Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Why does Christ need to reveal Himself, and how does it happen?

Scripture Readings

  • 1 John 4:7-16
  • John 14:15-31

Introduction

Dear friends in the Lord,

One of the pleasures in our advanced digital society is to talk to robots when you ring enquiries of some more significant enterprises. It sometimes takes many minutes, and many entries into the keypad to get to the right department— if you are fortunate. But it’s only about then when the testing of your civility is really put to the test. Here’s the problem: many companies outsource their support departments to outfits overseas. The issue quickly explodes when the person who is supposed to help you speaks in an accent you really can’t understand. It takes multiple times of asking, and numerous times of explaining before you finally realise life is better living with the problem, rather than trying to fix it.

It is undoubtedly exceedingly difficult to explain something if you don’t really know the technical terms to describe your problem, and the situation is compounded if the person you asked don’t understand your question, and you, then, in exchange have no idea what he meant.
Let’s keep this in mind as we approach the sermon today. The question is, “Why does God reveal Himself only to his own, and how?

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Darkness, unbelief, no knowledge

John begins his Gospel and sketches the picture for us. God created the world in the beginning. Christ was the agent through which God created the universe. He is called the Word.

Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:3–4, NIV)

Between creation and the Gospel of John, something terrible happened: The world was plunged in spiritual darkness. Although the world was made through Christ, the people of the world did not know it. Although it belonged to Him, they, in unbelief, did not receive Him.
There were darkness, unbelief and no knowledge. Sin caused mankind to be spiritually blind. They did not speak the language of God, and they could not understand God. What they understood well, was darkness and the voice of the prince of darkness.

For them, and us, to hear God, to understand Him, see Him and receive Him, was not possible. We did not speak the same language, we did not have any communication. There is no option for us—we didn’t need to do anything to become sinners and be separated from God, we were born sinners. We had no choice between light and darkness, we were born into darkness. We are not born into a state of somewhere between darkness and light, so that by our choosing we slide one way or the other. We are born on the wrong side. Isaiah describes it in these terms:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:2, 9–10, NIV)

How do we get out of this mess?

There is good news:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)

The author of Hebrews puts it this way:

In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1–2, NIV)

Jesus Christ is the One who communicates between the Father and us. He is God’s Word.

To become children of God, we need a few things to happen: we need revelation, we need light, we need a new life, we need faith.

Revelation

Judas, not Iscariot, asked Jesus while they were still in the Upper Room with Christ in the night before Christ was arrested to be crucified the next morning,

“But, Lord, why do You intend to show Yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22, NIV)

This question follows the disclosure of Christ in the previous verse where He said:

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 14:21, NIV)

The expression “has my commands” is synonymous with “receive”, and it takes us back to the statement in the beginning: those in darkness did not receive Him. Light did not receive Him. Jesus said:

The world cannot accept Him (the Holy Spirit), because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:17, NIV)

So, what happens between living in darkness and receiving light? Quite a lot. The eyes of our heart open when the Holy Spirit gives us a new life. The Bible calls it “the birth from above”, to be born again. Then alone can we see and understand. John the Baptist said,

“A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. (John 3:27, NIV)

What was the mission of Christ? The woman at the well  answers, 

“I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, He will explain everything to us.” (John 4:25, NIV)

Indeed!  He makes Himself known.  He declares Himself.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24, NIV)

When our Lord answered Judas when he asked why He is going to reveal Himself to them and not to the world, He actually wanted them to know that without his revelation no sinner would not understand. Christ is the Word of God. Christ came into the world and became one of us. He speaks our language, and He understands our need.

But He has to stir our hearts out of death to understand who He really us, and to understand our need for salvation.  When He does it, He plants faith, life, light and the ability to receive the grace of God.

What is very critical to understand is that not all people receive the grace of God. Jesus said: “The world hates Me”. (John 7:7) Further into the same chapter we read that some  received Christ, and others were divided about Him. The leaders even insisted that He is devil-possessed. They wanted to kill Him. Why? Christ made it clear to them: they are born of darkness, born into darkness, and they served the prince of darkness.

