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An inspiring sermon about the assurance you can have in your relationship with your Father God.
Recently, those of us who are baptised, participated in the solemn and very significant Passover service - service that reminded us of that commitment we made at baptism – a commitment to change our life, and put our trust in Jesus Christ as our saviour.
And when we took that bread and wine at the Passover we were outwardly confirming that covenant with Jesus Christ - a covenant which involved inviting Jesus Christ and the Father into our lives in a close and personal relationship.
The strength of that relationship is one that we should think about each day of this week of Unleavened Bread because it is the heart and core of our hope and our confidence.
So let me ask you a question: Considering that special relationship: How confident are you that you WILL be in the kingdom of God?
There was a time in Jesus' ministry when the disciples asked him a question:
Luke 13:22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying
23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”
He doesn’t directly answer the question but he went on to reply:
24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.
It seems that some people are in for quite a disappointment.
At some other times Jesus said similar things:
Matt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
That’s pretty impressive: BUT
23 I will declare to them, ‘depart from Me’, ‘I never knew you; (you who practice lawlessness!’)
There’s some other parables in a similar vein:
Matt 22:2 The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son...
3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding and they were not willing to come.
4 again he sent out other servants saying “tell those who are invited “see, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and fatted calf are killed and all things are ready. Come to the wedding
5 but they made light of it and went their ways one to his own farm, another to his business.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.
12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
And of course we all know the parable of the foolish virgins in Matt 25.
Matt 25:6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’
7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’
12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
These words of Jesus are disturbing and unsettling. And so they should be.
But what about us? I know I’ve read those verses and wondered. I’m sure you have too. “What will Jesus think of me when he returns?”
So let me ask you again: How confident are you in your salvation? That you will be in the kingdom of God?
Are you 100% confident? 50%? 20%? Or are you just hoping against hope you will be there?
Our relationship with Jesus Christ is a very serious matter. Serious not just for us – but also for Jesus himself.
YET God can seem so distant from us
- And sometimes our prayers feel that they are going nowhere
- Particularly when we know that we have messed up and haven’t been perfect
- it feels like he’s backed away from us
Here we are, each of us flawed and hopeless in our own way - struggling to overcome this world, slipping and failing, and we know we are simply not as good as we should be
Yet through all our ups and downs of our own flawed lives we are supposed to have real confidence in our calling and the future it offers
- How can that be?
How confident are you in your relationship with Jesus Christ and the Father?
What I would like to speak about today is (in my opinion) one of the most important understandings that we can possibly have and it’s particularly relevant at this time of year.
It has to do with the heart and core of our relationship with Jesus Christ and our father in heaven, and the absolute confidence that it should give us.
Our calling is not a hit and miss affair.
- It’s not some cryptic game where the winners are announced at the end. /SURPRISE – I don’t believe I made it!/ SHOCK - Oh No I missed out!
- Or where our standing with Jesus Christ goes up and down depending on our own daily mood and frailties
- where we just hope we are not in a slump when Christ returns and we get a big shock when he rejects us
TAKE NOTE OF THIS VERY IMPORTANT POINT about that covenant:
If we have repented, been baptised, and accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ –
- then we have ALREADY been chosen
- we are ALREADY one of the elect
- ALREADY a son of God in embryo
- and we are HEIRS according to the promise
There’s no if’s buts and maybes about it from God’s perspective
- we WILL be in the kingdom of God
Certainly we can decide that we don’t want it - we can walk away from it
- but God’s not going to do that to us
- after all it is a COVENANT – something that God takes VERY seriously
- it’s a GUARANTEED PROMISE if we just maintain our trust in him
- Our destiny is now in our own hands.
Jesus summed up that absolute promise in no uncertain terms:
John 6:54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood HAS eternal life, and I WILL raise him up at the last day.
55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread WILL live forever.”
(that‘s an unequivocal promise!)
It IS difficult for us to accept how our God can be so trustworthy and so reliable and consistent when we are so inconsistent and so frail much of the time. It’s only understandable when we fully grasp the nature of the relationship:
This is not a business deal that we have entered into with Jesus Christ
- it’s not a legal contract between 2 suspicious partners
- it’s not a point system with some sort of minimum pass grade (like Australian citizen)
It’s the relationship between a loving father and his children
- guaranteed by the sacrifice of a loving elder brother
- And that’s so easy to forget!
