At our Men’s Study this last week on the life of Moses we studied the chapters around our text and I want to come back to it and look at one aspect of it is more depth this morning. With a sermon title, The Gospel is the Glory of God, you might be wondering what we are doing in the OT. We’re blowing up another myth. Last week’s myth was that the Gospel is just something we share with people who are not Christians. Rather the Gospel is something we need to share with ourselves every day. We need to cultivate the habit of preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily to counter all the other voices in our heads and lies in our culture. Today we will see the Gospel is in the heart of God and on display in all of His dealings with His people. God has lead His people, the nation of Israel, out of Egypt and has brought them through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 20 we read the Ten Commandments which are like marriage vows, covenant commitments, where God makes His covenant to be their God and they will be His people.
Some of you may be wondering what happened to the fruit of peace. I have taken the liberty of switching the order of the Fruit of the Spirit so we could do peace next Sunday on Memorial Day weekend. I trust this doesn’t try your patience too much. The first fruit is love and the rest flow from it. So one of the aspects of love is patience. The first thing Paul says about love in I Corinthians 13 is love is patient. We can all testify it’s pretty hard to be loving and impatient. Patience is one of the aspects of godly or Christ-like behavior. We are all to have it and we all have a hard time maintaining it, so we need help. If you think a sermon on patience might be tough to hear, you should try preaching it.
Several weeks ago I was visiting with one of our senior saints and she wondered out loud with me why she was still here, since she wasn’t able to do anything particularly useful. Her life has been reduced to sleeping, eating, sitting, reading, watching a little TV, talking with a few old friends, maybe a little hand work, but nothing particularly useful. She got me to thinking about work and labor and what we do and about when we can’t do what we have always done. What would you say to her? How might you answer with an encouraging word? If you were in her shoes would you feel the same way? If our health and strength decline to the point we can’t do anything anymore, what then? What does it mean to be useful? Actually the age at which one can feel useless is getting younger and younger. There are people in the technology industry who are 45 and can’t get a job because they are too old. Labor Day weekend seems like a good time to reflect on what God’s Word says about work and usefulness and about our work at the end of life.
Last month the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom heard a case involving religion. Britain's Lord Toulson, a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, wrote in their ruling, “Religion should not be confined to religions which recognize a supreme deity” (website, Reuters, December 11, 2013). “Religion should not be confined to religions which recognize a supreme deity.” Ronald Dworkin in his book, Religion Without God, writes: “… religion is deeper than God. … A belief in a god is only one possible manifestation or consequence of that worldview.” R.C. Sproul in his book, Grace Unknown, talks about the difference between religion and theology. If I were to ask you the difference between religion and theology you might be left scratching your head. You might be tempted to say they’re the same thing, but actually there’s a huge difference. Religion is a human activity. If you go to a university you will find the religion department grouped with the anthropology, sociology and psychology departments. All of those sciences have to do with human behavior. Religion is a certain kind of human behavior that can be studied and researched and observed. When we study religion the subject matter is man. You don’t need a Bible to study religion. And you can have a religion without a god. Secular humanism is a religion without God. Theology, on the other hand, is the study of God. Theology is God-centered. This is why the Bible is so important to the proper study of theology. Christianity is a revelation, meaning that what we know about God doesn’t come from us or from observation. It comes to us from the mind of God. The Bible is from God and the Bible is about God. The study of God and what God says is theology. Before return to our study of the Belgic Confession and Article 23, I want to take time this evening to remind us of why we do this, why we read and preach through our creeds and confessions. Some people say that doctrine is dry, dusty and boring. Others say that doctrine divides. Others say that just believing in Jesus is enough and we don’t need to concern ourselves with all the other details. Why do we talk about theology and doctrine? Simply stated understanding theology and doctrine keeps our faith from becoming just another man-made religion.
In our attempt to describe the various aspects of God’s character categories have been developed and one of the most common ways of classifying God’s attributes is the one we find in the Belgic Confession. Two weeks ago I explained how Article One divides the attributes of God between the incommunicable attributes of God and the communicable attributes of God. In simplest terms a communicable disease is a disease that can be passed on, it’s catchable like the flu. And there are diseases that can’t be passed on, like Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis. We have already considered the Incommunicable attributes of God that He does not share with others, like being spiritual, invisible, eternal, infinite, all powerful, incomprehensible. This evening we come to the Communicable attributes of God, attributes God shares with others.