Exercise Patience as You Listen to the Preaching of God’s Word

Sadly, our culture has helped make us all far less patient than we need to be. We live in a world full of impatient people who demand instant gratification from those who serve them. I’m afraid this self-centered way of thinking has now become tolerated, or even accepted, in our local churches. As a result, we seem to want everything now—from short worship songs to brief prayers to brief sermons. We have this same mentality virtually everywhere we go. We want fast service at restaurants and immediate access to information on our smartphones. We evaluate every invitation to do something with others by how much time it will take for us to participate. Even as we worship God, we want things to be fast and convenient; if they are not, we are quick to complain.

But listening as God speaks to us is not always fast or convenient. It is challenging work, and it often constitutes the longest part of our worship services. Strangely, we seem to be able to watch a movie for hours or attend a long sporting event without complaining, but we want our worship services to end precisely on time so we can rush off to lunch and to the next thing on our schedule. If the preaching runs a bit too long by our standard, we are quick to complain to others in the church, and possibly even the pastor, that we feel that way. Don’t we realize the damage we can cause by having such a critical attitude? We don’t help anybody by trying to rush through our worship services, least of all ourselves. We need to learn to be patient!

We must remind ourselves that rich, deep, biblical sermons—sermons with substance that are able to feed our hungry souls, minister to our deepest hurts, and ultimately help us grow in Christlikeness—are rarely able to be delivered by a pastor in a mere fifteen minutes! According to Nehemiah 8:2–3, “So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard . . . from early morning until midday . . . And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” Just imagine! Ezra read God’s Word to the people for hours, and they listened! In a similar way, we must remember to be patient as God’s Word is faithfully expounded and to not allow other things to distract us from hearing what God wants to say to us. Nothing in all the world is more important to us than hearing from God, so we must be sure to make that the top priority of our lives. This requires us to be patient listeners when our pastors open God’s Word and proclaim its truths to our hearts.

A Hearer of God's Word

Preaching Sermon

Come Prepared as You Listen to the Preaching of God’s Word

Because the preaching of God’s Word is the most significant and challenging part of public worship, it requires mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual participation from not only the pastor but also the listeners.

For the pastor, preaching is an exhausting process. In fact, some think that preaching just one sermon is the equivalent of a full eight-hour work day. Thus, pastors who preach two sermons are working sixteen hours in one day. While others may not agree with this somewhat exaggerated statement, preaching two sermons in one day takes a ton of energy out of the preacher. Pastors also have to labor for hours prior to preaching in order to prepare the messages God has put on their hearts. In his article “How Much Time Do Pastors Spend Preparing a Sermon?” Thom S. Rainer concluded that “70% of pastors’ sermon preparation time is the narrow range of 10 to 18 hours per sermon.”[1] Obviously, good, biblical sermons don’t write themselves. Pastors must devote many hours to praying, studying, and writing out their messages (and hopefully getting some rest!) before they stand before the congregation. A Hearer of God’s Word

Because the preaching of God’s Word is such a crucial part of God-honoring worship, the congregation must also come prepared to receive what God says to them. But this does not happen automatically. It requires some planning and special effort on our part, and we will benefit far more from each worship service—and each sermon—if we prepare ourselves in at least two ways.

First, we must prepare ourselves spiritually. Receiving the preached Word of God is challenging work; it requires alertness and active listening on our part. Yet it is also one of the most important things we do as growing Christians! Just as physical trainers teach athletes to stretch their muscles and warm-up prior to intense exercise, so we should take some time to “stretch our spiritual muscles” before we participate in public worship. This means we must prepare our hearts and souls to receive biblical truth from God, truth that is sure to stretch us spiritually as we are clearly reminded of the awesomeness of God, the lostness of unbelievers, and even the lingering sinfulness of our own imperfect hearts. The glorious truths of Scripture should produce great joy in our hearts, but they are not always easy to receive, since they also call on us to confess sins and to change our lives in significant ways.