1 John 3:1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
2 Beloved, NOW we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
We can easily do lip-service to what read here
- We mess up or have a mediocre run for weeks or months
- And we think that God has turned his back on us
But real fathers don’t do that. It takes a HUGE amount for a good father to finally get to the point that he would reject his own children.
I personally feel that this is where we so often lose our way.
- We forget the nature of our relationship
- And how close and faithful Jesus Christ & our father really are and WANT TO BE
It’s a relationship that should give us a confidence and a boldness that other people don’t have.
Many times Paul stresses the importance of being confident in our calling:
Phil 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being CONFIDENT of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
If we have unhealthy doubts and fears whether God is with us and whether Jesus Christ might disown us in the end
- Then we must recognise how damaging this is to that relationship
- and we need to prayerfully repent for doubting his intentions and faithfulness
There is simply NO PLACE FOR UNHEALTHY FEARS in our relationship with God.
I was talking to my son on this topic a few weeks ago. We were discussing how a person could really know where they stood with God.
So I asked him a question.
“How confident are you that I (your father) won’t desert you or reject you?"
He said “You would never do that”.
“But what if I did”.
He said “No that wouldn’t happen”.
“But what if I said I wanted nothing to do with you anymore?”
He said “I know for certain that you would never do that”.
“What? you have TOTAL confidence in me that I wouldn’t reject you? Would bet your life on it if you had to?”
“Yes I would”.
“Why is that?”
“Because you’re my father. You wouldn’t never do that.”
“So here I am your flawed physical father and you have absolute confidence that I will be here to support you?"
How much MORE than a physical father does your heavenly father cares for you?
It’s going to take a lot to get to the point where a dedicated father would finally give up on his son or daughter.
Now I realise that not everyone can say that about their worldly father or mother
- (and neither am I saying that I am something special)
- I’m simply reflecting what I think most parents would say about their children.
What father or mother would ever reject their son or daughter when they see them struggling to do what is right?
There is a HUGE difference between a rebellious son or daughter - and one that is trying to do what is right. Even if they slip up, they’re loving parents are not going to desert them
What is God really looking for in us?
- Is he looking for the perfect person who never makes a mistake?
- Is that what you look for in your children?
What God is looking for - is for us to put our total confidence in him.
- To turn to him in times of need and in times of plenty
- To open our deepest innermost thoughts fully to him
- To confess our sins and ask him for help
- Putting our trust in him rather than anything else
- Being confident that he is indeed our exceeding great reward
Our natural tendency is to put our confidence in our own righteousness and our own worthiness
- but when we focus on that - all sorts of doubts come – rightly so
You and I of ourselves would never be worthy to be in the very family of God.
- If that’s what it relied on the relationship would collapse in an instant.
Our confidence is in the incredible sacrifice of Jesus Christ
- And God’s faithfulness towards his beloved children
- And his willingness not to impute sin against his elect when we repent
And that is why the strength of our relationship with JC and the father is so important.
Paul taught that this confidence that we have in God is the true measure of our righteousness:
Rom 4:20 He (Abraham) did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
Abraham was not perfect. Neither were any of the heroes of faith that we read about in Hebrews 11. These were people just like us. In many cases they had far worse failings than us.
ALL the people of God past and present have come up short
- If we are relying on our own righteousness – then none of us has a hope.
- None of us will ever be good enough
When they failed (as they so often did) they knew how to repent and call on his grace and forgiveness - and they knew for certain he would respond
As we think about our relationship with Jesus Christ this week, it is NOT a time to get discouraged because of our own failings
- It is a time of GREAT encouragement that God and Jesus Christ are with us despite our weaknesses
- That they are determined to complete their work in us
- That they will not impute sin to us when we repent
- BY GRACE WE ARE SAVED NOT OF OUR OWN WORKS as Paul so clearly taught
- It’s all about God’s righteousness – not our own
Now Satan doesn’t like this one bit. He wants to fill you with doubt.
Satan doesn’t want you to look at Jesus Christ – the author and finisher of our faith.
