************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 29, 2017
Lord's Day 1
2 Timothy 4:1-5
"Belonging to Christ"
I The Characteristics of the Catechism
A In our Bible reading, Paul charges his son Timothy to preach the Word. Timothy is to preach the Word because the day is coming when men will despise sound doctrine. Timothy is to preach the Word because the day is coming when men will only listen to teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear.
What Paul saw already during his days is true for the entire time between the two comings of Jesus Christ. So this morning in many churches there are many people gathering together with itching ears. So this morning in many churches there are many people gathering together who don't have a clue about sound doctrine. This is just as true for Visalia as it is for Los Angeles or Fresno or Washington D.C. Because Paul warns us about this already in the first century we should not be shocked or surprised. Instead, we should actually expect to find this. And, we need to be on guard this does not happen in our church as well.
After reading and considering Paul's words to Timothy, I am thankful that in Trinity URC we still have ears for sound doctrine. And, I am thankful that at the time of the Reformation our spiritual fathers and mothers acted to preserve sound doctrine in the Heidelberg Catechism.
We must have sound doctrine. We must have sound doctrine or we perish. We must have sound doctrine for our children and youth, including Eleanor Rose. So, I want to tell you and remind you this morning that what we have in the Catechism is sound doctrine.
What exactly does Paul mean by the phrase "sound doctrine"? Sound doctrine is correct doctrine, accurate doctrine. This means sound doctrine is not based upon feelings or political correctness or the issues of the day. Rather, it is doctrine that is based upon the truths of God's Word.
The Catechism is sound doctrine. The Catechism is sound doctrine because it is doctrine based upon the truths of God's Word. We realize that right away when we see the footnotes below the answers pointing to and quoting passages throughout the Bible. The Catechism, you should realize, takes Scripture and organizes its teachings according to the great truths of the faith.
The first thing I want you to notice this morning is that the Catechism is sound doctrine -- doctrine based upon the Word of God.
B Second, I want you to notice that the Catechism is also personal. For instance, throughout the first question and answer the first person pronouns of "I, my, me" are used:
-I am not my own
-my faithful Savior
-paid for my sins
-set me free
-watches over me
-fall from my head
-work together for my salvation
-I belong to him
The Catechism applies sound doctrine to me and to you and our children. It isn't just lofty theology that is being taught. The Catechism states how sound doctrine affects me, how it applies to me, how it impacts me and my life.
C Third, the sound doctrine of the Catechism is Christ-centered. It is focused on His person. It is focused on what He has done and is doing. I hope you realize the Catechism is simply following the Bible; because, as Jesus tells the men on the road to Emmaus, all of Scripture, from beginning to end, is about Him.
II The Meaning of Belonging to Jesus
A The Catechism begins its discussion of sound doctrine with the teaching that I belong to Jesus. To belong to Jesus is a thoroughly biblical idea. In its footnote, the Catechism points us to what was written by Paul:
(1 Cor 6:19-20) You are not your own; (20) you were bought at a price.
What does it mean that I belong to Jesus?
I belong to Jesus. Meaning He owns me. I am His property. He has the right to do with me whatever He wants.
I belong to Jesus. Meaning my calling is to serve Him and obey Him. In all of life.
I belong to Jesus. Meaning He represents me before the Father.
I belong to Jesus. Meaning I am not my own. I am not the boss. I am not the one in charge. I do not live for myself and my wants and my pleasures.
Now, as the baptism form teaches us, we need to teach this truth to our little ones: that they belong to Jesus. That they are His.
B What is included in belonging to Jesus? The Catechism -- based upon Scripture -- says it includes body and soul, in life and in death. I do not belong just on Sunday, but every moment: in life and in death. And, He is Lord of all of me: my body and my soul. He is Lord of all that I am and all that I have.
C How do I belong to Jesus? How do I become His property? Not by giving myself to Him. Not by making a decision to follow Jesus. It is not something you do. It is not something you push your children to do.
In John 10 Jesus explains why so many of the Jews did not believe in Him: "you do not believe because you are not my sheep" (Jn 10:26). Many churches and Christians turn this around: "you are not my sheep because you do not believe." They turn it around because they want to emphasize human decision and human responsibility and free-will. But that's not what Jesus said. Jesus said, "you do not believe because you are not my sheep."
If it is not my decision, how do I belong to Jesus? Because of an act of God. Because the Father has given me to Jesus (Jn 10:29).
