Last week I mentioned there are two key texts in the NT that teach us how to relate to those in authority over us, I Peter 2:11-17 and Romans 13:1-7. Last week I read I Peter 2, this week I read Romans 13 so you have in mind the context for my reflections. I am not naïve. I know preaching these texts especially in times like these can flush more birds than can be shot in one or two sermons. I know that some of you are saying, “But what about ….?” And “Yeah, but what about this or that?” I also understand that our context is very different. This is not first century Roman empire but twentieth century America. We are still living in a constitutional republic. And now add to all this, on Friday President Trump whacked the beehive by declaring all houses of worship open. Can he do that? Does his authority override governors? Does his authority override the elders of churches? Or parents in the home?
We spoke last Sunday of our only comfort in life and in death, in other words, in all of our existence. To talk about our comfort implies something or presupposes something. To talk about comfort presupposes what? The very idea of or need for comfort presupposes a misery. Adam and Eve did not need comfort in the garden because they had it already. Comfort presupposes a fallen, broken, needy, hurting, painful, difficult world.
It’s been raining a lot lately. We recently had some record rains. One time it was raining so hard it prompted Lucy to ask, “What if it rains so hard that it floods the whole earth?” Linus explained, “That will never happen. In Genesis 9 God promises never to flood the earth again and he gives the rainbow as a sign of His promise.” Lucy replies, “You have taken a huge burden off my mind.” Which leads Linus to conclude, “Sound theology has a way of doing that.” Sound theology. The Christian Reformed Church has a rich and deep theological history and heritage. That history and heritage is grounded in God’s Holy Word and explained in the Reformed Creeds and Confessions of our faith. It is my humble conviction that Reformed/Calvinistic theology gives us the clearest, most consistent and congruent understanding of all that God’s Word teaches. It is the soundest of all theologies and therefore holds out the most comfort for our hearts, minds and souls. The Heidelberg Catechism holds a unique place among all the creeds and confessions because it’s written in a much more personal and experiential style. It is written in the first person. It answers the question what has God done for me, rather than just who is God. The word catechism just means that it is written in question and answer style. The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism is one of the greatest questions in all of the catechisms ever written.
Two weeks ago we heard about the benefits of the ascension and preaching those benefits to ourselves. We don’t just have a risen Savior, we have an ascended Savior who now reigns on the throne of heaven with all power and authority. He is our Lord and King. He is our great high priest, the once-for-all perfect and complete sacrifice. By His blood our sins are forgiven. And now He is praying to the Father on our behalf. Continue to preach and proclaim to yourself Jesus who is in heaven, what He is like and what He has done and is doing for you, who’s side is He on. One of the fruits or benefits of the ascension is Pentecost. Jesus said He must ascend so the Spirit could descend. John 16:7 I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. So this morning let’s consider together the great benefits of preaching Pentecost to ourselves. Pentecost is the spiritual turning point in history. Something absolutely transforming and cataclysmic happened on that day. We just observed the anniversary of D-Day, which was a decisive turning point in the history of WWII. Pentecost is that decisive moment in our spiritual battle with sin and with walking in the will of God and in a relationship with Him. Pentecost is essential for your life as a Christian. In fact, you can’t be one without the Spirit. You can’t know or understand the Gospel without the Spirit, you can’t preach the Gospel to yourself without the Spirit, you can’t believe it or apply it without the Spirit.
