************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 7 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on May 21, 2017

Lord's Day 7
Ephesians 2:1-9
"Who Are Saved?"

"What is true faith?" This is a good question to ask as we have just heard the profession of faith of Kelsey, Pete, and Norma.

"What is true faith?" This is a good question to ask as there are so many false and counterfeit faiths.

"What is true faith?" This is a good question to ask because true faith makes all the difference in the world. In fact, it makes the biggest difference in the world.

Let me remind you that as we look at the Catechism we are looking at sound doctrine. Remember what sound doctrine is? It is true doctrine, reliable doctrine, doctrine you can trust and believe. Why? Because it is doctrine based upon the Bible. Because it is not doctrine based upon the feelings and thoughts and desires of man.

I Are You Saved?
A In Lord's Day 7, sound doctrine asks who are saved. "Are all saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?"

Notice the phrase "all were lost through Adam." Here is a reminder that sound doctrine teaches that all men are lost -- you, me, and every man, woman, and child. We are all lost. We are all corrupt. We all have a natural tendency to hate God and neighbor. We all are inclined toward all evil unless we are born again by the Spirit of God. We all are under the judgment of God. We all deserve eternal punishment of body and soul. Therefore, we all need a Savior, a Mediator, a Redeemer Who rescues us from our guilt and the judgment of God on that guilt. Therefore, we all need a Savior, a Mediator, a Redeemer Who gives us perfect righteousness and life.

The world keeps telling us that man is basically good. Are these people blind? Are they dumb? Watch the news. Read the newspaper. I opened the newspaper on Tuesday and the headline tells us the sad story of two small children fighting for their lives after being ejected from a car in a DUI-related collision. Who, today, would be dumb enough to drink and drive? Who, today, would endanger little kids by not using car seats and seat belts? Sinners! Sinners like drug addicts and alcoholics. I have to tell you, congregation, that drug and alcohol abuse is one of the big sins in the Reformed community here.

But don't think I am only picking on addicts and alcoholics. Everyone of us is a sinner. None of us are basically good. I have seen and heard it all in the church: pride, pettiness, gossip, power plays, family fights, divorce, greed, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, lies, a critical spirit, an unforgiving attitude, grudges, adultery, pre-marital sex, pornography. This is the church I am talking about. In many ways we are no better than the world. In some ways we are worse than the world.

No one is basically good. We are all lost through Adam. That includes those who profess their faith this morning. They admit they are sinners who need saving. They admit they are lost and fallen. That is part of their profession. That is what our Scripture reading for this morning says:
(Eph 2:1-3) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (2) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (3) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

B Of all these lost people, who are saved? Do you know that throughout the ages the Church has given but one answer: Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all His blessings. That's the confession of Kelsey, Pete, and Norma this morning. They confess they are saved because they, by true faith, are grafted into Christ and accept all His blessings.

But now there is a scary part to this confession, the part I need to warn you about this morning: If you don't have faith, if you are not grafted into Christ, then you are not saved. You cannot be saved. Because Jesus is the only Savior, Mediator, and Redeemer.

Ever since the days of Caesar the world has hated this confession that Jesus is the only way. Those who bow before the false gods of Allah, Buddha, and Confucius hate this. Hindus hate this. Liberals hate this. This teaching is hated because it makes Christianity an intolerant religion, an exclusive religion. We give no saving credit to any other religion or faith. We say it is Jesus or nothing.

We also give no saving credit to human works. There is nothing you can do, nothing you can bring, that will save you. Your prayers, your sighs, your tears don't save you. Coming to church twice each Sunday doesn't save you though you should want to come twice. Putting money in the offering plate doesn't save you. Being raised in a Christian home and receiving a Christian education doesn't save you. The faith of your parents or your grandparents doesn't save you. Evangelizing and telling others about Jesus doesn't save you. "Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings." Again, it is Jesus or nothing. As our Bible reading says,
(Eph 2:8-9) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- (9) not by works, so that no one can boast.
Not by works. Never by works. But only by Jesus.

C People are saved through Christ. People are saved only through Christ. But now let me ask another question: Who are the people -- the fallen people -- saved through Christ? Some are bold enough to save God is love so He will save all. In fact, they say He must save all. The theological phrase we use for this false and heretical teaching is "universal atonement." These people say Christ came for all, He died for all, His atoning work is applied to all. Yet, Scripture and all experience teach us this cannot be the case. Scripture teaches plainly that many are eternally lost. And, we all know people who aren't saved because they go to the grave with no acknowledgment and confession of sin, no repentance, no shame, no awareness of guilt, and no knowledge of the Savior.

"Are all saved through Christ?" "No," says the Catechism. "Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings." Which means the most important question I can ask you is this: Do you believe in Jesus? Is He your Savior, your Mediator, your Redeemer? At stake is your eternity, congregation. At stake is whether you end up in heaven or in hell. At stake is whether you remain in your sin and the guilt of your sin and God's judgment on that sin. At stake is whether your fellowship is with misery or with God. At stake is whether yours is joy and comfort or pain and punishment. So, dear friends, let me ask you again: Do you believe in Jesus? Are you, by faith, grafted into Christ and accept all His blessings?

D Realize, my brothers and sisters, that faith is not something that springs from your will, your heart, your mind:
(Eph 2:8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God ...
Don't ever think of true faith as your decision. Don't ever think true faith depends on the will of man. That's the teaching of most churches: that faith is my decision, that my will decides for or against Jesus. People in enmity with God, people who hate God, people who are dead in their trespasses and sins will not and cannot possibly choose to believe in Jesus.

