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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:Are You Joined To The Lord?
Text:Proverbs 29:18 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve
Topic:Revelation of the Gospel
 
Preached:2008-08-16
Added:2010-01-01
Updated:2010-01-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


PROVERBS 29:18 (Readings: 2 Peter 1:12-21; Psalm 1; John 15:1-8) Are You Joined To The Lord? Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ… It’s an interesting phrase beginning this text. For it says, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint”. That sounds quite dire, doesn’t it? It’s even more of a sharp warning when you hear it in the King James Version. This was how it sounded for over 350 years: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” No wonder it was an often used popular phrase. You can almost hear the preacher pounding his pulpit with those words! Especially in those times of serious departure from God’s Word, the faithful minister was saying exactly this, “Where there is no vision the people perish!” But what, exactly, is this “vision”? Or “revelation” as the NIV translates it? Because preachers have used this phrase in different ways. There have even been those who used this as justification to make a congregation go their own selfish way. Because that man says he has this vision without which his people would perish! So let’s see, in the words of the first aspect, THIS IS WHERE REVELATION MUST STAND. Let’s understand this phrase correctly. The R.S.V. Bible uses a different word again than “revelation” or “vision”. It names it, “prophecy.” Now, that’s a word which helps us a bit. For we know the prophets well. After all, isn’t most of the Old Testament Scriptures made up of what the prophets proclaimed? And here we need to note that not only the books from Isaiah till Malachi are regarded prophetically. The Old Testament Israelites also saw the books from Joshua to Esther as being prophetic. That makes the case even more convincing. Yet the word in the text involves much more. In the word “revelation” or “vision” or “prophecy” there is wrapped up all of what God speaks to man. That actually means the whole Bible, not just one part. This is the complete Word of God to His people. But isn’t our text telling us of the exact opposite? Isn’t it speaking of where there is “no revelation”? Surely this couldn’t be addressed to the covenant nation? And if it were the Old Testament Church, as the text so strongly shows, then this is all a terrible mistake. What? God’s people without His Word? A terrible contradiction – isn’t it congregation? And yet the difficulty with the “no revelation” of our text wasn’t that the people didn’t know of God’s Word. It was far worse! For they knew it alright. They simply ignored it! You know, we might well be doing the same. Instead of this amazing revelation being at the centre of our living, it gets shoved into some obscure corner. A Christian comment in a local community paper described this well. It said, “Christians are sometimes difficult to understand. “Many … talk piously about the Bible being the inspired Word of God, yet they spend very little, if any, time reading and studying it. “They claim to believe that the Old and New Testaments in their entirety are the authoritative, inspired, infallible and inerrant revelation of God to man. “Yet they go on day after day, for weeks on end, and never open its pages…”. Now, that definitely couldn’t be us! We always read the Bible with our family meal! There’s those daily devotions you do personally every day. Well, perhaps I should say, most of the time. And how about when we do read it, brethren? What attitude is there? Quick – let’s get it over and done with! Or is there genuine appreciation and reflection. Just because our Bibles don’t get dusty doesn’t mean they’re being truly opened up. What was it 2nd Peter 1 verse 21 said? “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” It’s not just another page with print on it. It’s got who God is and what He’s done all through it! And it’s properly read when it reads you! As A.W. Tozer said, “I did not go through the Book. “The Book went through me.” And do we take that Word even further into our hearts and lives with good Christian literature? Does everything we think and say and do come from the foundation of God’s Word? Or, congregation, could it be that we – of all people – have forgotten what the Lord inspired Moses to tell His people? For in Deuteronomy 6, the verses 6 and 7, we hear, “These commandments that I give you … are to be upon your hearts. “Impress them upon your children. “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” And even more sad is that we forget that all our actions have consequences. As the text goes on, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” We come here to the second aspect. Now we see THIS IS WHY PEOPLE NATURALLY FALL. Fellow believers, here there is no sense of being open to the Lord’s leading. Any guidance at all from the covenant God is missing. So the people are unrestrained. Like a car without a steering wheel, they aren’t being directed the right way. For to restrain ourselves is to obey God’s Word. Make sense, doesn’t it? Isn’t our nation sliding down the moralistic tube because Biblical values are ignored? And if this is so quickly happening in society then certainly the same threat will affect the Church. As one person described it, “If it’s pouring down out in the world, soon enough there’ll be a drip in the church.” The devil’s only too pleased to deceive! Brothers and sisters, there are plenty of examples in Scripture and Church History to show this clearly enough! Take, for example, the incident of the golden calf amongst the Israelites in the wilderness. Now, if any age and any part of God’s covenant people could speak of God’s gracious and leading hand, surely it was that generation! They had experienced the great Exodus! And, yet, chapter 32 of Exodus begins in verse 1, “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. “‘As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’” Then when Moses came down he got the shock of his life! As verse 25 of Exodus 32 records, he saw “that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughing stock to their enemies.” How terribly sad that the people who had been so miraculously rescued and deeply blessed already, could reject God so quickly! They had it all! And really, brothers and sisters, are we that much different? I’m sure the Israelites felt they were doing a good thing building the golden calf. It filled a need they had had for a long time. And it did work. People were attracted to it. But attracted to what? To God? Definitely not! It couldn’t be more the opposite! Devastatingly that golden idol only pointed to selfishness. An idol made by man is going to be dedicated to man. That’s what happens when