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:43 47, NIV)

Does it take you back to the telephone conversation where it seems no one understands no one?

Some people can hear the Gospel of Christ a thousand times preached in simple language and still walk away untouched. See, not all people are going to heaven. Some inevitably will end up in hell. Jesus said:

“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39, NIV)

Another verse:

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:18–19, NIV)

So, my friend, you might sit next to Judas asking why and how is Christ is revealing Himself to you today? The answer to the “why” is this:

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23)

By this, you will know if you belong to Him. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NIV) That’s the test. Are you a child of God? You will know if you love Him. And you will love Him because He loved you first. Here’s the test:

Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:24, NIV)

There is a simple, but glorious, answer to the “how”:

My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23, NIV)

Think about it: the Creator of the universe pours his love out on sinners, on me, on you. Both He and the Son make their home in us. Your life should be the throne of the eternal, loving, saving God who made a claim on your life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

How does He live in us? By his Holy Spirit.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13, NIV)

The ministry of the Spirit is to teach us to understand who Christ is, and more about the love of the Father.

What is the result? We have peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27, NIV)

Is there more? Sure! Joy.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11, NIV)

But there’s more! Jesus declared:

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me… (John 14:30, NIV)

That’s why our Lord can give us this assurance:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:28–29, NIV)

We need revelation, we need light, we need a new life, we need faith. Where does it come from? It comes through the words of Jesus Christ:

These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. (John 14:24–25, NIV)

Conclusion

Why does God reveal Himself only to his own, and how?

The Word answers:

  • We are all born in darkness and need light. We are all in need of faith to see and receive Christ.
  • Not all who hear the word will believe, but those whom the Father has given to his Son will listen to his voice and follow Him.
  • Christ makes Himself known to us to enable us to receive Him as Lord and Saviour.

How does He do it?

  • He lays down his life for the sheep.
  • He gives us his Word
  • He gives us his Holy Spirit.

Can you be sure that you are a child of God? Yes, listen to his voice, receive Him because

…to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— (John 1:12, NIV)

Do you want to go home today with peace and joy in your heart? Take this assurance with you:  If Christ is your Saviour, no-one can snatch you out of his hand. Above all, if you know Christ as the truth, the truth will set you free, and if He sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 20 January 2019

 

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Visible churches warned – J.C. Ryle

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:22, NIV)

This verse appears to call the special attention of all true Christians to the seven “Epistles to the Churches of Asia Minor.” I believe it was meant to make believers take particular notice of the things which these seven Epistles contain. There was design in every verse of the Bible. There was design in every repetition of a verse, wherever it took place. There was design in the sevenfold repetition of the verse before our eyes.

