Do you say, “I can’t help it.  Everyone does it.  It’s to be expected.  You’d do it too if you were in my circumstances.  And it doesn’t really matter.  Aw, come on, it’s not as bad as So-and-So.”  We learn where the bar is set.  And if we can come under that bar, then we think we are OK.  If that is the way we think, then we do not know the cross of Jesus Christ. 

        Do you battle your sin this way, as one who in Christ has been made free as a conqueror, and more than conqueror, in Christ Jesus?  Do you know that you have been forgiven, and not only forgiven but made free, that the Spirit of Christ now rules in you, so that you want to resist that sin, hate that sin, fight that sin, and you want to live now in a way that will thank Him and praise Him?  We fight our sin, not to earn salvation, but because God has forgiven us.  Then all the glory is God’s.  Absolutely all the glory is of God.

        Understand, and live in freedom, forgiven in the blood of Christ, so that you might repent now, humble yourself, and feel, by the Spirit of Christ, a new impulse to submit all things in loving obedience to Jesus Christ.  This is freedom.  And all of this to God’s glory.

        Let us pray.

        Father, we thank Thee for the Word, and we pray for its blessing upon our hearts in this day, that we may stand in the freedom, in the liberty, of Jesus Christ.  In His name do we pray, Amen.

haak@prca.org (Haak, Carl) Reformed Witness Hour Sermons in Print Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:34:28 -0400
Spiritual Lethargy http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3272-spiritual-lethargy http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3272-spiritual-lethargy


haak smallBroadcast Date: September 22, 2013

Message #3690: Spiritual Lethargy

Radio Pastor: Rev. Carl Haak

Dear Radio Friends,

Our program today issues the warning of the Lord Jesus Christ against the shameful and all too common sin of spiritual lethargy, spiritual dullness, sluggishness, complacency, apathy, a lackadaisical attitude toward the spiritual things of the Lord Jesus Christ, a lethargy not so much seen in the outward aspects of the Christian’s life, although they can be seen there, but a lethargy that proceeds from the inward decay of the heart toward the Lord Jesus Christ.

      Make no mistake.  We will guard and confess the precious truth of the indestructible nature of the true grace of God.  When God’s grace has been imparted by the Holy Spirit into the soul, that grace can never die, it cannot fall away.  “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (I Pet. 1:5).  “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:  for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand” (Ps. 37:24).  The faithfulness of God keeps us as His children.  The covenant of grace secures us.  The finished work of Jesus Christ preserves us.  And the indwelling of the Holy Spirit seals us to eternal glory.

      But, due to our own sin and weakness as we are surrounded by a wicked world, and due to our own folly, that life of grace that is imparted to our hearts may experience a decline in our own soul—a painful process of spiritual disease, which may advance slowly, imperceptibly, silently, and unobserved.  Suddenly we awake to the realization that there is in our life as Christians no power of holiness, no revulsion to sin; that there is a loss of the experience of the joy of the Lord; and that there is an actual playing with sin and a lukewarm attitude toward the church.  Maybe, even further, we find ourselves withdrawing from spiritual things and from the church; we experience bitterness in our heart; and we have no felt-presence of Jesus’ walking with us in our life.

      Then we ask the question:  How came it so?  What is the root and origin of these things?  The answer of the Word of God is:  the sin of spiritual lethargy.

      The passage that I want to use to bring this sin out and the Lord’s words of rebuke against it is found in an Old Testament book called the Song of Solomon.  Please open your Bible to the fifth chapter of that book.  The Song of Solomon is a picture of Christ and His bride, the church, a picture taken from the life of Solomon as he was married to his wife.  In this book, chapter 4:16, we read this:  “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.”  There the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking through His Spirit, calls for His Spirit to blow upon the church in order that out of the church, the gathering of His people, spices (that is, sweet smells of praise) may flow up to the nostrils of God.  In response, the wife of Solomon, the church, says, “Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.”  The church, you and I, long for the Lord to come among us in His felt-presence and to be with us as His people.

      The church, then, is the garden of the Lord—a garden in which He desires and is pleased to live and enjoy Himself; a garden that He has planted to give off pleasing fragrances of praise to Him.  You plant a garden in your back yard, you landscape your yard.  Why do you do that?  You do that to enjoy it, to relax, to find rest and wonderment in that.  You plant an herb garden that is peaceful.  There are delicate fragrances to be smelled.  There is the bee balm.  Then you put your mouth down to the sage and you taste the thyme and rosemary and cilantro.

      So, the Word of God says, is the church.  It is the garden that God has planted in order that it might emit rare and delicate and pleasing fragrances of trust and love and joy and worship before the living God.  The church is not a dump.  The world of sin, from which we were taken, is like a landfill.  It emits an odor, a stench, of hatred and greed and covetousness and lust and envy.  But in that present world, and indeed out of those who were once of that world, out of the desolate weed bed of the world, God has planted for Himself a garden.  And His grace has germinated every seed.  The Holy Spirit waters the Word upon the seed in order that we in the church might bring forth that which is pleasing to God.

      So, we could well ask the question:  “What does the Lord smell in His garden today?  What does He smell in your church?  What does He smell in your life?  Is it the pleasing fragrances of trust, love, joy, and worship?”

      In response to the church, we read the words from chapter 5:1ff., “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse.”  And the Lord Jesus Christ comes into His garden in such a way that He reveals all His beauty and sufficiency.  First of all, the husband (therefore, really, Christ) comes to His wife in the garden in all of His eternal love.  He says, “I am come my sister, my spouse, my love, my dove, my undefiled.”  Is that not wonderful?  The Lord calls us as the church “my sister.”  That tells us that He was made one with us, that He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters, that He took upon us our flesh so that we might be made the family of God.  The church is not only the Lord’s wife and bride.  We are His sister, His brethren.  We have fellowship in Him.

      He says the church is “my spouse, I am married to you, I am covenanted to take care of you as my church and to love you.  You are my love,” He says, “my dove, my undefiled!”  He comes in all of His love.

      But He comes also as the Lord, and as the crucified and risen Savior.  If you are reading the passage with me, you will see in verse 2 that the husband, as he comes to his garden, says, “my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.”  That is, he appears before the garden as one who has undergone privation, the coldness of the night has fallen upon him, he bears the signs of suffering.  Christ has gone through the eternal night of our darkness.  All that was out there to condemn us, all the frightening things of judgment and wrath of a holy God, He has suffered.