We should remember that prayer is the most important way for us to prepare ourselves spiritually for worship, as we ask God prior to each service to make our hearts receptive to whatever He wants to teach us. Another way to do this is to find out in advance what text is going to be preached (which is often posted in the church bulletin or on the church website) and to spend some time reading it and contemplating what it says, either the night before or the morning of the worship service. Take some time to pray over the specific passage of Scripture, asking God to help you understand it better as you hear it preached and to show you how to apply it to your own life. We can also prepare ourselves spiritually by singing hymns or listening to Christ-exalting music as we get ready for church.

Second, we must also prepare ourselves physically to worship God with our church family. It is easy for us to forget that our bodies are involved in worship too! We use our eyes to watch the pastor and read the Bible. We use our ears to hear the music and to listen to the preaching. We use our mouths to sing and to pray. Sometimes our legs are used for standing to sing or pray with our church family. Likewise, our mind is vital for all of these things and for contemplating the life-changing truths that are proclaimed to us from Scripture. Sometimes we try to distinguish the spiritual worship of God from anything that we do physically, but we can’t do that. When we worship God, we do so physically.

This means that when our bodies are exhausted, it is hard to participate fully in worship. We’re far less likely to benefit from the sermon if we are too tired to even listen to what is preached. We owe it to ourselves, to our church family, and certainly to God to be sufficiently rested prior to attending worship. Are we going to bed at a good time? Parents, are you making sure children get their sleep on Saturday night so that the entire family will have the physical energy to benefit from the church service? If you’re blessed to attend a church that has two services on Sunday, are you faithful to attend both services as often as possible, and are you trying to rest before attending the evening service? Sometimes the most pious thing we can do on Sunday afternoon is take a nap so that we’ll be physically prepared for the evening service. Whatever our particular schedule may look like, we should make every effort to limit our evening activities the night before we attend worship and to prepare ourselves physically as well as spiritually.

     [1] Thom S. Rainer, “How Much Time Do Pastors Spend Preparing a Sermon?,” June 22, 2013, https://thomrainer.com/2013/06/how-much-time-do-pastors-spend-preparing-a-sermon/.

Note: This post is an excerpt from A Hearer of God’s Word: Ten Ways to Listen to Sermons Better

 

Preaching Sermon

Ten Ways to Listen to Sermons Better (Part 1)

One crucial part of public worship—and often the longest part of each worship service—is the preaching of God’s Word. Without a doubt, this is the most important part of public worship since it is God’s primary means for saving sinners and sanctifying those who have already believed in Christ. Yet preaching is also the most difficult aspect of our worship service, not only for the pastor preaching behind the pulpit but also for the members listening in the pews.

During preaching, two things happen simultaneously. First, using the preacher as His instrument, God speaks to us; second, as God’s Word is faithfully proclaimed, we are expected to listen. But good listening does not happen automatically! In fact, listening to a sermon that lasts thirty minutes or more can be a struggle for even the most devoted Christian. There are so many potential distractions—from physical weariness and our own personal thoughts and opinions to the things happening around us at any given moment. We have to be intentional if we are going to listen to sermons well. Yet, if we are truly honest with ourselves, many of us are not good listeners—let alone good sermon listeners.

One of the greatest problems in our churches today is poor listening. Too often we put the blame on our pastors when we are not sufficiently fed by the preaching of God’s Word. We complain and tactlessly say, “Our pastor is not a good preacher.” However, it is wrong for us to think that the blame for our dissatisfaction with public preaching should always fall on the pastor. Perhaps at times it does, since pastors are not perfect themselves. But if your pastor is genuinely preaching the full counsel of Scripture (as God has divinely commanded him to do) and seeking to do so effectively, then perhaps you should consider whether you are truly honoring God with the way you listen to sermons. All of us have surely struggled in this area and could stand to become better listeners, especially with regard to sermons. So, in humility, let us together seek to become more pleasing to God in the way that we listen to the preaching of His Word. In the following pages, I share ten biblical and practical ways that I believe we can and should follow with God’s help. A Hearer of God’s Word

1. Pray as You Listen

In 1 Samuel 3:10, Samuel spoke to God, saying, “Speak, for your servant hears.” We can almost hear the eagerness in Samuel’s voice as he pleads, “Lord, please speak to me, because I am listening to You. I am ready to hear what You want to say to me!” Like Samuel, we should communicate with God about our desire to hear from Him. We as listeners should participate in sermons by listening prayerfully, and we can do this in at least three ways.