The Lord Jesus, in all the seven Epistles, speaks of nothing but matters of doctrine, practice, warning, and promise.
  • You will observe that the Lord Jesus sometimes finds fault with false doctrines, and ungodly, inconsistent practices, and rebukes them sharply.
  • You will observe that He sometimes praises faith, patience, work, labour, perseverance, and bestows on these graces high commendation.
  • You will sometimes find Him enjoining repentance, amendment, return to the first love, renewed application to Himself – and the like.
  • But I want you to observe that you will not find the Lord in any of the epistles dwelling upon Church government or ceremonies. The leading principles of what may be called “the sacramental system” are not brought forward in any one of the seven epistles from first to last.
  • There are some who seem to hold that there can be no Church without a bishop – and no godliness without a liturgy. They believe that to teach the value of the sacraments is the first work of a minister, and to keep to their parish church the first business of a people.
  • The sacraments, Church government, the use of a liturgy, the observance of ceremonies and forms, are all as nothing compared to faith, repentance, and holiness.
  • We who rightly or wrongly, are called Evangelical clergy, do not preach about bishops, and the Prayer-book, and ordinances more than we do. But we believe that repentance toward God, faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and a holy conversation, are subjects of far more importance to men’s souls. Without these no man can be saved.
  • We often urge you to remember that he is not a Christian who is one only outwardly – that you must be “born again” – that you must have a “faith that works by love “ – that there must be a “new creation” by the Spirit in your heart.
  • According to one system, religion is a mere corporate business. You are to belong to a certain body of people. By virtue of your membership of this body, vast privileges, both for time and eternity, are conferred upon you. It matters little what you are and what you believe.
  • According to the other system, religion is eminently a personal business between yourself and Christ. It will not save your soul to be an outward member of any ecclesiastical body whatever, however sound that body may be. Such membership will not wash away one sin, or give you confidence in the day of judgment. There must be personal faith in Christ – personal dealings between yourself and God – personal felt communion between your own heart and the Holy Spirit.
  • This last system is the system which those who are called Evangelical ministers cleave to and teach. They do so because they are satisfied that it is the system of Holy Scripture.
In every epistle the Lord Jesus says, “I know your works.”
  • To one Church the Lord Jesus says, I know you labour and patience
  • To another your tribulation and poverty
  • To the third, your charity, and service, and faith.
  • But to all, He uses the words I now dwell on: “I know your works.” It is not, “I know your profession, your desires, your resolutions, your wishes”, but your works.
  • The works of a professing Christian are of great importance.
  • They cannot save your soul.
    • They cannot justify you.
    • They cannot wipe out your sins.
    • They cannot deliver you from the wrath of God.
  • But it does not follow because they cannot save you, that they are of no importance.
  • A man’s works are the evidence of a man’s religion. If you call yourself a Christian, you must show it in your daily ways and daily behaviour. Call to mind that the faith of Abraham and of Rahab was proved by their works.
  • Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says,

“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? (James 2:21–25, NIV)

  • The Lord Jesus knows the works of all impenitent and unbelieving souls, and will one day punish them. They are not forgotten in heaven, though they may be upon earth. When the great white throne is set, and the books are opened, the wicked dead will be judged “according to their works.”
  • The Lord Jesus knows the works of His own people, and weighs them. “By Him actions are weighed.” (1 Sam. 2:3.) He knows the why and the wherefore of the deeds of all believers. He sees their motives in every step they take. He discerns how much is done for His sake, and how much is done for the sake of praise. A few things are done by believers which seem very good to you and me, but are rated very low by Christ.
  • The Lord Jesus knows the works of all His own people, and will one day reward them. He never overlooks a kind word or a kind deed done in His name. He will own the least fruit of faith, and declare it before the world in the day of His appearing. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:8, NIV)
    • You may receive the bread and wine from my hands, and yet be cleaving to iniquity in your hearts. You may sit under the pulpit of an Evangelical preacher, week after week, and hear his words with a serious face, but believe them not. But remember this, you cannot deceive Christ.
    • Hypocrisy is a losing game. It will never answer to seem one thing and be another; to have the name of Christian, and not the reality. Be sure, if your conscience smites you and condemns you in this matter – be sure your sin will find you out.
  • Think also what encouragement there is here for every honest and true-hearted believer. To you also Jesus says, “I know thy works.” You see no beauty in any action that you do. All seems imperfect, blemished, and defiled. You are often sick at heart of your own short-comings. You often feel that your whole life is one great arrear, and that every day is either a blank or a blot. But know now that Jesus can see some beauty in everything that you do from a conscientious desire to please Him. As a father finds a pleasure in the least acts of his children, of which a stranger knows nothing, so I suppose the Lord finds a pleasure in our poor feeble efforts to serve Him.
In every epistle the Lord Jesus makes a promise to the man that overcomes
  • Seven times over Jesus gives to the Churches exceeding great and precious promises. Each is different, and each full of strong consolation: but each is addressed to the overcoming Christian.
  • Every professing Christian is the soldier of Christ. He is bound by his baptism to fight Christ’s battle against sin, the world, and the devil. The very fact that he belongs to a Church, attends a Christian place of worship, and calls himself a Christian is a public declaration that he desires to be reckoned a soldier of Jesus Christ. He not only professes to fight on Christ’s side against sin, the world, and the devil, but he does actually fight and overcome.
  • The professing Christian has the best of leaders: Jesus the Captain of Salvation, through whom he may be more than conqueror – the best of provisions, the bread and water of life – and the best of pay promised to him: an eternal weight of glory.
  • Armour is provided for the true Christian:

“Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13–17, NIV)

  • If you would make it clear that you have any title to Christ’s precious promises, you must fight the good fight in Christ’s cause, and in that fight you must conquer.
  • Victory is the only satisfactory evidence that you have a saving religion. You like good sermons perhaps. You respect the Bible, and read it occasionally. You say your prayers night and morning.
  • But how goes the battle?
    • How does the great conflict go on all this time?
    • Are you overcoming the love of the world and the fear of man?
    • Are you overcoming the passions, tempers, and lusts of your own heart?
    • Are you resisting the devil and making him flee from you? How is it in this matter?
  • You must either rule or serve sin, and the devil, and the world. There is no middle course. You must either conquer or be lost.
  • This is the road that saints of old have trodden in, and left their record on high.
    • When Moses refused the pleasures of sin in Egypt, and chose affliction with the people of God – this was overcoming: he overcame the love of pleasure.
    • When Micaiah refused to prophesy smooth things to king Ahab, though he knew he would be persecuted if he spoke the truth – this was overcoming: he overcame the love of ease.
    • When Daniel refused to give up praying, though he knew the den of lions was prepared for him – this was overcoming: he overcame the fear of death.
    • When Matthew rose from the receipt of custom at our Lord’s bidding, left all and followed Him – this was overcoming: he overcame the love of money.
    • When Peter and John stood up boldly before the council and said, “We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard” – this was overcoming: they overcame the fear of man.
    • When Saul the Pharisee gave up all his prospects of preferment among the Jews, and preached that very Jesus whom he had once persecuted – this was overcoming: he overcame the love of man’s praise.
  • They fought. They wrestled. They struggled. You must do the same. What was the secret of their victory? – their faith. They believed on Jesus, and believing were made strong. They believed on Jesus, and believing were held up. In all their battles, they kept their eyes on Jesus, and He never left them nor forsook them.
  • They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11, NIV)

I often fear much for those who hear the Gospel regularly, i fear lest you become so familiar with the sound of its doctrines, that insensibly you become dead to its power. I fear lest your religion should sink down into a little vague talk about your own weakness and corruption, and a few sentimental expressions about Christ, while real, practical fighting on Christ’s side is altogether neglected. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22, NIV)

  • Young men and women, and specially those who have been brought up in religious families, I fear much for you. I fear lest you get a habit of giving way to every temptation. I fear lest you become afraid of saying, “No!” to the world and the devil – and, when sinners entice you, think it least trouble to consent.
  • Believers in the Lord Jesus, of every Church and rank in life, I feel much for you. I know your course is hard. I know it is a sore battle you have to fight. I know you are often tempted to say, “It is of no use,” and to lay down your arms altogether.
  • Millions as weak as you have fought the same fight. Not one of all those millions has been finally led captive by Satan. Mighty are your enemies – but the Captain of your salvation is mightier still. – His arm, His grace, and His Spirit shall hold you up. Cheer up. Be not cast down.
Application
  • All who are living only for the world:  Take heed what they are doing. You are enemies to Christ, though you may not know it. He marks your ways, though you turn your backs on Him, and refuse to give Him your hearts. He is observing your daily life, and reading your daily ways. There will yet be a resurrection of all your thoughts, words and actions. You may forget them, but God does not. You may be careless about them, but they are carefully marked down in the book of remembrance. Oh! worldly man, think of this! Tremble, tremble and repent.
  • All formalists and self-righteous people: Take heed that they are not deceived. You fancy you will go to heaven because you go regularly to church. You indulge an expectation of eternal life, because you are always at the Lord’s table, and are never missing in your pew. But where is your repentance? Where is your faith? Where are your evidences of a new heart? Where is the work of the Spirit? Where are your evidences of regeneration? Oh, formal Christian, consider these questions! Tremble, tremble and repent.
  • All careless members of Churches:  Beware. You live on year after year as if there was no battle to be fought with sin, the world, and the devil. You pass through life a smiling, laughing, gentlemanlike or lady-like person, and behave as if there was no devil, no heaven, and no hell. Oh, careless Churchman, or careless Dissenter, careless Episcopalian, careless Presbyterian, careless Independent, careless Baptist, awake to see eternal realities in their true light! Awake and put on the armour of God! Awake and fight hard for life! Tremble, tremble and repent.
  • Every one who wants to be saved:  Do not to be content with the world’s standard of religion. Surely, no man with his eyes open can fail to see that the Christianity of the New Testament is something far higher and deeper than the Christianity of most professing Christians. The formal, easy-going, do-little thing which most people call religion, is evidently not the religion of the Lord Jesus. The things that He praises in these seven Epistles are not praised by the world. The things that He blames are not things in which the world sees any harm. Oh, if you would follow Christ, be not content with the world’s Christianity! Tremble, tremble and repent.
  • Every one who professes to be a believer in the Lord Jesus:  Do not to be content with a little faith, a little grace, a little repentance, a little faith, a little knowledge, a little charity, and a little holiness. Let us rather seek, every year we live, to make more spiritual progress than we have done – to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus – to grow in humility and self-acquaintance – to grow in spirituality and heavenly-mindedness – to grow in conformity to the image of our Lord.

Reformation

Jesus Christ, the center of creation, the message of the Bible

Scripture Readings:

  • Daniel 2:24-45
  • Revelation 5:1-14

Introduction

There was a time in history when the official church burned on the stake those who dared translate the Bible from Latin into English.  There was a time when only a few priests had the privilege of having a copy of the Bible; it was however in a language that neither he nor his congregation understood.  Scores of priests did not have a Bible to preach from, and many other had no scholastic training whatsoever.  In some cases some became priests because their parents were rich and could buy a parish for them; they then had to make ends meet by asking exuberant amounts of money to baptize children, perform marriages, funerals and take confessions.

Little wonder then that many of the lay people were ignorant to even protest against abhorrent practices like indulgences and the teaching of purgatory.  They were defenseless against any false teaching and had to just believe what was preached and taught from pulpits; papal bills contained many unscriptural demands and teachings against which no ordinary Christian could stand up.

Those times are described as the dark ages.

Let’s jump some 500 years ahead.  The Bible is translated into hundreds of languages.  About every Christian in the West can read, and many others are anticipating the publication of a portion of the Bible in their mother tongue.  It is not uncommon for the average Christian family to have at least two Bibles in their homes.  There is a study Bible for dads, for mothers, for girls, for boys, for singles, for teens, for soldiers and for students.

Yet, over us sweeps a tidal wave of illiterate Christians who cannot defend their faith.  For many churchgoers Moses and David are books in the Bible, while Genesis 1-11 is nothing more than a myth.  The Creator God is not worshiped any more, because the so-called science of Evolution make them feel unaccepted in this world where science has now the benchmark for faith.  Many Christians cannot defend the Biblical teaching of marriage in an increasing secular world where cohabitation has replaced marriage.

Only bout 4% of our population attend church on a regular basis, while the figure is lower for most of Europe.

As we celebrate the Reformation which started in 1517, many others right across what was formerly known as Christian countries choose to celebrate the renaissance of the occult in halloween, a celebration of divination, necromancy, human sacrifice and cruelty to animals.

What has happened?  Have we forgotten the original impact of the Reformers as they discovered and practised the teachings of the Bible?

  • Most of the languages of the world were first codified and put into writing by Christian missionaries.
  • More schools and universities have been started by Christians than any other religion, nation or group.
  • Christian Reformers and missionaries have succeeded in bringing about the abolition of slavery, cannibalism, child sacrifice and widow burning.
  • Those countries which enjoy the most civil liberties, are those lands where the Gospel of Christ has penetrated the most.
  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ is life-changing, history making and nation transforming. If it doesn’t change your life and the lives of those around you, then it’s not the Biblical Gospel.