      Then if you read further, in verses 4 and 5, the wife says that “my beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door.”  And, when she does finally arise to open to her beloved, her “hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.”  When the Lord comes He is covered with myrrh.  Myrrh is a spice of embalming, of death, to cover the odors of death.  Christ comes to His church in all the wonder of His atoning grace.  So to speak, when you touch the handle of the church, it is covered with myrrh.  When you think of the church, you must think of the death of Jesus Christ.   The church is covered in the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      Then, further, He comes in all the blessings of salvation.  He comes in His love, He comes as the crucified Savior, and He comes with the blessings of salvation (v. 1).  He comes with all the rich blessings of the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, divine grace to strengthen our spiritual lives, the wine of joy to lift our souls, treasures, bounties, riches.  Not earthly things.  The Lord does not come to you as His child with the promise of money and French food and dresses and human beauty.  All of these things perish in a moment.  These are the things that those who live in the desert and in the weeds of sin think are great things.  But Christ comes to His garden with true spiritual riches of His salvation.

      And the response of the bride of the church is (v. 2):  “I sleep, but my heart waketh.”  Then the cry of Christ is expressed again, “Open to me, my sister, my dove.”  Then in verse 3 she says this:  “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?  I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?”  She is too sleepy.  Her husband has come to the garden, but she cannot get up to greet him.  She cannot get herself going.  Oh, she has excuses.  “It’s not convenient, it’s too much bother, it will upset my plans.  I’ve gone to bed, I don’t want to get up and get my feet dirty again.  I don’t want to have to get dressed again.”  But the point is that her own spiritual indifference, her own lethargy, prevents the enjoyment of the blessings of the visit of her lord, of her husband, into her life.

      Note here that it was the existence of divine grace that was still in her (I sleep, but my heart waketh).  Christ preserves the life of grace within us by grace alone.  The point is this:  the church, the believer, has fallen into carelessness.  The wife knew she fell into carelessness.  She knew she should get up.  She knew what she should be doing with her spiritual life.  But she did not feel like it.  And the awful feature is that she was content that it be so.  She gives in and accepts her state.  She is too sleepy.  She is not going to get up.  Her love had grown cold.

      How much is this true of you and of me with regard to spiritual things, with regard to Christ, to dedication to His church and to His Word?  Are you and I characterized by a sickly, spiritual feebleness?  Is ours, young people, the spiritual life that constantly says, “Oh, yeah, I know”?  Are we the kind of Christian who forever is saying, “I’ll get around to that spiritual activity and that spiritual virtue someday” but he never does?

      Is it too far for you to go to church?  Is it too much for you to go twice?  Do you say on Sunday evening, “I’ve taken off my coat, my shoes; I’ve made my plans”?  Is it too much for you to go to the Bible study of your church?  You say, “I’ve made my plans.  I’ve been busy all day.  I’m staying home.  I’m too tired.”  Are you alert for the pleasures of the world?  Do the attractions and pleasures of the world dominate you?  Then, do you sleep with regard to the spiritual life?  Do you greet the spiritual things with half a heart and the world with all your heart?  Where is the world in your life?  Be honest!  Where is the Word of God in your life?  Do you read the Word of God?  Do you thirst after the Word of God?  What captures your heart?  For what do you watch?  For what will you get up to see and stay awake to see?  For what will you experience inconvenience?  A movie?  The things of this earth?  Earthly friends?  For Christ and His Word and His truth and His church?

      Are we content that this be so, when we fall into spiritual indifference?  Do we think that spiritual indifference is just the way that it goes, that young Christians and new converts are the ones who are enthused, but the people who have been Christians for twenty or thirty years—well, it is just the way it is?  Is that the way you think?  It is no little thing, you know.  For indifference to the Lord Jesus Christ wounds love.  What wounds, what hurts your heart as a parent?  Probably more than anything else, indifference to your love from your child—the “I don’t care” attitude, the statement:  “Yes, Dad, I know.  Go ahead, say what you want, but I’m not going to listen.  I don’t care.”

      Do you and I mourn over the sin of indifference, spiritual indifference to the Lord and to the things of the kingdom, to our Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ?  This is often something that begins inwardly.  This deals with the secret walk of your heart with the Savior.  Do not fool yourself here.  Our outward walk can be without fault.  In fact, we can be bristling and bursting with activity—while all the time our hearts beat faintly before God.  Does sin run roughshod over you?  Do you find yourself yielding to it?  Is there sloth and worldliness and pride and unforgiveness and carnality ruling in your heart?  Do you perceive the loveliness of the truth of Jesus Christ and of His holy Word?  Do the truths of divine grace occupy the supreme position in your heart and are they the great value and beauty?

      Beloved, beware of spiritual lethargy.

      When the bride did at last arise, she discovered that her husband had withdrawn himself (v. 6).  “I opened to my beloved [so finally she did get up]; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone:  my soul failed when he spake:  I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.”  That he withdrew himself does not mean that he abandoned, divorced her.  But it means this:  the cost of her lethargy was the felt presence of her lord and her husband.  If you read on in the Song of Solomon, you discover that she does indeed find him again; or he comes to her and comforts her.  But for a time, for a very painful time, she could not find him.  And he did not appear to her to answer her.

      The Lord does not do this without reason.  For He delights in us His people and church.  He rejoices to walk many a mile, experientially, with us.  But He is righteous, and the intimacy of His presence is experienced only in the way of repentance and love.  The Lord will not give us to experience in our hearts the joy of His presence if we greet Him with lukewarmness and complacency, if we try duplicity with Him, cherishing our sin and still trying to have Him.  In His love He withdraws Himself in our experience to correct us and to make us confess and acknowledge our sin.  This is painful.  There is nothing so painful.  It is painful because of the work of grace in our hearts.  We have been made to love Him.  The wife loved her husband.  And when he was not at the door, it pained her:  “I opened to my love and he was not there.”  The pain of lost fellowship is rooted in love.  If someone departs from you and you do not love him, you are not pained by his departure.  But if you love that person and you know that it was your folly, your meanness, your simple lack of caring about him that drove him from you, then you are pained in your heart.

      That pain produced tears of repentance.  “Oh, what a fool I’ve been.  How cursed be my sloth.  Why did I surrender to indifference?”  Do you know that type of spiritual pain and repentance?  Do you feel horrible when Christ gives you to see the lethargy with which you greet Him?  Does it bother you, does it upset you?  Do you cry out, “Why?”  Heed the warning!  Is this what it must take in the righteousness of God and in God’s providence for us to understand the wonder of His presence?  Does it take this:  that we must first be made to experience the lack of His presence due to our own sin and lethargy?  Does the truth of the gospel of the Reformed faith first have to be taken away before we understand its wonder and preciousness?  Do opportunities for you to know the truth in your church first have to cease before you understand the brilliance and the wonder of such opportunities?  Does the peace of the church have to be removed before you know its wonder?  Does indifference first have to drag us to spiritual bankruptcy before we understand the riches of Jesus Christ?