- He wants you to focus on your own failings & inadequacies
- He wants you to approach the this whole holy day season thinking your worthless & a failure
- He wants you to think that God will drop you like a hot potato when you sin
- He wants you to doubt that God is even with you at all
- He wants you to think that Jesus might just reject you in the end
He is the accuser of the brethren.
- Rev 12:10 tells us that he is an accuser of the brethren and accuses you and me before God day and night!! (Rev 12:10)
And I’m sure he’s got a lot to say! And a lot of it (no doubt) is even true. Fortunately we have someone very powerful who will intercede for us.
Rom 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect (chosen ones)? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (and if we were perfect we wouldn’t need to be interceded for)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Could he say it any stronger?
During this week of unleavened bread, we should ask ourselves:
- Do I absolutely believe what is written here?
- that the blood of Jesus Christ has made me clean in God’s eyes?
- That neither life or death nor principalities or powers or height or depth or any other created thing can separate us from the love of God?
And if we don’t have that confidence we should search ourselves and ask why.
Because without trust a relationship is not strong
- Imagine a marriage where you regularly query whether your mate has deserted you or might betray you.
- That’s a marriage that’s headed for failure.
How destructive it also is to our relationship with Jesus Christ and the father if we doubt them
- where we wonder month by month if God is still with us
- If we think like that - can we really come boldly to the throne of grace?
- We can’t! There are too many if’s buts and maybes!
Doubts like this hold us back from becoming the intimately close sons & daughters of the Father that we must be.
- Where we can open our hearts and reveal our deepest thoughts
- And come boldly to him
- With absolute confidence that he is there to help and NOT HARM
And this is not just a nice idea. It is mandatory!
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God MUST believe
(1) THAT HE IS (means more than just believing he exists)
(2) HE IS A REWARDER OF THOSE WHO DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM
Not only do we have to believe who he says he is
- We MUST believe that there is a reward waiting for us
- We have to have absolute confidence in that fact
Now there exists in the wider Christian movement a lot of confusion over this concept of trusting in God’s righteousness and not our own.
Many will say: “See there you go: it’s all done for us”. - we don’t have to do anything at all – just trust Christ do the work
The same confusion existed in New Testament times and Paul had to address quite strongly. To the Romans he wrote:
Rom 3:31 “Do we make void the law because we trust in God? Certainly NOT! On the contrary we establish the law!"
And this should make perfect sense when we stop and think about it even briefly.
Imagine saying to someone who was there to help us in a time of need “OK I trust you” and then we proceeded to ignore everything they told us to do!
- I might say I trust them but my actions show that I DON’T
- Has that ever happened to you? It’s happened to me many times. People have come and asked my advice on various matters and then proceeded to ignore everything I said. Their actions clearly demonstrate that they don’t trust me.
Common sense should tell us that putting our trust in God is not just saying the words
- It’s not an fuzzy feeling
- Abraham’s trust in God was demonstrated by his willingness to act & change his life.
- Whether we trust God or not is proven BY OUR ACTIONS not our words!
- By our diligence in striving to do what he tells us to do!
- How else can our trust be measured?
- Why say “Lord, Lord” but not do what he says? (Luke 4:46)
But here’s the key point:
We don’t obey God to demonstrate how righteous we are, we obey him to demonstrate that we do indeed trust him and have our confidence in him and him alone.
And all this ties together so perfectly this week of Unleavened Bread:
- This week we are reminded not only of the importance of bringing Jesus Christ into our lives as the bread of life
- But also of the need to get the unrepented sin which damages that relationship out of our lives
If we are striving to live God’s way of life and trusting in him, even with all of our imperfections, then we can have absolute confidence in both the relationship and our future reward.
When we understand the strength of the relationship with our father, and consider those scary parables I read at the start
- we can dismiss those first two because they are not applicable at all to someone who has his trust in Jesus Christ.
If we look at them again, we can see that they are not talking about a son or daughter of God trying to overcome this world. They are talking of a different category of person altogether.
Luke 13:27-28 “‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.
A begotten son of God who is struggling to overcome this world is NOT a “worker of iniquity”. That is a very serious charge.
- He is obviously directing this to the hypocritical Pharisees who never knew him at all. (“you yourselves thrust out”)
Same with the Matthew 7:
Matt 7:23 I will declare to them, ‘depart from Me’, ‘I never knew you; you who practice lawlessness!’