First, pray before the sermon. Do you pray before the start of each worship service, asking God to speak to your heart? Do you thank the Lord for sending a preacher to teach God’s Word to you, and do you ask the Lord to bless His servant? Are you intentional in asking God to make the sermon’s message clear to you and to help you hear and receive the truth? Preparing our hearts for worship in this way—and asking God to remove any distractions that might prevent us from hearing from Him—can help us listen better as God’s Word is proclaimed.

Second, we can also utter brief prayers during the sermon. Of course, it is important for us to be quiet and respectful during the message, listening to all that is preached from the pulpit and being careful not to distract others as God speaks to each of our hearts. But it is still appropriate to pray short, silent (or nearly silent) prayers to God as we hear Him clearly speaking to us through what is preached. This can be as simple as whispering a quick “Amen!” or “Thank you for this truth, God!” or as profound as asking God to forgive you for a sin of which you are convicted because of the sermon, or to help you live out a particular instruction being preached. By praying like this while we listen, we are in a sense seasoning the sermon with prayer, asking God to penetrate our hearts deeply with His powerful and life-changing Word. We must remember that the almighty God of heaven is actually speaking to us as His Word is preached, and we should be sure to receive His message in the appropriate way and in a spirit of genuine gratitude.

Third, we should also remember to pray after each sermon, asking the Lord to help us remember and apply the truths we have just heard, so that we might grow not only in our listening but in our daily obedience to Him as well. God’s Word exhorts us to become “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22), and we can’t possibly do this in our own abilities. We must remember to ask God to penetrate our hearts with His Word and to make us able to live what it teaches!

Note: This post is an excerpt from my new book A Hearer of God’s Word: Ten Ways to Listen to Sermons Better. A Hearer of God’s Word (back cover)

 

Advertisement Announcement Sermon

Covenant Children Yet Children of Belial

In 1 Samuel 2:12-21, we meet the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Pinehas, who were described as worthless. Yes, they were priests, but they were worthless. The actual wording for this text reads as follows, “And the sons of Eli were sons of worthlessness.” The word for “worthlessness” in Hebrew is belial, which derives from beliy (without) and yaal (value). In other words, they were wicked and without any value; they were good for nothing.

 

Why would the Bible describe Eli’s sons this way?

First, the Bible describes Eli’s sons this way because “they did not know the LORD” (v.12). They were aware of Jehovah of course, but did not truly know Him. In Genesis 4:1 we read, “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” The word “knew” in Genesis 4 and the word “know” in 1 Samuel 2 both refer to a personal, intimate relationship. If you do not know God personally, you are like Eli’s sons—worthless before God.

Because Eli’s sons did not know the Lord, they were children of Belial despite being covenant children. “Belial” is used in 2 Corinthians 6:15 as another name for Satan. In that passage we are instructed not to be yoked together with unbelievers. We are also reminded in that same passage that righteousness and lawlessness, darkness and light, are incompatible with one another (2 Cor. 6:14-15). You cannot be both a child of the Devil and a child of God at the same time. You are either a child of God (believer), or a child of Satan (unbeliever). There is no third category.

These observations lead us to ask some personal questions. Do you know the LORD? Eli’s sons even grew up in the tabernacle, but their heritage had no bearing on whether or not they were saved, because they did not know God. The same goes for you and me, growing up in a church cannot save us. “I am religious,” you might say. Eli’s sons were religious too, but religion cannot save you. “I am a spiritual person,” you argue. You can be “spiritual,” and still be spiritually dead. “I am a pastor, or an elder, or a deacon. I am involved in many church activities.” Eli’s sons were in a holy position, involved in many activities of the congregation of Israel, including regular sacrifices and offerings but it meant nothing without a personal relationship with God. As we read in Matthew 7: 21-23, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name… and do mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Jesus never knew them, because they never knew Jesus. So, again, my dear friend, ask yourself, “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?”