      Address spiritual lethargy now!  I do not want that pain of feeling that He is not present.  I do not want the pain of thinking that He does not hear me when I call.  I do not want to learn that way!  Search out your heart.

      Is there spiritual lethargy in your heart?  Is church attendance, Bible reading, and prayer an experience of strength and joy and spiritual sweetness?  Do you experience the joy of your God in your religious duties?  If you do not, then do not criticize the church or the preacher or the Bible version or how you were taught about how to pray right.  Do not do that!  If there is no life in your spiritual activities, look at yourself!  Are you lifeless?  Are the world and the things of this world more important to you than your Savior?  Do you love the Scriptures with a holy relish?  Do you read the Scriptures with deep and solemn conviction that God is speaking to you?  Do you treasure them up in your heart?  Do you pray?  Do you have dealings with Jesus Christ personally in your life?  If the answer to any of these is “No,” do not look anywhere else, but look to yourself and repent.

      What is the state of your soul today toward the things of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Are you lethargic?  Repent!  Are you enamored with the world?  Are you unwilling to part with your pet sin?  Are you bitter against God?  Search out the reason.  Repent.

      For He is our only Lord, our only Husband.  He is our only good.  And His church and the things of His salvation are the treasures of life eternal.  Oh, may we never greet them with indifference!

      Let us pray.

      Father, we thank Thee for the Word.  We pray for its blessing today upon our hearts through Jesus Christ, Amen.

haak@prca.org (Haak, Carl) Reformed Witness Hour Sermons in Print Mon, 30 Sep 2013 21:06:28 -0400
Job Repents in Dust and Ashes (Job, #12) http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3627-job-repents-in-dust-and-ashes http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3627-job-repents-in-dust-and-ashes


Job Repents in Dust and Ashes
Broadcast Date: May 4, 2014 (#3722)
Radio pastor: Rev. Rodney Kleyn

Dear Radio Friends,

In our previous message we began to look at the last section of the book of Job, beginning in chapter 38, and we looked at the first segment, in which God answers Job. 

        Even though Job had asked God to speak, God’s answer was not what Job expected.  But it was a gracious answer.  At the outset, God speaks to Job and demands an answer of him.  In Job 38:3, God says, “Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.”  Then God sets before Job the attributes of His eternity, His wisdom, His power, and He does this by setting before Job a series of questions that demonstrate His own immeasurable greatness and the smallness, the puniness, of man.  After God has spoken for two chapters, at the beginning of chapter 40, Job repents.  He answers God with these words:  “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee?  I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.  Once have I spoken; but I will not answer:  yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” (40:4, 5).  Here Job acknowledges that he has said too much. 

        But God is not finished with Job.  This is not sufficient repentance.  And so, for two more chapters, beginning in chapter 40:8, 9, God puts more questions to Job.  He says this:  “Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?  Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?” 

        And then, in chapter 42, finally Job answers God again, this time with true humility. 

        Today, we look at these verses, chapter 42:1-6. 

    Then Job answered the Lord, and said,

    I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.

    Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.

    Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak:  I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.

    I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear:  but now mine eye seeth thee.

    Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

        In these words of Job we have the most complete of all his confessions.  Earlier in this series, we looked at other of Job’s responses and confessions from his suffering.  In chapter 1 he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  In chapter 2, to his wife, “Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?”  He said later in the book, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”  Job confessed that God knew the way that he took, and that God was trying him to bring him forth like gold.  And Job also, in chapter 19, made a beautiful confession concerning his resurrection hope:  “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” and he says, “In my flesh will I see God.”  And as we look at all those confessions of Job, we realize how far we fall short, how much we have to learn in order to be able to respond like Job. 

        But now, in the end of the book, in these verses we have a confession that rises above all those earlier words of Job.  Then Job spoke amid the confusion of his suffering.  Now Job speaks because he sees God clearly.  And he responds now not only to his suffering, but also to God’s own explanation of this suffering.  And that makes this the most important of all the confessions that Job makes, and the one from which we can learn the most. 

        There are three parts to Job’s confession here.  What are they?

        The first is this, that Job acknowledges God’s absolute sovereignty.  In verse 2 he says to God:  “I know that thou canst do every thing.”  Job is saying here not only that all power in heaven and earth belongs to God, that God is able to do anything that He pleases because of His power, but Job is also saying that God will do as He pleases, when He pleases, how He pleases, and with whom He pleases.  God is not only supreme in strength, but also in the use of His strength.  He answers to nothing, and He answers to no one but Himself and His own purposes and His own will. 

        And so Job continues, in verse 2, “I know that no thought can be withholden from thee.”  He means that nothing can stand in the way of any of God’s thoughts.  When God thinks to do something, God accomplishes it and the outcome is always good.  What a contrast to man.  We have so many ideas and plans that, because of obstacles, we are never able to accomplish.  Or we have plans that are not always wise and so we cannot carry them through.  Not so with God.  No one can stay His hand or say to Him, “What doest thou?”  God’s plans and decrees are eternal and take in the end from the beginning.  In wisdom God directs all things together perfectly.  Nothing is ever out of whack.  Nothing ever happens without a purpose.  Nothing ever happens contrary to the wisdom and the being and the purposes of God.  Nothing that God does contradicts His own justice and goodness.  That is what Job now sees and confesses concerning God.  God is absolutely sovereign. 

        And that is the key to the rest of Job’s response here.  Seeing the sovereignty of God, Job comes to know himself, and he puts his trust in God.

        So, second, Job humbles himself before God in confession of his sin and his sinfulness.  In verse 3, Job confesses his actual sins, what he had done wrong.  He does this when he says, “Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.”  He is saying, “Lord, I have sinned with my words.  When I questioned Thy goodness and justice, when I asked for an explanation, when I wanted to call Thee, God, to account, then I said too much.”  Notice how Job puts it:  “I uttered that I understood not, things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.”  You see, not only are God’s ways higher than our ways, but God’s ways are unquestionably wise and correct, they are wonderful, and they are unfathomable.  We cannot and we do not know them.  And so we ought never to speak against them.  When we do, that is sin which we must confess.  That is what Job had done.  But with God, remember, there is mercy in the way of confession.  There is forgiveness and restoration, as we will see in Job’s life.

        But here Job confesses not only his actual sins in what he had said, he also confesses his sinful nature, his original sin, his total depravity.  And that is a full confession.  Not just, “I’ve done something wrong,” but “I am a sinner.”  We see that in verse 6 when Job says, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  When Job says he hates himself, he does not mean that he hates life or that he hates who he is because he lacks some qualities that he sees in other people, that he feels that he himself is a loser who does not measure up to others.  No, this is not the language of a person who is going to commit suicide, who hates what God has made him and where God has put him.  Rather, Job means that he hates his sinful self.  As he speaks these words, he is not comparing himself to other people, but he is standing before the majesty of God that he has seen, and he realizes that he is a wretched sinner.  Job’s words here, “I repent and abhor myself in dust and ashes,” are the equivalent of what Paul says in Romans 7:18, where he says, “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.”  That is why Job says, “I repent in dust and ashes.” 