True faith, says the Catechism, is "created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel." It is the work of God. It is the gift of God. So, this morning, we thank God for the gift of faith given to Kelsey, Pete, and Norma. True faith starts with the work of God in their life and your life and my life.

II What True Faith Does
A True faith does something. True faith grafts us into Christ and all His blessings. Technically speaking, we are not saved because we believe. Rather, we are saved because we are joined to Christ, because we are united to Christ, because we are one with Christ. Faith, true faith, joins us to Jesus so His death becomes our death, His new life becomes our new life. By faith we are joined to Him at the cross and at the grave. By faith we are joined to Him in His crucifixion and resurrection. The result is salvation and all the other blessings that are ours in Christ.

Faith doesn't save us. Jesus does. Faith is but the instrument God uses to join us to Jesus.

B Scripture uses many images to express our union with Christ. It uses the image of the olive tree and the grafting of branches. It uses the image of the vine and its branches. It uses the image of the body and its members. It uses the image of circumcision and baptism. It uses the image of marriage. The Christian must come into a living union with Jesus; and the means by which this union takes place is by faith. By faith we are joined to Christ in the same way as a bride is joined to her husband.

The believer is like a sponge. The sponge does not draw the water into itself; rather, the water soaks into the sponge. Christ is the water and we are the sponge. Put us into Christ, join us to Christ, and Christ's blessings become our blessings. That's what happens when faith joins us to Christ.

The believer is like a stick. A couple of years ago one of our widows gave me what looked like a dead stick and told me to give it to Ruth to plant in the soil. Ruth did that and today we have a beautiful flowering something or another. Planted in the soil of Christ, a dead believer comes alive and grows and flourishes. That's what happens when faith joins us to Christ.

C Faith is the spiritual power by which a Christian clings to Christ and draws from Him all that is necessary for salvation. The natural man laughs at this. There is in the heart of natural man something that opposes Christ; he is at enmity with Christ and hates Him. But, if God works faith in him, that soul is changed so that he goes to Christ and draws from Him all of the blessings of salvation.

I hope you see, dear friends, we need to be united to and with Christ in order to be saved. Kelsey, Pete, and Norma need to be joined to Jesus by faith. Whether you are 1 year old or 101 years old you need to be joined to Christ by faith. There is no salvation without faith.

III The Two Parts of Faith
A We need faith to be joined to Christ. But what is faith? The Catechism says faith is a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in His Word is true.

Those with this knowledge know Jesus personally. They don't merely know facts about Jesus. They don't merely know the historical details about Jesus. They don't merely know that Jesus came in the flesh, was crucified, died, buried, arose, and ascended into heaven where He now sits at God's right hand. They also know Jesus as the fullness of salvation, as the root and source of salvation. They love this Jesus, pray to this Jesus, worship this Jesus, and serve this Jesus.

Now this is not knowledge gained by the natural mind, the fallen mind. Rather, it is knowledge gained by the sanctified mind. It is not book knowledge; it is spiritual knowledge. The only One that can teach you this knowledge is the Holy Spirit through the Word. Faith requires the Word. So read the Bible from the Creation in Genesis to the grand finale of Revelation and the Spirit will lead you to see and believe Christ.

B What else is faith? True faith is also a deep-rooted assurance, a conviction, a confidence. About what? About my salvation. That I am loved. That He died for me. That He arose for me. That He ascended to heaven for me. That He now rules for me. That He loves me more than I love Him.

I have mentioned before the struggles that some of our Reformed denominations have with this second part of true faith. Those in the Netherlands Reformed Church find it almost impossible to say "Christ died for me." Members of the Protestant Reformed Church are in a similar state. There is no confidence, no assurance, no conviction. My heart weeps for members and former members of those churches who go to the grave without the confidence of true faith.

Notice what the Catechism says: "Not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made right with God, and have been granted salvation." NOT ONLY OTHERS. NOT ONLY OTHERS. NOT ONLY OTHERS. BUT I TOO ... I say this good and loud to these struggling saints.

True faith. Saving faith. Do I have it? Do you have it? And how do we know?

Do I need to have a sudden, vivid conversion experience? That's what many churches say. In those churches, the more dramatic the conversion the better the faith. In our circles there are some who come to faith this way, but not most.

Do I need to have some sort of vision? Some sort of sign? I am sure some have come to faith this way, but not most.

God's usual way of bringing one to faith is in the covenant home. A little child is like a twig planted in the soil. They are brought into contact with Christ in the home, in the school, in the church, in Catechism class and GEMS and Cadets and Youth Group. Gradually, slowly, the twig is nurtured. It puts down roots. It puts down roots into Christ. It grows and flourishes and draws from Christ all the fullness of salvation. That is the general way in which God works.

Let me put it another way for our young families: evangelism begins in the home. This is the most important evangelistic work you can ever do. You can win souls at work and on the street corner but if you don't start with and focus on your own family, you are failing in the area that counts most.

Kelsey, Pete, Norma, is this faith yours? You have stood before God and His people and have claimed this faith for yourself. May the Lord bless you as you put down roots and grow. But what about everyone else here? Is this faith yours? Are you saved? Are you joined to Jesus by true faith? Are you washed in His blood?
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