Secondly, Eli’s sons were called wicked because they did not follow God’s law. Belial in Hebrew also means “lawlessness.” 1 Samuel 2:13-16 describes the customs of the priests and what they ought to do. The fat was supposed to be burned and offered to God first (Lev. 7:31). But, in verse 17 of 1 Samuel 2, we learn that the sons of Eli willfully disobeyed this law by demanding their portion of the offering before it was burned on the altar. They chose to disregard God’s law. They were lawless in their blatant and deliberate choice to disregard God’s command. And they never repented of their sin.

Third, Hophni and Phinehas were called wicked because they abused and profaned their office as priests. In their selfish greed, they used their position to their own advantage and for their own profit. They treated the people of Israel with disrespect in the process by taking meat for the offering out of the cooking pot while it was cooking. Hophni and Phinehas even forced the Israelites to give up the meat before they began to offer it (while it was still raw). Furthermore, they committed sexual immorality at the very entrance of the tabernacle. Using their privileged positions for their own gain made them both worthless and lawless in God’s eyes.

 

What other lessons can we take away from this text?

First lesson: You can be a righteous parent but still have a wicked child. Eli was a believer of God and a righteous man. His name means “my God.” When you read the first verse of our text, it might sound as though Eli was a wicked father: “The sons of Eli were sons of Belial” (KJV). Does this mean that Eli was wicked? No, it does not! He had many shortcomings but he was a believer in the Lord. It is possible for godly parents to have ungodly children. This reminds us that we cannot transform our children, but God can. Do not blame yourself by placing unnecessary guilt on yourself for your children’s evil choices, if, by God’s grace, you have done all you could to raise them in the fear of the Lord.

Second lesson: You can be a believer in Christ and an irresponsible parent at the same time. Eli was both a high priest and a civil judge in Israel for forty years (1 Sam. 4:18). Yet, he failed to discipline and correct his sons as he should have (1 Sam. 3:12.). This failure resulted in God’s judgement on Eli’s entire household. As a parent, do not be afraid to discipline your children. It does hurt, but sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to rebuke your children and let them know they are wrong (Pro. 23:13-14, 29:17). “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4).

Third lesson: Our spiritual leaders also have weaknesses. They fail at times. If we only look to our church leaders we will stumble, too. Do not only look to Eli, the high priest. Look to our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. He is “the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2).” Christ is the only one to whom we can look to for a perfect example. Therefore, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, not on our pastors, elders, or deacons.

 

Note: This post is a summary of my sermon entitled “Worthless Sons” (1 Samuel 2:12-21), preached on January 10, 2016. Special thanks to Elizabeth Koetsier for helping me with this summary.

 

Sermon

“The Sixth Petition: ‘And lead us not into temptation’” (Matt. 6:13)

Elizabeth Koetsier, a member of the congregation I pastor, provides a summary of the sermon I preached on March 1, 2015 during the morning service.

 

Depending on the context, the Greek word for “temptation” can be either translated as an enticement (evil temptation), or as an examination (good temptation). The word temptation in our text should be understood in the former sense (as an enticement to sin). However, the prayer “lead us not into temptation” does not mean that God entices us to sin. God does not tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13). Evil tempting is Satan’s work. Yet, temptation itself is not necessarily a sin on the part of the person being tempted. Satan tempted Jesus, but since Jesus did not yield to Satan’s temptation, he did not sin (Mark 1:13). It is when you yield to the temptation that you sin.

In the KJV, Genesis 22:1 reads, “God did tempt Abraham.” This sounds confusing at first, but the ESV clarifies this by saying “God tested Abraham.” What this verse means is that the purpose of the good temptation (or trial) was to examine Abraham’s faith. A trial is anything that comes to us from the Lord that tests the genuineness of our faith; its purpose is to strengthen us. A temptation, on the other hand, is anything that comes to us that allures us to sin; its purpose is to weaken us.