        To repent is to change your mind, to change your mind about yourself, to see yourself not as you yourself may see yourself or as others may see you, but to see yourself as God sees you.  It is to turn from your sins and sinfulness.  Repentance is to anticipate and to experience the forgiving mercy of God.  It is to endeavor to live in a way more pleasing to Him.  The dust and ashes in which Job repents were not only a sign of his sorrow over his suffering, but they were now a sign of the blackness of his sin and the grief he felt for his sin.  Job’s primary reason for grief now is not the trouble and suffering but his sinfulness. 

        Then we have the third part of Job’s confession, this, that he submits completely, with no further questions, to God’s way for him.  When he repents of his words, Job implies that he will now be silent.  This comes out more clearly in his previous confession in chapter 40 when he says, “I will lay my hand upon my mouth and proceed no further.”  Job is saying, “Lord, I have nothing to say.  I’m silent.”  This is not the silence of resignation, but the silence of trust.  When someone, in resignation, is silent, he is saying, “There is nothing that I can say that will make things go my way, so I’ll just be quiet and ride this out.”  The silence of trust says, “Lord, Thou knowest what is best.  Thou art in control.  I will trust Thy way.  Nothing that I can say will improve on it.  And so, Lord, I submit unto Thy way.”  In his silence, Job trusts God completely.  He trusts completely in the sovereign good purposes of God. 

        Here we must remember that God never explained to Job why Job was suffering.  All Job knew was that God is sovereign and that God was with him.  And that was sufficient.  Job did not have to know why.  All he needed to know was who had sent him these trials and who God is—the sovereign over those trials.

        Can you relate to this?  Perhaps you are going through a trial and you are struggling to understand why.  Now, God could explain everything to you about His workings behind the scenes, but we would not be able to understand it.  How can God’s infinite wisdom and God’s sovereign power fit into our finite and weak minds?  What we need to know is this, that God is in control of our lives and that God has a purpose for us in Jesus Christ.  And so we need to look up to Him and, with Job, confess His greatness, confess our sin, and silently submit.  That is Job’s response here.  He comes to the end of himself.  He confesses God’s absolute sovereignty, he acknowledges his sin and sinfulness, and he silently submits to God. 

        As I said earlier, this is the outstanding confession of Job in response to his suffering.  How did Job come to this, and how can we learn from Job and learn from Job’s experiences so that we, too, come to this response in our suffering? 

        I want to point to two things here, two means that God uses to produce this confession and this response in Job, two ways that God will work in our lives as well.

        First, God used the trials and sufferings that Job experienced to bring him to this confession.  In verse 5 Job says, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear:  but now mine eye seeth thee.”  Job means this:  “Now that I have gone through this suffering and trial and now that Thou hast spoken to me, my eye seeth Thee.”  He is saying this:  “My vision of God now is so much clearer than it was before.  I understand much better what it means that God rules over all things and what it means for me to trust in His sovereignty.  Before I had heard of Him with the hearing of the ear.  And with my mind I grasped the truth of God’s sovereignty.  With my mouth I was able to express it, but now I see it.  I know it experientially, I know it from my own life.  Before I had heard about God, but now I see Him.” 

        And, dear believer, this is the knowledge of God that we as Christians should all desire, not just a knowledge in our head, not just something that we express on our lips, but something that lives in our life, something that is practical.  God put Job through all these trials to help him to see the application of His sovereignty.  Along the way Job learned many things about himself and his sin.  And with the clouds of sin now removed, Job sees God. 

        And so, if you are going through a dark trial, understand that God sends it for your spiritual profit, so that you may learn more about Him, what it is to trust in Him, and that God is trustworthy.  What a different man Job will be from what he was before—mature in faith now, grown up through difficult experiences.  And that is what He is doing to each of us as His children in the troubles and the trials that He sends. 

        But, as you well know, trials and troubles all by themselves do not work this response and this vision of God.  Even in Job’s life, as the pain became more intense and as things dragged on, Job became more and more confused.  And we know that the unbeliever, when he goes through trials, will curse God.  He will defy God.  And he will rob God by refusing to acknowledge the sovereignty that belongs to God. 

        So we must see another way that God worked this response and this confession in Job, the way of divine revelation.  In the chapters leading up to this confession in the beginning of chapter 42, God has spoken.  And now, as Job looks at his suffering in light of God’s words, Job comes to this wonderful and this complete confession.  This comes out especially in verses 3 and 4 when Job, in repentance over his sin, quotes God’s own words back to Him.  In verse 3:  “Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge?”  And in verse 4:  “Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak.  I will demand of thee, declare thou unto me.”  With these words Job is not now putting questions and demands on God, but he is saying, “Lord, this is what you said to me.  And thou art right.”  In verse 3 he quotes from the beginning of God’s speech in chapter 38:2:  “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?”  And then in verse 4 he quotes back to God His own words in chapter 40:7:  “I will demand of thee and declare thou unto me.” 

        We must learn that this is what confession is.  Confession is not to come up with your own ideas about things.  It is not to give your own explanation of circumstances in your life.  It is not to invent your own ideas about who God is.  It is not to give your opinion of yourself to God.  But confession, true confession, is to repeat back to God what He has said to us in His Word about Himself, about us, and about all things.  That is true confession—to say with God what He has said to us.  God has spoken.  God is a God of truth.  And so, true confession is to tell back to God what He has said to us.  That is what Job is doing here.  After God has spoken, Job repeats back to God His own words.  “Lord, you said that I darken your counsel without knowledge.  You said those words, and, Lord, You were right.  I confess Your word.” 

        Sadly, today many confess to be Christians, but they do not confess God’s Word.  So their confession is not true.  Today, we do not have to wait as Job did to hear what God will say.  God has said it all.  God has given us a complete accounting in revelation in the Bible.  And when we take the Bible, which is God’s Word, and read it and learn it and look at this world and our circumstances and ourselves and God through the eyes of Scripture, then our confession will be true.  Then we will come to the point that Job is at here, confessing, repenting, and submitting. 

        And so, in your sufferings and trials, you should turn to the Word of God.  And what does God say?  Does He not make promises to His people never to leave them or forsake them?  Does not He say, “I spared not my own Son, but gave him up for you and so you can be sure that I will take care of you?”  Does He not say that Satan and sin are overcome?  Does He not say there is nothing in the world, in the heights or the depths, in time or eternity, that can ever separate us from His love?  Does He not say, “I am God, absolutely sovereign over all?”  Does He not say, “My counsel shall stand?”  Does He not say that all things work together for good to them that love Him?  Does not God say those things?  Then, dear believer, take those things and, in your sufferings, say them back to God.  Confess His Word.  Then you will have peace that passes all understanding. 