“Why Did God …?” Have you ever started a sentence with, “Why did God …?” Have you ever been in a situation where your first thought is, “Why, God?” “Why did you do that or let that happen or allow that or make that?” If you are human you have had that question more than once. Or its counterpart, “Why didn’t God do this or that?” It is a sign of our humanity to ask the question, animals never ask that. That has been the question from the beginning of history. Why did God let Satan in the garden, why did God make man able to sin, why did God create everything good and then let everything go bad? Why does God do what God does? Why? If we want to truly understand the why questions of life, if we want to know the answers to life’s deepest mysteries, if we want to get at the root of all that has gone on in history and in our world today, we have only one option and that is to turn to God. God has revealed the answer to us. The answer to “why did God” is found in our text at the end of chapter 11 of Romans. This is a crescendo-like response to all the great doctrines Paul has written down in the first eleven chapters. Doctrines that sum up the first four solas. For eleven chapters Paul has expound on no matter how sinful we have been we are justified by grace alone, without any merit of our own, but on the basis of Christ alone, without any other sacrifice or righteousness of our own, though faith alone, without any human works to boast in. The only fitting response to this display of God’s sovereign mercy and grace in the face of our sin and just judgment is heart-felt adoration.
What must I do to be saved? The question before us this morning is the greatest of all questions. It’s the Philippian Jailer question. “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas gave the simple answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). Many people today take offense at that answer. Sophisticated people, intellectual people, proud people, politically correct people, take offense at this simple message to trust and obey Jesus. They want something more complicated, something more mysterious, or more philosophically profound, or more difficult, or something that requires some great effort, perhaps something more severe requiring “asceticism and severity to the body” (Colossians 2:23). Self-made men prefer self-made religion, religion after their own making, where their gods ends up being made in their own image. What must I do to be saved? How can an sinful person stand in the presence of a holy God? How is that person justified, on what grounds? That’s the central question.
Galatians 5:22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. On this weekend our nation remembers those who gave their lives fighting for peace. Peace is a universal human desire. Evident no doubt by the billions of dollars spent each year in search of peace. World leaders, diplomats and the UN fly around the world trying to secure peace. Our court system is filled with cases dealing with the breakdown in relationships. People go to counselors seeking inner peace or relational reconciliation. The human heart is by nature unstable, like the wind and waves, easily set to churning. I am sympathetic with those who experience anxiety or panic attacks, who worry and fear for the future. I know what it is to lay awake for hours and not be able to sleep, or wake up at 4 in the morning and not go back to sleep because of concerns weighing heavy on my mind. We are flesh and frail, life is filled with trials and troubles. We live in a broken sinful world that desperately wants peace. If peace is such a universal desire and if so many people are pursuing it, why is it so elusive? Because they seek it in all the wrong places.
The meaning of anger. One of the most helpful books on anger is by David Powlison, Good and Angry. It’s so good I want to read the entire second chapter to you. “Do You Have a Serious Problem with Anger?” Yes. That’s it, maybe the shortest book chapter in history. At the end of each chapter he has some applications. At the end of this chapter he suggests going back and rereading the chapter several more times. Do you have an anger problem? Have you ever had smoke coming out your ears or been red in the face or raised your voice? If you are human the answer is yes. From our two texts we learn there are three kinds of anger. First, there is God’s kind of anger called the wrath of God (Romans 12:19). God’s wrath is an expression of His holiness and justice. His wrath is perfect and pure and righteous and justified. It is always completely under control and never sinful. Second, being made in the image of God there is a way in which humans can also have a righteous anger, especially in the face of gross injustice and assaults on God’s character and nature. We carry in us a sense of what’s right and wrong, just and unjust. Paul says it is possible to be angry and not sin (Ephesians 4:26). In fact it would be a sin if Christians never got angry about injustice, abortion, domestic violence, abusing and distorting sex, dishonoring marriage, mocking God and His Word. Third, there is sinful anger, the last of the seven serious sins we have been considering. We could easily spend three sermons on these three kinds of anger, but I am only going to focus on the anger that affects us all the most, our sinful anger, what James refers to as, “the anger of man [that] does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). This is a universal sin. Everyone sins this sin. Anger is cross cultural, it respect no ages or peoples or positions. Anger may be the very first sin each of us ever commits as an infant. The youngest children can fly into a rage and throw epic temper tantrums over food, bedtimes, Legos, and Rainbow Dash. I wonder if the candy and toy aisles in stores are ever get completely dry of tears?