The Reformers emphasized God’s Sovereignty, that Scripture alone is our final authority, that Christ alone is the Head of the Church, and that justification is by God’s Grace alone, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, received by Faith alone. The Reformers’ teaching on the depravity of man, the Covenant and church government have influenced positive political and social developments in liberty throughout the Western world and beyond, establishing checks and balances, the separation of powers and constitutional authority.

It might be that by ignorance, or just plain inactivity, we might lose what they fought for.

Why is the Bible so important?

I want to the time of Daniel and learn some lessons from the chapter we read this morning.

Daniel and his friends were in Babylonia at the time.  There were in a group of people who were taken into captivity to Babylon in 605 B.C.  After Jerusalem finally fell in 586 B.C. most other Jews were also deported to Babylon.

A concentrated world

We need to understand that Babylon was at the time the cultural pivot point, learning pinnacle and government seat of the world.  Babylon, and what it represented, was in more than one way a mini world.  Daniel acknowledges this fact when he speaks to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:

Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. (Daniel 2:37–38, NIV)

It was almost as if the world revolved around Babylon, while it was shaping the rest of the world.  The world did as Nebuchadnezzar wanted.  There was a world culture, a science of the world dominated by Babylon, and also a world religion.  Daniel 3 tells us more about that.

A troubled world

God had a plan with Nebuchadnezzar: He wanted the king to know that not he, but God is sovereign. So God gave him dream one night.

The king’s dream about the statue out of gold, silver, bronze and iron/clay really troubled him (Daniel 2).  He had to know what it means.  So he called in his wise men: magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers – more or less the scientists and religious thinkers of his day.

He expected what was humanly impossible from them: not only did they have to interpret the dream, they also had to to tell him what the dream was.  Yet knowing was terribly important, because, although he didn’t know it at the time, it would disclose God’s plan in history.

The credibility of the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers was at stake.   They stared being cut in pieces in the eye.

They admitted, “There is not a man on earth  who can do what the king asks.”  Exactly! They were right, only the God of heaven knows.

Further, “No one can reveal it to the king except the gods.”  Halfway correct this time, gods know nothing (Isaiah 44:17-18), only God does.  “They do not live among men.”  Correct, or maybe not: gods don’t, God does.

Their credibility was in tatters.  He called in his head butcher, Arioch, a man you do not really want to meat.   “Chop them up!”

A world in need for the Word

He needed to know the meaning of the dream and his wise men could not help.  What did not know was that God was troubling him all along.

Daniel appears on the scene. God’s perfect timing and planning.  Your wise men have got it right in one aspect. They said:

The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.” (Daniel 2:10–11, NIV)

Those who reject the Bible, reject God.  Those who reject the Bible God Himself calls fools.  Those who don’t listen to the Bible cannot say anything about the meaning of history and the purpose of life.  Man is then his own measuring stick, and to get him out of his predicament of meaningless, he tries to lift himself up with his shoe laces. They who deny God and his Word keep running into themselves and their so-called scientism delivers no-one from nothing, because it worships the created rather that the Creator.

So, Daniel has the answer:  it is the Creator God in heaven and his Word who unlocks what seems impossible to the wise of this world.

but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. (Daniel 2:28, NIV)

Daniel went home and called his friends together and they had a prayer meeting, pleading for mercy from the only God, “the God of Heaven” concerning the dream of the king.  During that night God revealed Himself and the mystery was solved.  The next morning they had another prayer meeting, now to worship God for his wisdom and power, for the fact that He is sovereign in the way He unfolds history;  they thanked God for giving them his Word!

Daniel returns to Nebuchadnezzar and proclaims the greatness of God: There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.  Daniel explains and interprets the dream of the king.  He explains what is going to happen through the Neo-Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires.  But he does not stop there.