If you are tempted, do not blame God. You sinned because you succumbed to the temptation (James 1:13). God gives us trials. Our actions in response to those trials are our responsibility. Sadly, sometimes we act like Adam who, after yielding to Satan’s temptation, put the blame on God (Gen. 3:12). Sin is not God’s fault, nor is it Satan’s fault. James 1:14 says, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Only you are responsible for your own sin. Satan can only tempt you to sin; he cannot force you to sin. Satan knows, based on your appetite, how to bait the hook just for you, but it is your own fault when you bite and swallow it.

What does it mean then to pray “lead us not into temptation”? It means that our heavenly Father may allow Satan to tempt us but not in order to cause us to sin but to test our faith. For example, God allowed Satan to tempt Job but not with the intention of making Job sin but with the intention of trying his faith. Let us pray therefore that God will not allow us to be tempted by Satan to sin.

How should this petition be applied to daily life? The preacher suggested four ways:

  1. Admit your tendency to sin. Though saved from the power and penalty of sin, you still have sin remaining in you.
  2. Ask for help from God. You cannot stand up against Satan’s temptation by yourself. You need God’s help.
  3. Avoid the Devil. Do not give in to his temptations.
  4. Anticipate your complete deliverance from all evil. One day, you will be perfectly and permanently preserved from the presence of sin.

To listen to the sermon, click here.

 

Satan Sermon

Six Pieces of Advice for Preachers

In her book The Great American Sermon Survey, Lori Carrell asks a group of listeners, “If you could get one message across to all preachers in the United States, what would it be?” The answers that she gets can be grouped into six sections:Listeners’ Advice for Preachers (picture)

 

1. “Make the message relevant and meaningful” (36%).

  • “I keep hearing about pro-life issues; there is no mention of how we can show Christ’s compassion in practical ways…”
  • “We get mostly nice little talks about what we should or shouldn’t do; most are superficial and bland.”
  • “We put a lot of stock in what you say. Be sure it’s biblical and God-directed.”

2. “Improve your relationships with listeners” (17%).

  • “Be real.”
  • “Get along.”
  • “Don’t show favoritism.”
  • “Get to know us and let us know you.”
  • “Be a real person in front of your congregation.”
  • “Don’t try to appear perfect and unable to make a mistake…”
  • “It’s easier to relate to a pastor who is ‘more like everyone else’ than someone who is very reserved and aloof.”
  • “Show your human side. We all look up to you but want to know that you also share the same thoughts and feelings as us.”
  • “Know your congregation—individually and as a group.”

3. “Attend to your own spiritual life” (17%).

  • “Be a model of a deeply spiritual person.”
  • “Pray more.”
  • “Don’t neglect your family.”
  • “Check your motives.”
  • “Preachers, you need a close relationship with God to be effective.”
  • “Work on your own spiritual life. It shows.”

4. “Get your sermons organized” (15%).

  • “Preachers, know your main point so we can too.”
  • “Do your research.”
  • “Use a variety of organizational strategies.”
  • “Make the message clear, simple, interesting…”
  • “Don’t harp on a subject over and over. Make your point and go on.”
  • “Usually there is too much to digest at one sitting.”
  • “Save those other points for another sermon.”
  • “Sometimes they start off well and then get lost or off target. Many miss the mark and I wonder what the speaker is trying to say. I wonder how much they prepared.”

5. “Work on your sermon delivery” (9%).

  • “Why doesn’t he know how regular people talk? He’s just trying to show us how much smarter and more spiritual he is.”
  • “Talk on a level everyone can understand.”
  • “Don’t talk down to your congregation, but also don’t talk way over our heads.”
  • “I can read too. If you’re just going to mumble through a manuscript, make copies to hand out and skip the sermon.”

6. “We appreciate your work” (5%).

  • “Thank you.”
  • “Don’t ever quit.”
  • “You make a difference.”
Pastor Preaching Sermon

Dedication, Doubt, & Declaration: A Graveside Service for Mrs. Joan Jacoba Elshout

Note: This is a revised version of the message I delivered on May 13, 2013 at the grave-side service for my dear mother-in-law Joan Jacoba Elshout (March 6, 1949 – May 6, 2013).

