************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 26 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 3, 2010
Q & A 26
"God is Our Father"
The building blocks of all cultures and societies are its families. Thus, it follows that strong families are needed for a strong and healthy society.
Families are also the building blocks of the church. For a strong church we need strong families.
It is little wonder, then, that God compares our relationship to Him as a family relationship: He is the Father and we are His children.
The New Testament emphasizes two parent-child relationships. The first is God as Father and Jesus as Son. The second is God as Father and we as His children. It is this second relationship that we are looking at this evening.
Don't forget where we are in the Catechism. Specifically, we are looking at the Apostles' Creed. More broadly, we are still talking about the content of true faith and the summary of the Gospel.
I God is Our Father
A "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth." In the Apostles' Creed we confess to believe in "God the Father." What does this mean? First of all, it means God is our Father because He has made us. As we have been learning from Genesis, He is the One Who has made us in His image; He is the One Who formed us from the dust of the earth; and, He is the One Who breathed into us the breath of life. He is our Creator, our Originator.
The message of the Bible is that all men have forfeited or lost the right to call God "Father" and to call themselves "children of God" because of the fall into sin. When man sinned, he broke the family relationship between himself and God.
B What does God want? God wants people who call Him "Father." God wants children who live with Him and talk with Him. This remind me of the prophecy of Hosea:
(Hosea 1:9-10) Then the LORD said, "Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God. (10) Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'"That's what God wants: "not my people" becoming "sons of the living God."
The good news of the Gospel today is that in Jesus Christ this prophecy has been fulfilled. As Galatians puts it, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:26). Or, as the Catechism puts it, "That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ... is my God and Father because of Christ his Son."
How does this happen? What turns rebels against God into children of God? What did Christ do? Our Bible reading says,
(Gal 4:4-5) But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, (5) to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Because of Christ, do you know what happens? We become adopted children of God (cf Eph 1:5; Rom 8:23; Rom 9:4). I am not sure if everyone realizes what a beautiful thing adoption really is. In a time when so many families are falling apart, it is a real blessing that so many Christian parents adopt children. One of our mantras as Christians is "Adoption Instead of Abortion." No matter how desperate the situation, we urge women to go the route of adoption rather than abortion.
Last weekend, members of Sunday Evening Fellowship saw the new movie, "Like Dandelion Dust." The story line is about a little boy whose mother gave him up for adoption. This little boy went from a broken home with drunkenness and abuse, to a home where he was safe and cared for. Unfortunately, after seven years the birth-mother changed her mind and wanted her little boy back.
What did the adoptive parents do? They tried every thing they could to keep their son: legal action, pressure on their representative in congress, a payment to the birth parents, illegally fleeing the country, and so on.
God didn't abort us when we fell into sin; He didn't cut us off; He didn't disown us. Rather, He took steps so we could become His adopted children through Christ.
This good news is not for everyone. Paul speaks "to the churches in Galatia" (Gal 1:2). The Catechism is addressing those with true faith. In other words, the good news is for believers.
C What a blessing it is that in Christ we are considered to be God's child. I want to highlight three things mentioned by Paul in his letter to the churches in Galatia.
First, to be a child of God means we are no longer slaves; rather, we are free. A son, you see, can never be a slave in his father's house (Gal 4:1-3,7).
Second, to be a child of God means we can call Him "Abba, Father" (Gal 4:6). One of the biggest joys in the life of any parent is the first time a little child says "Mommy" or "Daddy." Because of Christ, this is how we can address God. He is not some elusive unapproachable figure. No, not at all. He is a Father. He is approachable. He is personal. Like an earthly father, we can come to Him with hurts, pains, wants, desires. Like any father, He will listen; and, He is never too busy or distracted by things.
Third, to be a child of God means to be an heir. Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 3:
(Gal 3:29) If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.And, in Galatians 4 he says:
(Gal 4:7) So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.We are heirs of the promises made to Abraham, the father of all believers. What are those promises? We are sand of the seashore people. There awaits us a promised land – eternal life in the new heaven and new earth. And God will be our God forever and never forsake us.
II God is Our Faithful Father
A "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth." What kind of Father is the God we confess in the Apostles' Creed? Says the Catechism, "he is a faithful Father." On this earth, faithful fathers do not abandon their children. Faithful fathers look after their children. Faithful fathers provide for their children. Faithful fathers protect their children. When our earthly fathers do any of these, they are simply imitating our faithful Father in heaven.
So, what does our Father in heaven all do as a faithful Father? Says the Catechism, "he will provide whatever I need for body and soul." He looks after me!
What else? "He will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world." Notice, we are not told that our heavenly Father will keep troubles or hardships away from us. In this life and on this earth and in this flesh there will always be troubles and sorrows. But, notice what our heavenly Father does? He turns them to our "good." Our faithful Father brings good out of evil.
B Many cannot accept or believe that God is a faithful Father. Those who blame God for the sad state of this world – sin, evil, destruction, corruption, and everything else that is wrong – cannot believe God is a faithful Father. Those who hold God personally responsible for all the evil that befalls them – death of a loved one, a crippling stroke, a heart-attack, cancer, bankruptcy, and so on – cannot possibly see God as either a Father or as a faithful Father. Those who see God only as a fierce Judge Who can hardly wait to toss the unrepentant into hell-fire would hardly view God as a faithful Father. Those who have been neglected or abused by their earthly fathers have a nearly impossible time conceiving of God as a faithful Father.