How do I belong to Jesus? How do I become His property? To answer this we also need to speak about Jesus as Redeemer: "He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood." Jesus has purchased the sheep. By nature these sheep belong to another. By nature these sheep have sold themselves to another. But they have been redeemed. He "has set me free from the tyranny of the devil."
How do I belong to Jesus? How do I become His property? To answer this we can also speak about the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit marks us and brands us as Jesus' sheep. The Holy Spirit "makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him."
How do I belong to Jesus? How do I become His property? This is not my work. This is not your work. This is not the work of our children. It is the work of the triune God. The act of God the Father by which He gave us to Jesus is not our act, but God's act. The act of Christ whereby He purchased us with His blood is not our act, but is the act of God. The act of the Holy Spirit whereby we are marked as Jesus' sheep is not our act, but is the act of God. It is all of God.
Sound doctrine declares that I belong to Jesus because of God.
III The Comfort of Belonging to Jesus
A Sound doctrine also declares that belonging to Jesus is my comfort. "What is your only comfort in life and in death?" That I belong to Jesus.
Why does the Catechism speak of comfort? Comfort presupposes something. Comfort presupposes some evil that threatens me, some grief that overwhelms me. As someone said to me yesterday, "There is so much pain in the world." Hardly a day goes by without me hearing someone's pain.
What does comfort do? Comfort overcomes the evil and grief and pain that threatens me. Comfort is the good that offsets the bad. It is comfort that gives me the strength and courage to keep on going.
B We all know -- or should know -- why we need comfort. First, we and our children have the guilt of sin. I am sinful. My sin makes me guilty before God. And my guilt makes me deserving of everlasting condemnation.
Over against this condemnation is the comfort of belonging to Jesus. My comfort, my strength, is that I belong to Jesus. I belong to the Jesus Who has paid for all my sins and wiped away my guilt. And though my sins testify against me and though my conscience accuses me every single day, I know I am counted as righteous before God.
C I also need comfort because of the corruption of my heart. I am born a sinner. I am corrupt from conception on. My comfort, my strength, is that I belong to Jesus Who delivers me from the power of sin and corruption and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
D I also need comfort because of the judgment of death that rests upon me. By death we mean physical death which includes illness, accident, brokenness, disability, and old age. By death we also mean spiritual death and eternal separation from God. Death in all its fullness threatens to swallow me up. Death in all its fullness is the last enemy. My comfort, my strength, is that because I belong to Him Christ has destroyed the power of death and assures me of eternal life.
IV The Assurance of Belonging to Jesus
A "I am not my own but belong -- body and soul, in life and in death -- to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ." Can you say this? Is this your confession?
There are those who frequently doubt this, but who have no reason for doing so. Perhaps some of those are present here this morning. They don't doubt the general teaching of Scripture that Christ's sheep belong to Him. What they doubt is whether they are included in this number. When you ask why, they admit their doubt arises because they look at their sin. Now, we all need to see our sin; about that there can be no question. But let me ask: who is it that is revealing our sins to us? If it is the devil, it is because he is trying to lead us away from Christ. But if it is God, it is because He is leading us to the cross, to the blood, to the grave whereby He assures us that our sins are wholly forgiven.
B So let me end by asking how do I know that I and my children belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ?
Let's go back to sound doctrine. Doctrine based upon the Bible. Sound doctrine gives both a negative and a positive answer to the question of how do I know I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
First, the negative answer. Sound doctrine says that those who purposely walk in the way of sin cannot boast of being His. Sound doctrine tells you that if you do not walk in the way of the Lord, you have no right to claim you belong to Him. Those who belong to the Lord do not live six days for themselves and give only Sunday to the Lord.
C Sound doctrine also gives a positive answer to the question of how do I know I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Sound doctrine tells us that those can be confident of belonging to Jesus who know three things. First, they must know their sin. Second, they must know their Savior and put their confidence in Him for time and eternity. Third, they must know how to thank God for their deliverance.
Are you one of the sheep of His pasture? Do you belong to Jesus? Is this your comfort in life and in death?
Let me end by emphasizing that belonging to Jesus is the only comfort of the Christian. The man and woman of the world look for comfort in things or power or position or politics. The man and woman of the world look for comfort in something that someday will disappear. But the Christian looks for comfort in belonging to a faithful Savior. This Savior comes to you and me and says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you; because you belong to Me."
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