This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-14
Confessions: Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9
Sermon prepared by Rev. Chris Pool, Collingwood, ON
Dear People of God,
Quite often if you turn on the news or read the paper you will inevitably hear stories of broken relationships between children and parents. Whether it is through neglect, abuse or just plain apathy, we live in a world where, quite often, relationships between parents and children are flawed. Sadly, in some families the relationship is so broken that children and parent become estranged and don’t have anything to do with one another. Someone who works for the Children’s Aid Society sees first hand the devastating effects that broken and flawed relationships can have when parents and children fail to thrive, as a family should. Emotional and physical abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, neglect and many other factors play a role in the breakdown of these relationships.
These are probably the most extreme cases, yet we all fail in our relationships in some ways. Whether it is not listening to your kids when they try to tell you something or being too busy with life that our relationships get left on the back burner, we probably could all name times where we have failed. After all, we are imperfect and fallen creatures. We make mistakes as humans and we don’t measure up to each other’s standards. There is only One who is able to meet that need. There is only one perfect Being that is more than we can ask for or imagine. He is perfect in every way and is the model for how all our relationships should be. That person is God our Father in heaven.
Today we will explore the theme: God has become our Father in heaven through Jesus Christ. We will explore the first chapter of Ephesians as well as Lord’s Day 9 as we discover three deep truths about our relationship with our heavenly Father.
First we will discover: Our Father in heaven has adopted us as his very own children.
Second we will discover: Our Father in heaven is a trustworthy Father.
Third we will discover: Our Father in Heaven deserves our praise.
Our first point: Our Father in heaven has adopted us as his very own children. In Ephesians 1:5 “we read that he predestined us to be adopted as his sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
When Paul writes to the Ephesians he does not write to correct a particular heresy or false teaching that the church was facing, but rather to tell the church of God’s eternal purposes that he has for the church. One purpose that God has for the church is for people to know that they have a Father in heaven. We all have earthly fathers. Some may not know their fathers, but we all have earthly fathers. Yet Paul wants the Ephesians to know that there is more for us than just having an earthly father; we have a spiritual Father. God in heaven is our spiritual Father who has adopted us as his children.
This is good news. God through the grace of his son Jesus Christ has adopted us as his children. This means that before Christ came into the world we were all illegitimate children in a spiritual sense. We belonged to the powers of darkness. In fact we could say that the Devil was our spiritual father. We belonged to the kingdom of darkness. We were all deserving of death because of the fall of humankind when Adam and Eve sinned. Christ changed all that when he died on the cross. He died so that we could be reconciled to God. He did what Adam was not able to do. He was obedient to God’s will for his life. Christ fulfilled all righteousness so that we would not have to. Now when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, God adopts us as his children. We no longer belong to the devil. We are baptized into Christ and share in all his blessings.
That is a pretty amazing thought if you really think about it. In fact the Heidelberg Catechism also puts it into perspective in Lord’s Day 9. In Lord’s Day 9 the catechism is just beginning to explain the Apostles’ Creed. So it examines the first line in the creed and asks the question “What do you believe when you say, I believe in God, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?” The answer that the catechism gives is profoundly personal. It suggests that the God who made the universe out of nothing and who continues to rule that universe has time in his busy schedule to be our God and Father. There is a personal element to our relationship with God that we see in the catechism. God does not just create the universe and then simply watch from a distance to see what is going to happen. He does not just wind it up like a clock and then let it run on its own and have nothing to do with it. God is intimately involved with his creation and he is intimately involved with his children here on earth as well. In Lord’s Day 9 it says that the God who created the universe “is my God and Father because of Christ his Son.”
Quite often when we say the Apostles’ Creed regularly in our worship services, we may get in the habit of just saying it by rote. We can make the mistake of just saying the creed out of habit. It can become mundane and lose something of the power and meaning that is behind each of the carefully selected articles or statements of faith to which we as a church universal adhere. When we confess “I believe in God the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth,” behind that line is the underlying meaning that this powerful and mighty God has adopted us as his very own children.