Joan Jacoba Elshout (1949-2013)

Joan Jacoba Elshout (1949-2013)

To read or print this message in a PDF file, click here.

 

Introduction

Before proceeding to God’s Word, allow me to first commend my dear father-in-law for his forty years of faithful and patient love for his wife. Dad, thank you for the good example that you have left to us your children. You kept the vow that you had made to your wife on your wedding day—to love her in sickness and in health. I understand that without God’s grace, you would not have been able to love her in this way; therefore, praise God for His grace upon you.

Let’s now read our text for this short meditation—John 20:24-28.

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Sadly, we remember Thomas as “Doubting Thomas.” But, as Joshua Harris asserts, “God didn’t give the name ‘Doubting Thomas’, we did. God never defines us by our failures. He defines us by the perfection of his Son.” In the gospel God defines us not according to our sin but according to His Son’s righteousness.

You might ask, “What is the gospel?” Interestingly, in Mark 1:15 Jesus says, “[R]epent and believe in the gospel” and you will be saved. Then when the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31). Notice that Paul and Silas did not say, “Believe in the gospel,” but instead, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” Observe also that Jesus says, “[B]elieve in the gospel,” and not “believe in me.” Here then we see that the gospel and Jesus Christ are essentially synonymous. The gospel is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the good news. And here is the good news: He “came to seek and to save the lost” (John 19:10).

Upon my mother-in-law’s request, I would like to proclaim this gospel to you. And I can only preach the gospel if I preach Christ to you. My mother-in-law would have agreed with Charles Spurgeon who rebuked ministers that did not preach Christ: “Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.”

This brief message will present the gospel by looking at Thomas’s life under three headings: (1) his dedication, (2) his doubt, & (3) his declaration.

 

I. His Dedication

In John chapter 11 Lazarus whom Jesus loves is sick. Actually, as the story progresses we discover that Lazarus eventually dies. Jesus wants to go to Judea to revive Lazarus, but listen to what His disciples tell Him:

Then after this he [Jesus] said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”16 So Thomas, called the Twin,said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Please note Thomas’s remarkable dedication to his Master. He is courageously willing to die with Jesus. He is loyal to the Lord’s work. To some extent my mother-in-law was like Thomas. She was also committed to the service of the Lord. Her passion was to serve others. In fact, even when she was sick, she was still thinking of how she could minister to others. When she became severely ill, she was greatly disappointed that she could no longer help others, especially an older lady who became like a mother to her. No one who knew my mother-in-law would question her dedication to the Lord’s work. She evidently loved the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, like Thomas, although she had a strong commitment to Jesus, her faith in Him was weak. Like Thomas, she also struggled with doubt.

 

II. His Doubt

In our passage, the dedicated Thomas shows his doubt to the testimony of his fellow disciples concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Thomas tells them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (v. 25). Before Jesus died, He Himself had informed Thomas of His resurrection (Mark 8:31). Thus we learn that you can be dedicated to the Lord’s work, and at the same time doubt His word. Are you like Thomas—dedicated and yet doubting? You actively serve God, but doubt His promises. You faithfully attend church services every Sunday, but you doubt the gospel promise that if you believe in Jesus you will be saved.

Nevertheless, despite his doubt, Thomas is an honest seeker of truth. He does not want to remain in his state of doubt. He eagerly looks for the truth. Do you recall his dialogue with Jesus in John 14:5-6? In this passage the confused Thomas asks Jesus about the way to His Father’s house—the way to heaven:

“Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Thomas doubts, but he is not content to remain doubting. He wants to be certain, especially of matters pertaining to everlasting life. Sadly, some Christians seem to be content to stay in the place of doubt. They don’t seek the truth. Perhaps you are struggling with assurance of salvation. Well, seek the truth that will set you free from the bondage of doubt. Read books about assurance of salvation. Attend bible study where your faith can be strengthened. Learn more about the gospel promises. Attend a church where the gospel is preached faithfully. Charles Spurgeon once mentioned, “Many a believer lives in the cottage of doubt when he might live in the mansion of faith.” My friend, you do not need to live in the cottage of doubt. