************ Sermon on Canons of Dort, Head V, Article 2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 26, 2014
Canons, Head V Article 2
"A Work in Progress"
I have some diagrams to show you Cadets. [SHOW BLUE PRINTS OF CHURCH'S BUILDING.] Any of you have any idea what this is. [EXPLAIN THE VARIOUS DIAGRAMS ...]
I also have some pictures to show you Cadets. The first picture shows a sign: "Future Home of TRINITY CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH". [FLIP THROUGH THE PICTURES EXPLAINING DIFFERENT ONES.] What we see is the construction of Trinity's building. What we see is "A Work in Progress."
"A Work in Progress." That is the Cadet theme this year. Each of you boys is "A Work in Progress." Every single believer present this evening is "A Work in Progress."
"A Work in Progress." The Construction Manager is God. The Architect is the Spirit. His final blueprint is to make us into an image of Christ.
I Construction Problems
A "A Work in Progress." I am sure you boys realize every construction job has problems. When we were building the Education building we had to bring in a special water main for the fire-sprinkler system. When we couldn't cool the upstairs rooms we discovered someone forgot to put insulation in the ceiling. The plumber read the blueprints wrong so he installed an outside water fountain made of solid gold and worth thousands of dollars (we quickly took that one down).
God's construction project with you boys and with me and every person here also runs into problems. The problem is sin. Or, as Article 2 states it: "daily sins of weakness arise, and blemishes cling to even the best works of God's people." God wants to make you and me like Christ but sin keeps getting in the way.
B "A Work in Progress." Who is to blame for the construction problem? Do we blame Satan? After all, it was he who tempted Eve. It was he who entered King Saul and disturbed his spirit. It was he who entered Judas to betray the Lord.
According to an article in Newsweek Magazine, sixty percent of born-again believers report that they have been tempted by the Devil and half as many say they have met someone whom they thought was in Satan's control. Many see the Devil's hand in social problems.Is this correct? Do we blame the construction problems on Satan?
(Newsweek, November 13, 1995, p.62f)
Satan may explain the presence of evil in the world, but he does not explain the presence of evil in born-again Christians who have been cleansed by the blood and renewed by the Spirit, who have put off the old self with its practices, who have been raised with Christ, and so on. To say about our sin, "The Devil made me do it!" lets us off the hook too easily and puts the blame on someone else.
C Article 2 of the fifth head of doctrine of the Canons of Dort looks for the construction problem within ourselves. It looks at the enemy within each one of us. It looks at sin.
Why do Christians do bad things? Why do we sometimes go backward rather than forward? If we are a new creation in Christ, why do we so often live like we are still part of the old creation? Why is it that we seem to be dead to the new life and alive to sin? The Canons say that in this life and in this body "daily sins of weakness arise, and blemishes cling to even the best works of God's people." In other words, we may be dead to sin, but sin is not dead in us.
According to the Canons, it is sin – plain, old-fashioned sin – that explains the construction problem when we are "A Work in Progress."
I understand you boys sometimes do welding in Cadets. What kinds of things do you make or do with the welder?This is a picture of the Christian. The Holy Spirit is seeking to produce in us God's perfect design. But it cannot in this life and in this body when the rust of sin, the blemish of sin, hinders His work.
A friend of mine operates a machine shop. Using a torch he burns intricate designs into slabs of steel.
There are times, however, when the flame does not burn or cut anything, no matter how hot it gets. When this happens, the steel has to be cleaned. Although the torch is able to go through clean steel 8 inches thick, if it encounters the slightest film of rust on the surface, the flame will not penetrate it.
D The Canons first speak of "daily sins of weakness."
These are the sins of the flesh. You see, in the flesh are the old ruts of sin, in the flesh are the remains of original sin. Because of the power of the flesh, the new life that is ours in Christ is weak and never comes to its full power. It is always hindered and thwarted by the old sinful flesh.
The evil that we do – where does it come from then? It does not come from the new life. It comes from the weakness of the flesh – flesh filled with sin and guilt.
So what happens? In our flesh there is a slumbering inclination which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power it seizes us. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money. The desires of the flesh take over. God becomes unreal to us, He loses all reality, and we forget God's blueprint. The lust to sin surrounds the mind and will of the Christian in deepest darkness. We may be "A Work in Progress" but because of sin we lose the power to fight and resist.
E Secondly, the Canons remind us that "blemishes cling to even the best works of God's people." This, too, keeps us from following God's blueprint for lives.