the Lord’s people don’t keep His Word right there before them! Now, this throwing off restraint might not be so sudden and obvious for us as for the Israelites and their golden calf. Yet as soon as start to shift God’s Word off centre, the gap soon become filled with evil. Jesus told the parable in Luke 11 about the man who had an evil spirit. In verse 24 there He tells of that evil spirit leaving the man. So that man was able to clean up his life. But because he didn’t fill it up with the Lord, that evil spirit soon returned with seven of his mates! Then he was in a worst state than ever before! You see, he had not filled himself up with what is good and pure. He hadn’t come to faith and kept growing in that faith. With the Old Testament people of God, that evil they filled themselves up with was the sin of the nations around them. That’s where the idea of the golden calf came from. And the Church is no different today! If you don’t fill yourself up with the Word, you’ll fill yourself up with the world! Then you’ll do whatever works for you. They say that in the world, don’t they? “Do whatever works for you.” “If you’re comfortable with it, it’s okay.” This is pragmatism - otherwise known as selfish laziness. And, before you know it, principles don’t matter anymore. “Look, everyone else is doing it!” “We’ve been doing this for so long, why change? “It’s not as though it hurts anyone. “Anyway, Mr Preacher, you have to say that – it’s your job!” My friends, if it’s just a matter of words that go in one ear and comes out the other ear, why are we here? Why join in the most public expression of your faith if you’re going to go home after the service and act no different to anyone else? You have to stop now! To go on would be complete and utter hypocrisy! This new year has to be a different year. It has to start in our hearts! Brothers and sisters, have we restrained ourselves? Have you thought to yourself, “I know why I’m here! “The Lord has called me. “It’s Him and His Name that this is all about!” Then you’re the first to acknowledge that you haven’t lived the way you should. You’re up front about the devastating impact of sin in you. You are also honest about how that sin has devastated the Church. Relationships have been torn to shreds. The innocent have been slandered. Those in need have been forgotten. Wasn’t that exactly what Paul rebukes the Corinthians for in his first letter to them. In chapter 11 he is angry at the way selfishness has taken over their Lord’s Supper celebrations. Because every one is so focused on himself, others got left out. Verse 21 describes how some went hungry, while others got drunk! And it’s no use blaming someone else for it. Don’t point the finger at your spouse, or your parent, or your child, or the elders! All of us have ignored what Scripture says. Instead of filling ourselves up with God’s Word, we have chosen the path of least resistance. But have we realised the terrible consequences? What heritage do we leave the next generation? In fact, our failings now will come out all the more devastatingly in the next generation. But if there is the open recognition of our sin and turning from that sin, it can be turned right around. So, are you sorry at having grieved your Heavenly Father? Do you sincerely want to change and keep changing? Then continue the text with me. For this verse now declares, “but blessed is he who keeps the law.” Our third aspect. THIS IS HOW BELIEVERS KEEP GOING. Congregation, as we reflect on the blessing of those who keep the law, wasn’t the first psalm so relevant? The first two verses there declared, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Don’t you wish you could be that man? Isn’t it your real desire to spend time with God in His Word, to respond in prayer, and to rest in His love? Young people, think back to when you started a new school term. Did you look forward to it? Perhaps you wouldn’t have minded the holidays being a bit longer! Often you weren’t really keen to go to school. But if you couldn’t wait to go back to school then you don’t mind at all! If you’ve got the motivation to learn that makes your attitude positive. Because while you know there are some things at school you don’t like, most of the time it’s good fun. Fellow believers, that’s the good news in our text. If we have within us God’s Spirit, we have the best possible motivation for keeping God’s law. Then we can be as that man of Psalm 1. And what’s more, you’ll even be seen to be like him! God can also grant you the blessing that man has. Didn’t Psalm 1 verse 3 say, “He is like a tree planted by steams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither? “Whatever he does prospers.” Our Lord Jesus described this blessing as being joined to Him. In John 15 verse 5, He pictured it this way, “I am the vine; you are the branches. “If a man remain in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The most vital thing in this world is that you see and know this vine for yourself! Then the wonderful nutrients of the Living Word will be alive in you. His fruit will come to harvest in you. Now, on the surface, this text may seem rigid. Keeping the law appears to be a whole lot of do’s and don’ts. But, actually, this is describing a relationship. A relationship you have with Jesus because of faith. Faith in what He did for you. You know in your heart that God has reached down in love. How special is that? How blessed you are to be part of that! And then to see you’re not the only branch joined to Him. God speaks to His people. So it’s not only that you’re never alone for all eternity, you are not alone right now because of the spiritual family the Church is. That’s why public worship is the high point of a Christian’s life. That’s where you hear the gospel of grace. That’s the place you’re pointed to God’s way. That’s where you’re wonderfully confirmed in how blessed you truly are. Dear friend, don’t ever give that away. Because there is where you especially meet the Living Word. He’s the One who fulfilled the law. What none of us could do, because we were so completely stained by sin, He did through His sacrifice. Indeed, it was the Lord Jesus who graciously guided His Old Testament people through the cloud by day and the fiery pillar at night. He gave the law to Moses – the Law that pointed to Him. Jesus Christ is the One who now opens the door. He gives a whole new year of worship and service to You. Is His Spirit in you letting Him in? Amen. PRAYER: Let’s pray… O dear Lord Jesus, You who is the way, the truth, and the life. We humble ourselves before You now. For without the way there is no going. Without the truth there is no knowing. And without the life there is no living. So how much don’t we rejoice in You. Keep us always looking to You. In Your most precious and saving Name, we pray, Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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