There is a massive difference between “someone who practices lawlessness” and a son who has been who is striving to do what is right and deeply repents when they fail.
- Don’t ever get confused over that.
- These 2 parables are for those who don’t know their father and he doesn’t know them.
- They use the name of God and Jesus Christ in VAIN.
- And there have been many, many, many such people in history
John 6:37 All that the father gives me will come to me - and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.
Now if you are deliberately sinning and just hoping that God will overlook what you are doing - then you should be rightly afraid because the relationship of trust is not there.
- Or if you are a hypocrite in your personal life, be very concerned. Jesus had no time for hypocrites at all.
- God will not be mocked by someone who lives a life of pretence.
What about the parable of the man at the wedding with the wrong garments? Matt 22. What do we make of that? Could that be you?
Well it should be obvious from the parable, that this man wilfully chose to come to the marriage feast without wearing the right garment.
- When questioned about it we are told he was SPEECHLESS
- He had no defence
- He knew he was invited to the greatest wedding and feast of the age and yet he chose to do nothing about his attire at all.
- It was simply inexcusable
He defiantly showed disrespect to the king and everything the king represented.
- Very similar to those in the parable who (we are told) “made light of” the whole idea.
Do you relate to that?
- Are you dismissive or flippant about the incredible invitation we have before us?
- Are you totally happy with your old self and decided you have nothing to change?
- Like the man who buried his talent in the ground and does nothing?
- If you do, then yes, you have a serious problem! And you should be concerned!
But this doesn’t sound like one of the elect who is striving to be pure in God’s eyes.
Remember again, a person who is baptised and striving to live God’s way of life and reflect his character has nothing to fear from our father in heaven.
- His sins will be washed clean
- And his garments are as white linen
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And then there’s the parable of the Foolish Virgins. Could that be us?
Well of course it could be.
But a foolish virgin who is nearly out of oil, is not someone who is striving to live Gods way of life.
This is not talking about the ups and downs of weekly life
- It’s talking of those who have let the holy spirit run right down
- Something which takes a period of time
Unless we are totally delusional - we all know when we have been slack.
- Neglecting prayer and bible study
- Selfishly living life without regard to others
- Neglecting our great salvation produces no good fruits
Note there was no surprise on the foolish virgins part – they knew they were in trouble even before the master arrived.
A person who has drifted from God can delude themselves into thinking they are fine. But deep down they know that they are not doing their part.
If you know you have been slack, if you have been neglecting this great salvation,then it is time to get to work!
The good news is when you turn to God in heartfelt repentance you can have total confidence that the relationship can be restored
This week of unleavened bread is perfect time to really consider where we stand.
As I wrap up today I would just like to give you some practical things for you to think personally about this week.
- Some tests you can do to help you examine the strength of your relationship with Jesus Christ and the father, things that you can do in the privacy of your own prayer time.
That’s how much confidence he had that God has nothing but our best interests at heart.
Remember with all this, our day to day “feelings” are not the true measure of the relationship.
- We will all feel at times that God is distant.
- Many of the greats felt that
- Job felt God had left him a time in his life when God was giving him his undivided attention! Elijah felt the same.
That is why we have to trust in God and his promises – and not in our own feelings.
There’s a saying I like which is well worth remembering. It’s one that is said to have come from an old Confederate General (Stonewall Jackson).
He said that a person should NEVER TAKE COUNSEL FROM THEIR FEARS
How true this is. Decisions and mindsets based on unhealthy fears will always end up poorly.
If we are living our Christian life with doubts and fears in the back of our mind
- if we celebrate this week of unleavened bread with subconscious doubts whether Jesus Christ is really a permanent part of our lives
- then we need to get to the source of those doubts and root them out
We do that by facing our fears fully.
- Admit them to God. Tell him we’ve got doubts and fears.
- And strive to get to know him better.
- And let his peace and confidence fill us
If God is for us, who can be against us.
We have nothing to fear
- Our future reward is real, its exciting
- Our crown is waiting for us and it is there for our taking
How comforting are those words:
Luke 12:32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
A right example heard around the world
Do dinosaurs pre-date Adam and Eve?