In the history of God's people few people have been as holy and as pure as the Pharisee. He could stand in the temple and pray,
(Lk 18:11-12) "God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. (12) I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get."I'm sure he was praying the sober truth. He fasted twice each week. That was far more than the one time a year commanded by the Old Testament. But in his devotion to his religion, this Pharisee did much more than that. So, twice each week, on Monday and Thursday, he denied himself food.
He also gave a tithe of all that he took in. He is talking about ten percent of his income. But he is also talking about more than that; each year he figured up his net worth and gave a tenth of that to God.
This Pharisee was deeply earnest about his religion; you had to be serious to make yourself as uncomfortable as he made himself. God was as real to him as the shekels in his pocket, and he was willing to lower his standard of living for God. The people in the community respected and admired him for his devotion.
And yet, as good as the Pharisee was, even his best was imperfect and stained with sin. Or, as the Canons put it, "Blemishes cling to even the best works of God's people."
One of the most admired persons of the 20th century was Mother Theresa. People admired her for her uncompromising morality. She was admired for her work with the poor, the hungry, the orphans. She was admired because she cared for lepers and those with AIDS. Yet, even the very best she did was imperfect and stained with sin. Or, as the Canons put it, "Blemishes cling to even the best works of God's people."
The Christian NEVER performs a work that is perfect and pure. The power of sin clings to all that we do, all that we have, all that we are.
The Christian may be "A Work in Progress", but he is also a sinner. In fact, many times our progress is stopped and hindered by sin.
II Following God's Blueprint
A As "A Work in Progress" God doesn't want us to simply shrug our shoulders about our sin. He doesn't want us to tolerate it. He doesn't want us to learn to live with it. He doesn't want us to be complacent. He says:
(Col 3:5,12) Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry ... Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.Notice, according to Paul we take off something and we put on something. We take off sin and we put on righteousness.
Do you get the picture? God wants us to be "A Work in Progress." God wants us to become more and more like Christ. God wants us to live up to His blueprint.
B How do we do this? First, we must "humble themselves before God." We have no reason to be proud; we have every reason to feel small. By nature those who are Christian are not one tiny bit better than even the greatest sinner. None of us are better than Rob Ford, the crack smoking mayor of Toronto. None of us a better than Justin Bieber, arrested for drunk driving, resisting arrest, and throwing eggs at his neighbor. None of us are better than Anthony Hansen, and Adrian Esquer, both 20, on trial for the shootings in the Visalia Mall a year ago. We are just as small, just as fallen, as the next person.
We are especially small before God. Before God the Holy One. Before God the Awesome One. Before God the King. Before God the Light. Before God the Unapproachable Majesty. Before His face we are sinners, miserable sinners who deserve no grace, no forgiveness, no cleansing, no mercy.
So, as "A Work in Progress" we need to humble ourselves.
C Second, we must "flee for refuge to Christ crucified." We need Christ every hour of every day. As born-again Christians who continue to sin we need what only Christ can give: His blood, His grace, His power, His forgiveness. We need Christ and must turn to Him as much as the heathen or secular humanist or drunkard or adulterer down the street.
As "A Work in Progress" we must flee to Christ for refuge.
D Third, we must "put the flesh to death more and more by the Spirit of supplication and by holy exercises of godliness." This means we pray. We pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." We pray, "Grant us victory, Lord." We pray, "Keep us from falling." We pray, "Turn me from my gossip, my pornography, my adultery, my lies, my covetous desires."
And, we do exercises of godliness: we attend worship, we read the Bible, we join a Bible Study, we pay attention during the Bible lesson and when dad reads the Bible. And, we fight. We fight against sin. We fight against evil. We take a stand against the forces of darkness. This is what we must do as "A Work in Progress."
E Finally, we strain for perfection. The Christian is to strain for perfection in the same way as the athlete strains for the finish line.
Yesterday our cycling group was going up Rocky Hill. Suddenly it turned into a race. Everyone of us got out of the saddle and clicked into high gear. We left behind the young guys. It was myself and two others approaching the top. Everyone of us straining to be first. Faster and faster we went. The guy behind me was breathing so hard he sounded like a steam engine.That's the effort we need to put out as "A Work in Progress".
One final word, one glorious word: in the end sin is NOT victorious. There will come a day when we are "freed from this body of death and reign with the Lamb of God in heaven." On that day we will no longer be "A Work in Progress". Instead, we will perfectly match God's blueprint for us as new people in Christ.
We wait for that day. We hope for that day. We work for that day. We pray for that day.
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