Like Jesus we too can call God our "Abba" Father which is a personal term of endearment in Hebrew that children use to call their fathers. It is the equivalent to a child calling their father daddy. God is our daddy in heaven. When we confess that together as brothers and sisters we join together as the family of God declaring that we belong to our Father in heaven. We are his children and we can take great comfort from that.
Even in the beginning of the Heidelberg Catechism we see that comfort that is so wonderfully expressed in question and answer 1: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” The answer: “That I am not my own but belong body and soul, in life and death to my faithful savior Jesus Christ…..” This comfort we receive runs through the catechism and we discover it once again each time we profess the Apostles’ Creed and state that God is my God and Father because of Christ his Son.
Our second point: Our Father in heaven is a trustworthy Father.
Again we can look to Lord’s Day 9. “I Trust him so much that I do not doubt 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.” The believers at the time the catechism was written were really tested in their trust in God. They were persecuted for their faith. As a result many of the early Reformers died for what they believed in. Yet they knew that God was worthy of our trust.
Perhaps when faced with tragedy and human suffering they did not ask why, but why not? Their trust in God was strong enough to believe that God was sovereign over all things in their lives, which included whatever adversity that came across their path. It was this unwavering faith that convicted people like Martin Luther and John Calvin to stand up for the truth that we are saved by grace alone. They trusted their heavenly Father enough to die for what they believed in. They had the assurance that, no matter what happened, their lives were in God’s hands.
When reciting the Apostles’ Creed the early reformers associated an element of trust when they expressed their belief in God the Father. In their confession they were suggesting that our Father in heaven is a trustworthy Father.
Dear people, because we are God’s children, we do not have to fear. The opposite of trust is fear. In Paul’s letters to the Romans, he writes in chapter 8:15, “for you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship. And by him we cry “abba” father.” Fear can restrict us as God’s children from truly becoming what God has intended us to be. God does not want his child to become a slave to fear. Fear restricts. It inhibits. It does not enable us to experience the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. God desires that his children are confident and sure of our faith and trust in him.
This also speaks to our relationship with our heavenly Father. God does not want us to be afraid of him. He wants his children to be filled with awe and wonder and love for who he is. We can have confidence as God’s children that he desires for us to truly experience the riches of his grace.
In the Ephesians passage that we read we see that not only is our Father in heaven trustworthy, he trusts his children enough to make his will known to them. He has entrusted us with a mission as a church and as his children. The task is simple. Our Father on heaven deserves our praise.
That is my third point: Our Father in heaven deserves our Praise. The mission for us as God’s adopted children is to praise him. In verse 11 of our passage we read, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will….” Then in the following verses we discover the purpose: “In order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession - to the praise of his glory.”
Our purpose is to praise God. We see that word praise four times in this passage from Ephesians. In verses three, six, twelve and fourteen. Our Father in heaven has adopted us as his children and our initial response is one of praise. We are put on this earth to glorify God. God deserves our praise. After all, not one of us deserves the kindness that God has given to us. No one deserves to be adopted by God as his children. It is not a right or privilege. It is only God’s power and grace that is the reason we have become his children. It is because God has shown us his incredible kindness towards us by sending his own Son Jesus Christ to die in our place for the sins of the whole world. The response too this good news should illicit praise.
As a church we are called to praise God in all things. Lord’s Day 9 ends with two reasons to praise God. The answer ends with, “He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.” There were two things that prompted praise from the early reformers lips.
The first is that God is almighty. Notice that this is the only divine attribute mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. God’s omnipotence or power is to be praised. Our Father is the one who holds all the power in the universe. There is nothing in this world that does not happen that he does not know about. He is the beginning and the end. He is the author of time. He is in complete control of the universe. Sometimes this can throw us for a loop, especially when we look at all the suffering and misery that is in the world. This can be a faith-breaker for some. Yet for God’s children, his power was made visibly manifest through his son Jesus. God’s power was shown to the whole universe when He raised his beloved son from the grave. The comfort that the early reformers received--and so can we--is that because of God’s power we now belong to Jesus when we put our faith and trust in him. Whatever happens to us in this sad world will not change that because of God’s power. Our Father in heaven deserves our praise.