While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. (Daniel 2:34, NIV)

All of these empires would only be an lead-up to the Messianic Empire of Jesus Christ, the Son of God “that will never be destroyed.”  He is the Rock cut out from the mountain, but not by human hands.

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. (Daniel 2:44, NIV)

The Bible, the story of the plan of salvation

Why is the Bible so important?  Because it is about God’s Self-revelation in Jesus Christ.  History belongs to God, because He made time.

When man turned against God and rebelled against Him in paradise, God puts into action his eternal council to rescue sinful man. What was planned in eternity now plays itself out in earthly history.  The eternal Son of God would fill the pages of the Bible to show in history how God will see to it that his banquet hall will have the full number of the elect sitting at the table of the Son.  History and the future without the knowledge of Christ as the focal point has no meaning.

For many eastern religions time is nothing but a meaningless repetition of events.  But for the so-called learned West life is meaningless, death is meaningless, and everything in between is meaningless.  Man is his own god who sets his own rules – and he lives a futile life, and he dies like a dog.

The Word of God is about Jesus Christ

Paul sings a song about Christ:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15–17, NIV)

When John saw the vision we read about in Revelation 5, he wept because there was no one to open the scroll.  God sat on his throne with that scroll which was the key to the unlocking of God’s plan of salvation on earth.

There was no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth to break the seals of the scroll.  If it depended on man, history would remain a closed book, meaningless and without purpose.  That’s why John wept.  An elder pointed him to someone:

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5, NIV)

John looked and he saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.  He was at the center of the throne:  everyone looked at Him.  The horns he had tells of power, and the eyes tells of the Holy Spirit.  He is all-powerful, almighty and full of all knowledge. He took the scroll from the hand of God – and now those around the throne of God fell down to worship Him. They brought to Him the offering of the prayers of the saints – those whom God called to Himself through the blood of the Lamb.  He is worthy to be worshiped as God!

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God people from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10, NIV)

Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it play itself out in history.  The promise to send one who would crush the head of the serpent given in paradise is the promise who would be fulfilled when Jesus Christ died on the cross and raised victoriously on that bright Sunday morning.

So, all the kings and kingdoms mentioned in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar were set there by God’s purposes to lead up to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  His is the King of kings and his Kingdom is over all kingdoms.
God reveals Himself by his Word, his Son, our Saviour.  The Word, the Bible is about Him.  It is true and infallible.  He is Immanuel (Matthew 1:23), God-with-us, the One who came to make his dwelling with us (John 1:14)

Many wise men are rejecting this word, and they will continue to do so.  Their credibility is at stake – that is lest they fall before the the Son and kiss Him.  If not, He will destroy them (Psalm 2:12).

Jesus Christ, our only Gospel

Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:2–5, NIV)

It was this message, only found in the Bible – the true Word of God – that was rediscovered by the Reformers 500 years ago.  Their motto then became:

  • Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
  • Sola fide (“by faith alone”)
  • Sola gratia “(by grace alone”)
  • Solus Christus “through Christ alone”
  • Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone”)

Their message was clear because it was to based on human or ecclesiastic tradition – they got it from the Bible only.

They set the world on fire, and no martyrdom or stake could stop them.  Their message spread around the world and millions found a new reason for living as they were taken to the Christ of the Bible.  Governments were changed; schools and hospitals became commonplace; universities popped up all over the place; slaves were set free; women were restored into society as image-bearers of God; books were printed by the million; the world were discovered, and most important of all, souls were saved by the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To them, and ultimately God, we owe the gratitude to have the Bible in our own tongue to read and understand, and hear God speak to us like He did in words of encouragement to his church whenever they found it difficult to move on.

Conclusion

My dear friend, where is your Bible?  Does it have fresh fingerprint from your hand on it as you studied it?  Can you defend your faith in this world hostile towards anything Biblical?

May God give us once again the vision for his Word and his Son as He did in the days of Luther, Calvin Knox and others.  We are in desperate need for it now that we are engulfed by this tidal wave of humanism and secularism.  Sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, sola gratia, soli Deo Gloria.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 28th October 2012