Let me say something about the role of earthly fathers here. Fathers, your children's reaction to God depends largely upon their reaction to you. How your children see God largely depends on how they see you. If they find you to be a loving and faithful father, a father who is willing to help and listen, then they have no problem seeing God the same way. However, if you are always too busy, your child will think the heavenly Father is always too busy as well. If your children are scared of you, they will have a similar reaction to the heavenly Father.
III God is Our Almighty Father
A "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth." What kind of Father is the God we confess in the Apostles' Creed? As we already learned from the Catechism, "he is a faithful Father." "He will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world."
Why is our Father able to do this? Because "he is almighty God." Here is the second characteristic of our Father in heaven. The Catechism mentions three instances of our Father's might.
First of all, He "out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them." We've been looking at Genesis. We've been looking at the creation account. We now find this creation out of nothing – which includes the creation of man – is part of true faith, part of the Gospel we must believe in order to be saved. If you don't believe God created everything out of nothing, then you don't have true faith. If you don't believe God created everything out of nothing, then you don't believe the Gospel.
The Synod of our former denomination made a decision this past Summer to delete "Declaration F" of Synod 1991. Here is the wording of "Declaration F": "The church declares, moreover, that the clear teaching of Scripture and of our confessions on the uniqueness of human beings as image-bearers of God rules out the espousal of all theorizing that posits the reality of evolutionary forebears of the human race."This statement has now been deleted. This statement no longer holds sway. The deletion of this statement does not mean our former denomination is in favor of evolution; but it also means it no longer is opposed to evolution.
Where do you think such thinking will end up? I guess I should not have been surprised by what I read in World Magazine this past week about the official college of our former denomination:
This past Spring, the biology department of that college issued a statement: "We teach evolutionary theory as the best scientific explanation for the dynamic diversity of life on Earth. . . . We teach biology from an evolutionary paradigm." Not surprisingly, we hear the same kind of language from other Christian colleges too.
True faith does not talk this way! Those with the Gospel do not think this way! We believe our almighty God made heaven and earth and everything in them out of nothing.
How great and mighty is our God! How great and mighty is our Father in heaven! "Out of nothing" He created heaven and earth and everything in them. Can anyone besides God do this? Can you make anything out of nothing? Our God is a mighty God. Our God is almighty. There is absolutely nothing He cannot do. There is nothing beyond His power.
The second instance of God's might: God "still upholds and rules [heaven and earth and everything in them] by his eternal counsel and providence." The Catechism says "NO" to the God of deism – a God Who created and then sat down in a comfortable rocking chair. God, the Father, is still involved with His creation. He upholds it. He rules it. He is almighty.
The third instance of God's might: God provides for His creatures. He provides whatever I need for body and soul. He turns to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this sad world. A word of caution, though. God supplies our needs as He sees them, not as we see them. We may think we need food; instead, God knows we need hunger. We may think we need health; instead, God knows we need sickness. We may think we need prosperity; instead, God knows we need poverty. We may think we need a spouse; instead, God knows we need singleness. You get the picture, don't you. God is in the business of building souls for eternity. God is in the business of developing faith, true faith. God is in the business of making us mature and complete.
B Many cannot accept or believe that God is almighty. Atheists, of course, do not believe in "God, the Father almighty." They think it is incredible and foolish to believe in an almighty God Who created heaven and earth. Yet, they don't realize it takes an even greater leap of faith to believe that everything happened and evolved by chance: that some dust swirled together in an otherwise empty universe until the planets were formed; that somehow the force of gravity and the speed of light reached the right amount to support life; that somehow earth's atmosphere came to be with just the right amount of oxygen; that somehow life formed and evolved until finally man appeared. C.S. Lewis once said,
"If I believe in God and He doesn't exist I lose nothing; if I don't believe in God and He does exist I lose everything. Therefore it is better to believe in God."
Who else does not believe God is almighty? What tragedies have happened in the last year? The earthquake in Haiti, the mud slide in Mexico, the flooding in Pakistan, to name only a few. "If God is so powerful," say some, "why does He allow things like this to happen?" "If God is so powerful, how come there are starving children in Sudan?"
Who else does not believe God is almighty? Those who credit "Mother Nature" instead of God for crops, growth, and the changing seasons.
IV Trust Our Almighty, Faithful Father
"I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth." What is to be our response to this almighty and faithful Father? For the Catechism, everything comes down to one word: TRUST. We have to trust our almighty and faithful Father. And, we have to trust Him so much there cannot be even the shadow of a doubt in our mind.
Because of a house fire a family was stuck on the roof. The firemen yelled for them to jump. The children refused to budge – they were scared to jump. Their dad jumped down first. Then he called up, "Jump! I will catch you!" Without a moment's hesitation, the children jumped into their father's arms. They had an unshakeable trust and confidence in their father.This is the kind of trust and confidence the Catechism is calling us to have in our almighty and faithful Father in heaven.
As the Catechism mentions, there is adversity in this sad world. Look through our church directory. Every family has a cross or a burden to bear. Every family has a heart-ache. Every family has something about which they are concerned. Look through our bulletin – there are so many prayer items. How do you respond? With worry, with doubt, with insomnia? The Catechism tells you another way, another response: Trust instead of worry. Trust instead of doubt. Trust instead of insomnia. Trust in the almighty God. Trust in the faithful Father.
"I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth."
As I already said, this is part of the content of true faith and part of the summary of the Gospel.
And, don't forget, to say "I believe" is the same as saying "I do" at a wedding. It is a vow. It is a promise. It is your declaration of what you think is worth living for and dying for.
"I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth." Do you believe this? And, more importantly, do you trust this almighty and faithful Father?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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