The second thing that prompted praise from the early reformers’ lips was that God is a faithful Father. God is not like some of the deadbeat dads that we see today in society who don’t care for their children. They are unfaithful in their role as fathers and neglect their children’s needs. God is a Father who is faithful to his children. In fact his desire is that we flourish as his children. He is the kind of Father that turns to good whatever adversity comes our way in this world. God is a Father who is faithful to his word and promises. If he says it, he will do it.
As fathers and mothers today we can take lessons from our Father in heaven as to how to be faithful to our own children and the role that he has given us in raising up God’s children. God is faithful even when his children are unfaithful. That is the assurance of salvation. God’s grace is unconditional. We cannot earn it. It is freely given even though we do not deserve it. Our Father in heaven will continue to be faithful to his covenant promises even when his children break theirs. Our Father in heaven deserves our praise.
God has become our Father in heaven through Jesus Christ. In a world where our natural human relationships are flawed because of sin we can take comfort today that we do have a perfect Father in heaven. God loves each and every one of his children unconditionally. He has adopted us into his family because of his son Jesus Christ. God desires that we come to him for all of our needs. Our Father in heaven is trustworthy. As His children we can have confidence that God desires for us to flourish. He longs to live in relationship with us through His Word and Spirit. He has given us the ability to know Him better through his Word. Our Father in heaven has revealed a way to know him. We can discover the deep truths about God from Scripture. We can trust Him to supply all of our needs according to his riches in glory.
As a result our Father in heaven deserves our praise. Ask yourself how you can praise your heavenly Father this week? Is there some sin in your life that is hindering you from flourishing as a son or daughter of God? Confess it to God and invite his Spirit to help you change so that you can become the child God intended you to be. Is there a friend that does not know about our Father’s love? Ask God to give you the wisdom as to how you can invite him or her to church so that they may hear the gospel message. Perhaps things are going well for you in your life. Take time to praise God for that this week. As you spend time in God’s Word, take time to praise him for the spiritual insight that he gives to you.
We have many reasons to praise him because God has become our Father in heaven through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer of Application
“Father in heaven, you are powerful, awesome and mighty. To you alone deserve all glory, honor and praise in this universe. As your adopted children through Christ your Son, we praise you for your faithfulness to us. We find our only true comfort in you as our spiritual Father in heaven. Help us to become the children you intended us to be, so that we may be presented before your glorious throne without spot or blemish. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.”
Order of Worship
GOD GATHERS US FOR WORSHIP
Welcome and Announcements
Call to Worship:
Pastor: Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
People: Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
Pastor: Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
People: Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Pastor: Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
People: Praise the LORD, O my soul. (Psalm 103:1-2, 20-22, NIV)
Opening Song: “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” PsH 253
God’s Greeting: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.(2 Corinthians 13:13, NIV)
Song of Praise: “I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord” PsH 169
“Lord, Our Lord, Your Glorious Name” PsH 8
GOD REMINDS US OF HIS GRACE
Call to Confession: I John 2: 1-2
Prayer of Confession:
Declaration of God’s Grace for Sinners: Romans 8:15-17
God’s Will for His People: Proverbs 3:5-6
Song of Dedication: “When We Walk with the Lord” PsH 548
GOD SHAPES US THROUGH HIS WORD
Prayer of Illumination
Confessional Reading: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 9
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:1-14
Sermon: “God Has Become Our Father through Jesus Christ.”
WE RESPOND TO GOD’S SHAPING
Prayer of Application
Song of Application: “Holy God, We Praise Your Name” PsH 504
GOD SENDS US OUT INTO HIS WORLD
God’s Parting Blessing: “May the LORD bless us and keep us; may He make His face to shine upon us and be gracious to you; may the LORD turn his face toward us and give us peace. Amen.” (Numbers 6:24-26, NIV)
Our Parting Praise: “Father, We Love You” PsH 634