************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 46 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 18, 2018
Lord's Day 46
2 Chronicles 20:5-13
"Praying to God Our Father"
When you appear before a judge in America, you address him or her as "Your Honor." In Canada, you can also address him or her as "My Lord," or "My Lady," or "Your Lordship," or "Your Ladyship."
How do we address the Judge of the universe? What title do we use for God? What name do we have on our lips? The Bible is filled with names for God but Jesus mentions just one: Father. As we continue out study of the Lord's Prayer we look at the wonder, confidence, and reverence of God's name.
I The Wonder of God's Name
A Remember, the Catechism is teaching us about the thankful life. Those who are thankful for salvation in Christ do three things: daily repentance for sin, daily obedience to God's commandments, and daily talks with God in prayer.
Remember, also, that sound doctrine is our theme as we look at the Catechism this time. Sound doctrine is doctrine based upon the Bible. But men today do not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (cf 2 Tim 4:3-4).
B What kind of myths are we talking about? One such myth says anyone can pray to our Father in heaven. This is reinforced by an old, old expression which says "There are no atheists in foxholes." In times of extreme stress or fear, such as during war or illness, people pray to the God they don't believe in, people pray to the God they don't worship. Or, they ask me to do so for them.
It is a myth to think unbelievers can pray to the one only true God Who reveals Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is but part of the same myth which says all paths and all roads lead to God. Which says all men will be saved. Which says God will never punish anyone eternally. Which says all men can pray and worship together using the Lord's Prayer.
Sound doctrine tells us only those who know God in Christ can pray, "Our Father in heaven." Prayer, true prayer, must begin with faith. So, Josh & Kate, one of your jobs as Christian parents is to teach your little one about Jesus. One of your jobs is to bring you child to the Jesus of the Bible and to teach him how to pray. Those without faith cannot pray and cannot expect to be heard. If you are NOT a believer in God and Christ, you cannot pray "Our Father in heaven." If you are an atheist, Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, Buddhist, New Ager, JW, or whatever other religion you care to name, you cannot expect to be heard.
"Our father in heaven." Modernism, liberalism, and universalism cheapens this prayer. Josh, you are a father now. Right now there is only one person in the whole-wide world who has the right to call you father -- the baby we baptized this morning. No one else has this right. Likewise, sound doctrine tells us no one but a Christian has the right to address God as Father.
"Our Father in heaven." Sound doctrine tells us this prayer is a privilege. It is a great and awesome privilege. A prayer you can only do because you are a Christian. A prayer you can only do because you know Christ. A prayer you can only do because God has become your Father through Christ. And, no one else has this privilege. This is the only reason King Jehoshaphat could pray to God -- because he was a child of God.
The sound doctrine of the Catechism makes a big point of telling us "that God through Christ has become our Father." The word "become" presumes a change. Since God Himself does not change and cannot change, the change is in us. On account of sin, on account of being born in sin, mankind lost the right to call God "Father." Man's sin ended the relationship. Because of sin, mankind lost the right to be called God's children. However, because of Christ, those who are Christians can call themselves God's children and can call God their "Father."
C We need to address another myth, a modern myth, which people use to tickle their wayward and liberal ears. This myth says we can address God as "mother." I was listening to some re-imaging conference and the feminist leading the meeting opened in prayer with "Our Mother in heaven." And, the crowd roared its approval. "Really," I thought! "You really are going down this road?! Do you think this pleases God? All it does is tickle the ears of modern man." Sound doctrine says we address God as Father. Sound doctrine says we teach our children and youth to address God as "Father."
D "Our Father in heaven." In a perfect world, the title "father" brings only positive memories to mind and evokes only positive emotions. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. Because of sin, there are no perfect fathers in this life and on this earth. In this life and on this earth there are fathers who cruelly abuse and neglect their children. The children of such fathers live in fear and trembling. Do not think, dear people, that God is such a Father. What sticks out when we think of our Father in heaven? What sticks out is His compassion:
(Ps 103:13) As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;What am I saying? When it comes to God as our Father we have nothing to fear. This is not a name which should ever terrify us and make us reluctant to pray.
(cf Mal 3:17)
"Our Father in heaven." Despite the ways in which many earthly fathers have corrupted the father-son relationship rest assured that our heavenly Father loves us, cares for us, and wants only the best for us. Realize how wonderful it is that God is your Father in Christ. That's our first point.
II The Confidence of God's Name
A Our second point is the confidence of God's name. To use the language of the Catechism, we are to approach God with "childlike awe and trust."
When we approach God in this way we are not expressing self-confidence but dependence. We depend on Him and expect to be heard simply because our great God has promised He is our Father. This is how children approach their earthly father: they are confident in the relationship. They would not dare approach a stranger, but they are confident to come to their father.