        Job comes to that peace here, trusting in the sovereign God, acknowledging his own sins, submitting to God, and repeating God’s words back to Him.  Job comes to a complete and overwhelming peace.  We could even call it a confidence in the midst of his suffering. 

        Look at Job’s first words in verse 2.  He said, “I know, I know that thou canst do every thing.”  In his confusion and with his questions earlier, Job was saying, “I don’t know, I’m not sure.”  But now, having heard God, he says, “I do know.”  This is the knowledge of faith, of trust, and of confidence.  Job is saying, “It’s enough, Lord.  It’s enough that I know that Thou art sovereign over all things and over all the affairs of my life.  That’s all I need to know.”  That knowledge is supreme, that knowledge supersedes every other thing that we know in this world.  God is sovereign.  God is just.  God is good.  And God is over all.  So, I will trust in Him.

        Then we should think back to an earlier point in the book when Job used similar language, in chapter 19:25:  “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”  These two things Job says:  I know that Thou canst do everything, and I know that my Redeemer liveth.  Those two things are the foundation of our confidence and the content of our faith as believers.  God is sovereign over all.  And Jesus, our Redeemer, lives and rules today.  Because we know these things, we can have peace amidst the storms of life.

        Let us pray.

        Father, we know that Thou canst do everything and that nothing can stand in the way of Thy purposes.  And, Lord, that is our comfort and solace amid the troubles and trials of life, especially when we consider ourselves, and our sins, and our finite abilities and wisdom.  Lord, we cannot and do not trust ourselves, but we depend on Thee, the one who loved us and doest all things according to His good pleasure and counsel, the one who decreed to send His Son and who wills to gather the church to be with Him in glory.  We know that all things work together for good to them who love Thee, to them who are the called according to Thy purpose.  Lord, increase our faith.  We pray it for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

r.kleyn@prca.org (Kleyn, Rodney) Reformed Witness Hour Sermons in Print Thu, 29 May 2014 22:10:38 -0400
Jerusalem's Mourners Rebuked http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/publications/articles/item/3589-jerusalem-s-mourners-rebuked http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/publications/articles/item/3589-jerusalem-s-mourners-rebuked

This article first appeared in The Standard Bearer (March 1, 1966) as a Lenten season meditation. It was penned by the late Rev.Marinus Schipper.

"And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. 

But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves for and your children. 

For, behold, the days aye coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed aye the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck;

Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. 

For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"

Luke 23:27-31

Via Dolorosa! 

Way of Sorrow! 

The Way of the Cross! 

On that way the Saviour was walking in the most literal sense of the word when the incident took place which is related in our text! 

What a contrast this exit of Jerusalem made to the royal entry only the Sunday before, called: Palm Sunday! Then, you remember, He made His triumphal entry into the city of David riding upon an ass's colt, accompanied with a great procession, multitudes of people waving palm branches and calling exuberantly, "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!" Now it is Good Friday morning, and He makes His exit as a worthless evil doer! One worthy to be executed! And that, too, under the shrill cry of a wild mob, led by a Roman guard, with two malefactors, to be hanged on a cross! 

How quickly and drastically the scenes change! 

From the praetorium, where the soldiers had mocked and oppressed Him, and where He had been sentenced to death, Jesus is led through the midst of the city. Most probably this exodus was over the longest route. It was the custom of the day to make a public spectacle of the condemned. So the victim was paraded through the streets with a sign on his back, identifying him with his crime. Out to the place of the skull He is brought! 

Two things, the evangelist informs us, that deserve special attention! Two things that stand out as happening along the way! 

The first relates to Simon, the Cyrenian, who was forced to bear the cross after Jesus. A most beautiful example of discipleship! 

The other, concerns Jesus' rebuke of Jerusalem's weeping daughters! And it is this scene that especially calls our attention now!

Jerusalem's mourners rebuked! 

Not unusual was the fact that a multitude of people should be present on an occasion of this kind! Nor was it unusual that at such times there should be women weeping! 

Yet now all was quite out of the ordinary! 

Not only does the text imply that here was a multitude exceeding great, but especially we observe the oddity that the women were weeping for Jesus! Were there not two others who were being led away to be crucified? Yet the Lord indicates that the weeping was not for them, but for Himself! 

Strange, too, that the Lord does not sympathize with it!

Rather, it merits His stern rebuke! 

Jerusalem's daughters sharply rebuked! 

They were not those honorable women who had followed Jesus during His ministry and served Him of their goods. For such the Lord has no rebuke, except to Marthas who, indistinctionfrom the Marys, are more concerned about feeding Jesus than they are that Jesus should feed them! Such will get from Him a loving rebuke. But these women are not of those who, realizing that the Lord had not a place to lay His head, softened His pillow, and carefully drew a blanket over Him while He rested. They are not of those who presently stand afar off at the spectacle of the cross on the hill of the skull! 

Nor are they just women, women one could find anywhere throughout Judea or Galilee! 

But daughters of Jerusalem! 

Of Jerusalem that always stoneth the prophets, and killeth those who are sent unto her! Of Jerusalem that is apostate! 

And they weep! A peculiar and a particular lamentation! 

O, indeed, it was common occurrence to see weeping women on occasions such as this. Perhaps out of curiosity they would follow such a procession, and out of sympathetic emotion for the condemned they thought to lend pity to the accused, or request leniency of the oppressors! 

But here was no ordinary lament! 

Their emotions run away with them when they see Jesus! No doubt they saw a difference between Jesus and the other two who were going with Him to their death. Was not innocence written all over Jesus's face? Indeed, He was the Lamb that is led to the slaughter! And that innocent; spotless Lamb stood out, even though His holy beauty shone through a bloody brow, and a face that was marked with pain and suffering! Even Pilate had attested to His innocence! How different He appears from those other two! They were evildoers, with guilt imprinted in every wrinkle on their faces. And now look at Jesus! The difference is too great to go unnoticed! 

Their eyes well with tears, and their voices break forth with loud wailing!

Their crying is evidently well-meant! They want Jesus to know that their lamentation was especially for Him. And so the Lord also interpreted it!

Weep not for Me! 

Sharp, and apparently cruel rebuke! Jer

Could not the Lord reward their seeming kindness with some semblance of appreciation? Whereas all the rest were venting their vile hatred and screaming their anathemas, could He not at least be thankful that there were some who had an ounce of sympathy? Should He not rather have complimented them for their special interest? Is not this rebuke entirely out of place? 

No! A thousand times, 

No! O, indeed, weeping is necessary! It is surely the time for weeping! But not for Jesus! Weep not for Me! 

Why not? Especially for two reasons! 

In the first place, Jesus did not need their sympathy! If anyone must show pity, He must, not they! Besides, what He now suffers, He is doing of His own will and choice! Moreover, this suffering will be the way to His glory! Should that ever be an object of pity, and evoke tears of sympathy? Indeed not! Rather, it was proper to rejoice and to sing with holy joy! 

And secondly, Jesus did not desire such weeping! Tears of tender feelings which are not the expressions of conscious guilt and repentance, He counts as worthless. And if these women had had a consciousness of their own and their nation's sins, it would have been better to have wept for themselves. And there is reason for them to weep over themselves!

But weep for yourselves and for your children! 

Notice how this rebuke covers more than one generation! Jesus evidently saw the children carried on the arms of Jerusalem's daughters. These children, perhaps more than the mothers who bear them, were presently to witness Divine retribution and judgment for Jerusalem's sins. Not so, that the children must suffer for the sins of their parents. The Lord is righteous to give unto every man as his work shall be! But we must remember that in the generations of the wicked sin develops. Such is definitely the case here. These daughters are the children of those who always killed the prophets. That sin is developed in these daughters who are of Jerusalem which was now slaying the One of whom all the prophets spoke, the Son, the Heir. And their children would presently walk on in that same sin even in the light of the New Dispensation, behind the day of Pentecost and the enlightened Gospel age! And with this fuller revelation make themselves yet more guilty when they walk in the sin of their sires! 

If Jerusalem's daughters, therefore, would see their own end and that of their sinful generations, they would begin weeping now and never stop weeping!

Indeed, this is a deserved but sharp rebuke!

A significant reason! 

For, behold, the days are coming! 

Days of judgment! Not merely, you understand, judgment of the last day, when God shall judge all the secrets of men! That, too, of course! That day is coming! But the Lord evidently has in mind a judgment that was imminent, and contemporaneous with that generation! Prophetically the Lord is pointing to impending doom for these daughters and their children! Literal destruction of Jerusalem, which is always a precursor of the final destruction and judgment that cometh upon all the world! Days they will be when the righteous shall be acquitted, perfectly justified; but the wicked justly condemned. As surely as the wicked have earned just judgment by their wicked acts, so shall they receive just retribution! 

How terrible are those days which the Lord predicts! 

So terrible shall they be that they shall call the barren blessed! Never before was it ever said that the barren are blessed! Always she that was barren was considered accursed! But now, she that has no children will be better off than she that has borne them! Not, you understand, does the Lord mean to say that in the judgment the barren woman is more blessed than those who gave suck. Rather, He is only stating the sad wish of those who are lost, just as He does in the remainder of the prophetic announcement. 

"Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us." This can only mean not only that they will want to hide from the face of the Judge, but more particularly, they will express the hope of annihilation; sudden death, when that judgment comes. 

Impossible wish! 

For the mountains will not fall on them, neither shall the hills cover them in that day! All of this prophetic and descriptive language must serve to depict the awful anguish that shall come upon this generation, and all other wicked generations in the day of the Lord's wrath! 

Surely there is reason for Jerusalem's daughters, who represent the wombs out of which the wicked generations of the church are born, to weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon them. There is no possibility of escape. Swift and sure is the judgment! And they will surely say these things! 

And the ground for this prophetic announcement? 

"For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" 

Figurative language! 

The green tree! That is Christ and all who are living in and out of Him! Christ is the living tree; believers and their spiritual seed, who are bound to Him by a living faith, are the branches. The church in the narrowest sense of the word, according to the election of grace with Christ as the Head, is the green tree! 

The dry wood! All who come into contact with the Christ and His cross as its enemy! Whether Jew or Gentile, all who through history have crucified the Christ and continued to do so, they are the dry wood. Apostate Jerusalem, of whom these daughters are representative, is the highest development of this dry wood that always killed the prophets and those sent unto her! 

Once was the dry wood green! Originally, from the organic and historical point of view, it had its origin in the green tree. Historically all the dry wood can be traced to believing parents. The tree in history produces green but also dry wood; not only Abel, but also Cain; not only Jacob, but also Esau; not only believers, but also unbelievers; not only elect, but also reprobate! 

Always the dry kills and tortures the green. The green must seal its faith with its blood! And now they were killing the most glorious representative of the green tree, its beauteous Head! 

And what they did to my Lord, they will do always to all who believe in Him!

But it shall not continue forever! 

Green wood will not burn! The fire cannot consume it! Its persecution only enhances its beauty and makes it more glorious! 

But oh, that dry wood! 

When it is cast into the fire of God's wrath it shall consume away as tinder in the flame! 

Therefore let Jerusalem's daughters, yea, let all the wicked weep! For the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and they shall be destroyed forever! 

But let the righteous rejoice, even when they see their Saviour treading the via dolorosa to Calvary! From thence He shall be raised up to give them life out of death, in order that they may grow into a fruitful bough and bring forth fruit that shall be unto the praises of Him Who loved them even unto death!

marinusschipper@fake.sss (Schipper, Marinus) Articles Sun, 13 Apr 2014 16:38:45 -0400
A Cry From Out Of The Depths http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/worship-devotional/meditations/meditations-i/item/1062-a-cry-from-out-of-the-depths http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/worship-devotional/meditations/meditations-i/item/1062-a-cry-from-out-of-the-depths

Psalm 130:1,2

    Do you realize where you are? Financially you may consider yourself in difficult circumstances; or in a position wherein you can add to the earthly goods you already have. Physically you may be suffering a lingering illness; or be full of life, energy, and ambition, with enviable health. Socially you may be shunned and avoided; or you may be honored and highly respected. But my question is, "Do you realize where you are spiritually, ethically, morally?" Where are you in God's judgment?

    How often is it not that we assume the position of the Pharisee in Jesus' parable, and are "thankful" that we are not like so and so in our city, or even in our congregation? How seldom is it that we say as the publican did, "God be merciful to me the sinner,'' Yes, that is what he said according to the Greek. He called himself  THE sinner, for he could not read the hearts of others, but saw his own sinful heart.

    How often and how sincerely can we say the words of Psalm 130:1, 2, namely '"Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice: let Thine ear be attentive to the voice of my supplication."

    Consider that one sin of Adam, that brought no bodily harm to anyone, did not consist in nasty, unclean words, and did not take God's name in vain, yet brought death to him and the whole human race. Bear in mind also that a sinful thought or desire deserves the punishment of being cast into the depths of hell.

    Yes, that is where we are in ourselves; in the depths of hell as guilty in Adam. And no wonder then that the psalmist calls upon God to hear his voice. He is so very, very far away from God in those depths of sin and guilt, and really does not deserve to be heard. There is salvation for those who with the psalmist say:

    From out the depths I cry to Thee;
    O let Thine ear attentive be,
    Hear Thou my supplicating plea
    Have mercy, Lord.

Read: Psalm 130 
Psalter versification: #364:1

Meditations on the Heidelberg Catechism

Through the Bible in One Year
Read today:
I Samuel 1 
I Samuel 2:1-21 
John 5:1-23 
Psalm 105:37-45 
Proverbs 14:28-29

Quote for Reflection:

Commenting on David’s confession that when he sinned it was “against God and God only” (Psalm 51:4), C. Plantinga writes:  All sin has first and finally a Godward force.  Let us say that a sin is any act—any thought, desire, emotion, word, or deed—or its particular absence, that displeases God and deserves blame.  Let us add that the disposition to commit sins also displeases God and deserves blame, and let us therefore use the word sin to refer to such instances of both act and disposition.  Sin is a culpable and personal affront to a personal God.

danny@socialvillage.ie (Super User) Meditations I Mon, 04 Mar 2013 05:24:26 -0500
Chapter 9 - The Act of Coming (John 6:37) http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/publications/books/whosoever-will/item/153-whosoever-will-chapter-9 http://www.prca.org/theme/resources/publications/books/whosoever-will/item/153-whosoever-will-chapter-9

IX. The Act of Coming

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. -- John 6:37.

Thus far, in our discussion of the theme: "Whosoever will may come," we tried to find an answer to the question: to whom must we come? The answer is: we must come to Jesus. And as we elaborated upon the meaning and implications of this answer, we found that the Scriptures present Jesus as the revelation of the God of our salvation, as the giver of rest, the water and the bread life, the liberator, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life. The will to come to Him, therefore, must be motivated by the desire to come to God, the longing for rest, a hunger and thirst after righteousness, a yearning after true freedom, love of the light, and the earnest desire to be delivered from death, and to be quickened unto a new life.

But what does it mean to come to Jesus? We have become so accustomed to hear this phrase that we probably consider it quite superfluous to give ourselves a clear account of its meaning. Yet, it is important that we answer this question. Before a person can heed the call to come to Jesus, and in order to be sure that he did obey that call, he must have some understanding of its implications. Now, it should be plain that the phrase coming to Jesus is somewhat figurative. In the physical sense no one can come to Christ. When He was on earth, and preached in the cities and villages of the land of Canaan, it was, indeed, possible to follow up the call to come to Him literally, to approach Him, to speak to Him, and to touch Him. However, even then, if anyone would have understood the call in this literal, physical sense, the Lord would no doubt, have instructed him that such a coming could be of no avail, that one must come to Him spiritually, and that, before this could be fully realized, He must go away, through death and resurrection, in order that He might return in the Spirit, and thus become the bread of life for all that come to Him. When the bread seeking multitude at Capernaum murmured at His saying that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, in order to have true life, He said unto them: "Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." John 6:61-63. To come to Jesus, therefore, is a spiritual approach to Christ, the Son of God come into the flesh, crucified and slain, raised on the third day, and exalted in the highest heavens, as He is revealed in the gospel.

And well may we pause for a moment to consider what is implied in this act of coming to Jesus. What is implied in this spiritual approach to the Christ of the Scriptures? What does one do when he comes to Jesus? And how is it possible for a sinner to come to Him?

All the more peremptory it is to inquire into the meaning of coming to Jesus because of the abominable travesty of it that is presented by many a modern self-styled evangelist and revivalist. And it is high time that the Church, that is the custodian of the gospel, and to whom alone is given the commission to preach the Word, should raise her voice aloud in protest against the widely practiced evil of hawking Jesus, and of presenting Him as the cheapest article on the religious market, that may either be procured or rejected by the sinner at will. To come to Jesus is, according to a very usual phrase, to accept Him as our personal Savior. And this would not be so objectionable if it were not for all the misrepresentations that are connected with it. All emphasis is laid on that word "accept." One must accept Jesus, that is all. And to do this lies within the power of every sinner. On this acceptance of Jesus by the sinner everything depends. For this act on the sinner's part the Savior must wait. It is the signal which the sinner gives Christ that He may go ahead and save him. It is the act whereby the sinner opens the door of his heart to a Christ that stands and knocks at that door, but who is unable to enter, unless the sinner permits Him. O, indeed, they admit that salvation is of grace, and some of these hawkers of salvation even prattle of sovereign grace; but this grace is, nevertheless, presented as enervated and paralyzed if the sinner refuses its saving operation!

And this gives rise to all the evils of which Arminianism gone wild affords daily demonstrations from pulpits and over the air. The sinner's power to accept or reject Jesus receives all the emphasis, and the result is that the act itself of coming to Christ is presented as something natural and very simple. All that is required of the sinner is to raise his hand, or to come to the front, or to kneel down by the radio, and repeat after the preacher: "I accept Jesus as my personal Savior," and the matter is settled. If the sinner will only do this, the Holy Spirit will come into his heart and make him a new born child of God. And seeing that the thing is so natural, and that it lies within the power of every sinner to accept Jesus, very natural means are employed to persuade the sinner to take this step, and to let Jesus come into his heart. Hence, the highly sensational altar call, climaxing the sermon, in which the preacher is done with expository preaching, and can say what he wants. All that is calculated to arouse mere human emotions is now brought into play. Sentimentalism replaces the sound preaching of the Word. The audience is asked to bow their heads in silent prayer. The organ softly plays, or the choir gently sings: "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling," or "Just as I am without one plea." And in the meantime the preacher begs and pleads, and with a voice full of emotion asks sinners to raise their hands, to come to the front, to let Jesus into their hearts, and to accept Him as their personal Savior. He speaks of a God that begs for the privilege to come into their hearts, of a Holy Spirit that longs to make, newborn children of God of them, and of a sinner upon whom alone depends the decision of life and death, of hell and heaven, of the whole matter of salvation, and of the very glory of God in Christ! And the result is as natural as the means that are employed. Instead of the new birth the emotions are aroused; a sentimental tear of self-pity is mistaken for true repentance; and a temporary elation of the soul is erroneously called joy in Christ!

The result is that churches that are built upon this unstable foundation of emotionalism are constantly in need of more and greater emotional stir to maintain themselves, and to keep their auditoriums filled. Preachers try to draw a crowd by announcing the most extraordinary and silly sermon topics. Besides, they are in need of periodical revivals, and for this purpose some extra sensational evangelists, men or women, are employed, and their coming is advertised in the daily papers and on billboards with the promise of special thrills and extraordinary excitement. And these revivalistic campaigns are said to be successful. Hundreds and thousands of souls are converted by these men. And it is to be feared, and the ultimate result usually shows that it was, indeed, by the preachers, rather than by the Spirit of Christ that they were converted.

Against this evil of sentimentalism and freewillism gone wild I raise my unqualified protest. There is no example of it in the preaching of Christ and of the apostles. And I would call upon the Church to return to sound preaching and sound doctrine, to instruct young and old in the truth of the gospel, and to preach a mighty Christ and a poor, helpless sinner, a sinner that can come to Jesus only by the power of His Spirit and grace! It is through such preaching that Christ will gather His Church, and that sinners will be saved and grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

What is it, then, to come to Christ? It is a spiritual act, not a mere natural deed. It is an act that proceeds from the heart, whence are the issues of life; not from the superficial and quickly changing emotions. It is an act of the whole man: with all his heart and mind and will and desires and strength one comes to Jesus. It is an act, not of the natural man, but of the spiritual man; of the one that is heavy laden and weary with sin, and seeks rest; of the one that hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and seeks the bread that never perishes, and the water of life; of the one that bemoans his darkness, and seeks the light; of the one that cries out of the depths of death for the resurrection. And being a spiritual act by a spiritual man, it does not condition grace, but is already the fruit of the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is an act, lastly, that is never finished, as if a man could say that years ago he came to Christ and that is the end of it; but that is the daily need and delight of the new man in Christ to perform. To these various aspects of the act of coming to Christ I would like to call your attention.

First of all, then, let us try to analyze the act of coming to Jesus itself. What does a man do, when he comes to the Christ of the Scriptures? I think that we may distinguish four elements or steps in this spiritual act which I will call: contrition, recognition, aspiration, and appropriation.

First of all, there is the element of contrition. This is a true sorrow after God, caused by the fact that man has obtained a true spiritual knowledge of sin as sin, and of himself as a sinner before the face of God. This does not mean merely that he knows and acknowledges that there is something wrong with him; nor that he is sorrowing because of the evil and bitter results of sin for himself; nor that he is sorry because of certain bad habits. No, this sorrow of true contrition goes to the root of the matter. It means that the sinner consciously stands before the bar of divine justice, that the pure and penetrating light of the righteousness of God exposes him in his true worth as a sinner, that in the light of inexorable justice he beholds himself, his nature, his work, his imaginary goodness, his piety and religion, and discovers that there is nothing good in him, that all is corruption, defilement, iniquity, rebellion, violation of God's law; that he hears the divine verdict of guilty, and the sentence of his condemnation. But it means more. It means, O wonder, that now he takes God's side in this judgment against himself and in his own condemnation, that he hates his own sin, acknowledges the justice of God's sentence, and prostrates himself before the bar of justice in dust and ashes. He sees that as sinner he cannot enter into God's fellowship, and confesses that as far as he is concerned there is no way out. He is filled with sorrow according to God!

Secondly, there is in the act of coming to Christ the element of recognition. By this I mean a true, spiritual knowledge of Jesus Christ as the revelation of the God of our salvation. I say, spiritual knowledge, in distinction from mere natural, intellectual knowledge. It is knowledge of the heart, rather than of the head. It is experimental rather than theoretical knowledge of the God of our salvation in Christ. It is personal rather than abstract. I do not make this distinction in order to disparage doctrinal knowledge of Christ. On the contrary, without intellectual knowledge of what God has revealed to us, spiritual knowledge is impossible. But mere theology is not sufficient unto salvation. One may know all about Christ without knowing Him. Saving knowledge of Jesus is to behold Him as the fullness of our emptiness, as the true water and bread of life which we need, as the light in our darkness, as the resurrection that is able to overcome our death. It is a personal knowledge of Him as the One that is made unto us of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. It is such a knowledge of the Christ as causes us to realize that we are deeply concerned with Him, and that to possess Him is a question of life and death.

From this contrition, this sorrow according to God, this realization of our own condemnation in the judgment of God, and this true knowledge of the Savior as the revelation of the God of our salvation, arises the third element of which we spoke, that of aspiration or longing. Seeing Him as the fullness of our emptiness, as the righteousness of God that is able to blot out all our unrighteousness, as the light that can dispel our darkness, as the life and the resurrection that is able to vanquish our death, as the bread that can satisfy our hunger and the water that can quench our thirst, we long for Him, and for all His benefits: forgiveness, the adoption unto children of God, knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. We hunger and thirst for Him. We want to possess Him. We cannot live without Him. We ask, we seek, we knock. For we yearn to be delivered from the guilt and the dominion of sin in order that we may have peace with God, and enter into His blessed fellowship. And as the hart panteth after waterbrooks so panteth our soul after God, after the living God as He reveals Himself in the riches of His grace in Jesus our Lord!

And this leads to the final step: appropriation of Christ and all His benefits and blessings of grace. This implies that I know with a certain knowledge that He is mine and that I belong to Him by God's unfathomable grace over me. It means that I am confident that He died for me, and that now I wash my garments in His precious blood by faith, laying hold of the forgiveness of sins, and of the righteousness of God in Him. It means that by faith I live out of Him, as He lives in me, and that I draw out of Him grace for grace, that I eat and drink Him, and that through Him I draw near unto God and enter into the fellowship of His covenant. And now "I count all things but loss for the excellency of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." Phil. 3:8.

Such are the implications of the spiritual act of coming to Jesus. The circumstances and the manner in which one comes to perform this spiritual act are not always the same. Sometimes one is suddenly called out of darkness, and he is very vividly conscious of the change whereby he is impelled to cast himself upon the mercies of the Lord. Thus it was with Paul on the way to Damascus. In a moment he turned about from persecuting the Church to acknowledge the Jesus he persecuted as his Savior and Lord. More often one is gradually instructed and inducted into the knowledge of Christ from infancy, and when he comes to years of discretion he cannot remember any particular moment when he came to Christ. Thus it must have been with Timothy. And thus it normally is with those that are born and brought up in the Church. But whether in one way or another, always the act of coming to Jesus contains the elements of contrition, spiritual knowledge, aspiration, and appropriation. Nor is the act ever finished. Always again we come in sorrow after God, in the acknowledgment of His fullness, with the longing and thirst in our souls for the God of our salvation, in order that daily we may drink of the water of life freely.

Whosoever will may come! How a sinner can thus come to the Savior we must consider another time. If now it only has become plain that the will to come to Jesus is motivated by true repentance and sorrow for sin, is enlightened and directed by the true spiritual knowledge of Christ as the God of our salvation, is impelled by the mighty longing after the living God and His grace, and expresses itself in appropriating Christ and all His spiritual blessings. And he that so cometh to Jesus shall never be ashamed. For He is included in the word of Christ: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37.

hermanhoeksema@email.com (Hoeksema, Herman) Whosoever Will Sun, 20 Jan 2013 14:38:47 -0500