HC#2 Genesis 39:6b-10 What you need to know

What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort? (That I am not my own but belong body and soul, life and death to my faithful savior Jesus Christ…)

Three things:

First, how great my sin and misery are;

Second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;

Third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

Last week we spoke about the beauty of the first catechism question.  Today we are going to move on to the second.  It is a question about how one experiences the comfort of knowing that they belong to Christ. Frequently, reformed Christians have been accused of being very knowledge oriented.  People chide us for being people who live in our minds and not in our hearts or in real life, and that charge could be leveled today if one were simply to look at the phrasing of the question, “What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?” 

The question seems to imply that right knowledge will save a person.  That knowledge alone can make someone secure, but that is untrue, as we will see from the answer.  Truly knowledge is important and necessary to life, but knowledge alone doesn’t save.  Knowledge must be wedded to living.  Let me illustrate that point rather dramatically.  While sitting in the Zambian bush one night with some of the local men, I looked up and saw a satellite moving across the sky.  As I pointed it out and explained to the 2 men with me what it was, they gained knowledge. They now knew that white men, believed they had placed metal objects in the sky that aided us in communication.  But did that knowledge change their life?  On the contrary, they thought white men were crazy and out of touch with reality.  But contrast that with the Africans who lived in the city and carried cell phones and used the Internet.  Both people knew the same thing, but only one group had been so touched by the knowledge that it affected the way they lived.  The knowledge of one changed their entire way of life, the knowledge of the other was simply an obscure fact to laugh at and wonder about.

When the HC asks what one must know, it is implying the kind of knowledge that changes people.  I say that because the answer lists 3 specific things: a knowledge of sin, a recognition of how one is freed from sin, and finally, an action of response that should be taken upon integrating that knowledge into one’s life.

Let’s focus on these 3 things.  What do we, as people need to know and understand about sin?  Let me read you an excerpt from Joseph’s life. Gen. 39:6b-10 Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” 8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

 

Joseph’s response to his master’s wife is enlightening.  He defines sin rather simply and profoundly.  Joseph understood sin as a direct offense against God.  This is a lesson that many in society and even in the church fail to realize.  I have heard many people claim that their sins of lying, adultery, etc. are horizontal sins, but not a vertical sins.  What they mean by this is “I didn’t offend God by telling that lie, I offended my brother.”  It is a way of trying to insulate oneself from the reality that God hates sin.  I have heard people say, “My sin was private, and no one was hurt, because no one knows about it.”  This is a popular way of rationalizing pornography.  But is this true?  In a world where consensual sexual relations seems to be becoming the norm for judging whether something is legal and moral, Joseph’s story wouldn’t even make the evening news – 2 adults, both sleeping together, spouses never knowing, that’s passé and normal, we would say, but not Joseph.

He understood the real nature of sin.  All sin, whether consensual, private, hidden, or horizontal is an offense against God first and foremost.  Joseph teaches us that all sin is Vertical.  Joseph teaches us that all sin is against God.  The catechism, in line with the testimony of the Word, calls us to consider how great our sin is.  Frankly, it is greater than we can imagine.  A single lie is a great offense, greater than our understanding of killing a person.  A single look of hatred is a great offense, greater than killing 100 people.  A single refusal to obey our parents is a great offense, greater that assaulting our grandparents or stealing from our mother.  We can’t comprehend how vile an offense our sin is.  Consider these words from God,

1Sam. 15:23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

 

Psa. 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

 

Psa. 58:3 Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.

 

Jer. 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

 

Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

 

1John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

 

Psa. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.

Sin is bad.  In the words of William Throsby Bridges, the first Australian to reach the rank of general in the British Army, If the guilt of sin is so great that nothing can satisfy it but the blood of Jesus; and the filth of sin is so great that nothing can fetch out the stain thereof but the blood of Jesus, how great, how heinous, how sinful must the evil of sin be.”

Our sin is beyond comprehension, but the Scriptures call us to gain a biblical view of our predicament.  We are hopeless, dead in transgression, separated from God, without hope of ever being free from our desire for evil.  In short we are desperate and wretched.  But the catechism, like the scriptures, does not leave us without hope.   For when a person begins to understand the truth about sin, then they begin to desire more knowledge, specifically, how to be rid of this great problem between God and humanity.

Or in the words of the catechism, “how can I be set free from all my sin and misery?”  Did you notice the word all?  Like the Word of God, the writers of the HC wanted people to understand that all sin can be atoned for.  All sin can be obliterated.  All sin can be forgiven.  William Bridges gave us the key to our answer.  The blood of Jesus sets us free from our sin.  People must know about Christ in order to find relief from their sin.  As the Ethiopian Eunuch drove his chariot and read from Isaiah, but was unable to understand about the forgiveness of sins, until Philip stepped into the chariot with him, proclaimed the role of Christ in salvation history and baptized the man, then salvation was known to him.

Jesus is the sacrifice for sins.  Jesus is the atoning gift of life.  Jesus is the conqueror of the grave.  Cornelius the centurion didn’t find relief from his sin, until Peter preached to him in Acts 10:43.  The Philippian jailer didn’t find salvation until Paul called for him not to commit suicide and them explained the gift of God.  In the Old Testament, God gave humanity a set of symbols to point to ward the need to appease God when one had sinned.  These were called sacrifices. There were sacrifices to purify people from sin, there were sacrifices to atone for sin, there were sacrifices to establish fellowship with God, and there were sacrifices to make for unintentional sins.  There were sacrifices to make, just because life is sinful and they were made to cover all the things we might not be aware of having done.  Job offered some of these sacrifices for his children after their great parties, the word says,

Job 1:5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

 

But all of these were but a shadow of the reality, we are told in the New Testament.  For  Heb. 10:4 it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  But it goes on to say, Heb. 10:5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.

Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  And when someone comes to know this and let’s it transform his or her life, then a third wonderful thing happens.  They no longer desire to continue living in sin and instead they want to know how to live a new kind of life, a life of gratitude and thanks to God for the gift he has given.  The gift of life.

And it is this third part that sets people apart, for there are many who know about Jesus and there are many who know about sin and what the Bible says about it, there are even many who know about how the Christian should live, but like the bushmen of Zambia they treat this knowledge as a quaint fact of insanity belonging to an archaic faith.  These people know the truth but have no comfort, but when people know and desire to apply these teaching and live a new life.  When a person steps into faith, they have proverbially stepped into the city and engaged the knowledge in a way that changes their life and opens up new horizons.

How can someone thank god for his or her deliverance?  Why not simply say “Thank you!”  Listen to these words from Psa. 50:23a, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me.”  Expressing words of gratitude to a giver of a gift is one of our simplest acts of courtesy we teach our children.  A life of prayer that is permeated with thanks is a powerful way of living and enjoying the fullness of God.

A second way of expressing thanks, or living in gratitude is in telling others about what good things God has done.  David used these words, 1Chr. 16:7 That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this psalm of thanks to the LORD: 8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  David understood that proclaiming to others the good things God had done was a way of living a thankful life before God.  Jesus said the same thing to a demon possessed man whom he healed when we said, Mark 5:19 “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

All believers are called upon to share their life and experience of Christ with others.  The fancy term is called giving testimony when it is done inside the church, or evangelism when done outside the church, but regardless of where, those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good must share their story.  It is remarkable to me how verbal the saints of the scripture were.  They were always telling others of God’s goodness to them.  The New Testament is filled with one story after another of proclaiming God’s goodness to the lost.  We are an evangelistic people if we are a saved people.

So a life of thankful prayer, mixed with a life of verbal proclamation are two of the ways we can thank God for our deliverance.  There is however, a third way I would like to share with you as well.  I remember being helped by a gentleman one day when my car was broken down. When I said thank you, he responded with these words, “The greatest thanks you can give me is by helping the next person in need.”  What he was saying is “You can thank me by being like me.”  We all know the maxim, imitation is the highest form of flattery, but imitation is also a high form of thankfulness.

When you are truly thankful for what a person has done for you, you want to be like them.  Paul regularly exhorted his followers to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1Cor 11:1).  And this came from Jesus who himself said, If you understand what I am doing for you, then copy my life. That is my paraphrase of John 13:1-15.  So live a holy life, a set apart life, and a life intent upon being in the very presence of God always for this too is thankfulness for redemption from the misery of sin and death.

Go out and meet people.  Serve their needs.  Mentor a child.  Disciple someone at Three Trees. Get involved in issues of justice and morality.  Volunteer with CRWRC.  But do it not our of guilt or obligation but rather in joyful gratitude for the service that Son of God has rendered unto you.

What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort [of salvation]?

Three things:

First, how great my sin and misery are;

Second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;

Third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

 

And all God’s people said. Amen.

Sermon Outline

Knowledge verses knowing

How Great is sin

All sin is against God

Christ is the sacrifice for sin

3 ways to be thankful

1. Saying thank you to God

2. Telling others about what God has done for you

3. Imitating Christ

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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