Nor is it a childlike confidence that God will give us everything we want. Children learn very quickly this is not the case. Sometimes fathers say "no" but this does not hinder the children from coming again to their fathers. As the good and wise and all-knowing Father, God knows what is good and is not good for us according to His eternal plan. Our heavenly Father not only knows but He also knows best. Children of the heavenly Father recognize this and have confidence in this.
B We see this kind of confidence on the part of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was a godly king of Judah and one day he learned that his enemies -- the Moabites and Ammonites and Meunites -- were coming to make war on him. By the time Jehoshaphat learned about this, the enemy army had already reach En Gedi; at this point they were only about 30 miles from Jerusalem and -- humanly speaking -- there was little Jehoshaphat could do. He had no time to gather an army or to contact his allies. But he did have time to seek God in prayer and that is exactly what he did. He proclaimed a fast and called those who were able to come to the Temple.
Jehoshaphat prayed as a son of the heavenly Father. Over and over in his prayer he kept in mind the covenant relationship between God and His people. He did not simply pray to "God" or "Lord of hosts," or "almighty God" but to "our God." He prays on the basis of a relationship which he and the people of Judah enjoy with Jehovah. He says:
-"O LORD, God of our fathers" (vs 6)
-"O our God" (vs 7,12)
-he even appeals to God's promise of inheritance (vs 11)
All of this is father-son language, the language of relationship
C In his prayer Jehoshaphat appears as a child of God confessing his weakness and helplessness.
(2 Chr 20:12) For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.Jehoshaphat and Judah are surrounded and outnumbered but they do not panic, they do not despair. Instead, they trust in God and the relationship God has with them. They are like children. They are children of the heavenly Father. They trust not in themselves but in the relationship of the Father Who loves them and cares for them.
"But our eyes are upon you." This is how the prayer ends. "But our eyes are upon you." We also pray this way -- with eyes upon God.
III The Reverence of God's Name
A Sound doctrine adds something to "our Father." Sound doctrine adds "in heaven." "Our Father in heaven." The words "in heaven" remind us that we must think nothing earthly of God our Father.
Often, in our modern age of irreverence, our thoughts of God are too low, too mundane, too much of the earth. The last couple of weeks I have seen advertisements for a new TV show this Fall: "God Friended Me." The ratings tell us this show had 8.3 million viewers this past Sunday. Who would ever have thought that God would be compared to a Facebook friend?
We are talking about God. The God of the universe. The God Who is holy, glorious, incomparably great. The God Who has all power in heaven and in earth. The God Who demands all things serve Him and accomplish His good pleasure. The God before Whom the angels shield their faces. The God in Whom we live and move and have our being.
"Our Father in heaven" is not just a warm, fuzzy, loving figure. He is a God Who deserves our honor, our respect, our obedience. But we have lost that today. People talk about God like He is no big deal.
We should not be surprised by this. We live in a culture where earthly fathers are no longer honored. It used to be that American boys would call their fathers "Sir." When a father entered the room, younger men would rise up to honor him.
The fault goes both ways. Too many of our homes are also single-parent homes with absentee, delinquent, deadbeat fathers who do not raise their children.
A Christian is a God-fearer because he has a healthy honor, respect, and reverence for the God Whom he calls Father.
B "Our Father in heaven." This means we can expect from His hand everything we need for body and soul. We do not pray to a God without power. We pray to our Father, our almighty Father in heaven. This God, and none other, is able to give us our daily bread. This God, and none other, is able to forgive us our sins. This God, and none other, is able to keep us from all evil. This God is so almighty He will hallow His own name, bring His kingdom, and accomplish His will.
I love how Jehoshaphat puts this. "Are you not the God Who is in heaven?" Of course He is!
(2 Chr 20:6-7) You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. (7) O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?Jehoshaphat knows, and we know, our almighty Father in heaven is able to do anything. He is able to do everything. There is nothing He cannot do. He is the God Who made the heavens and the earth out of nothing. He is the God Who fashioned man from the dust of the earth. He is the God Who gave a child to Abraham and Sarah when they were past the age of bearing children. He is the God Who put Joseph in Egypt so he was at the right place at the right time. He is the God Who visited the ten plagues upon Egypt and dried up the waters of the Red Sea. He is the God Who made the walls of Jericho fall. He is the God Who saved and protected David and his heirs. He is the God Who made a virgin conceive and give birth to a Son. He is the God Who raised His Son upon the cross, from a grave, and into heaven. He is the God Who has all things in His hands.
"Our Father in heaven." This is how sound doctrine prays. This is what sound doctrine believes.
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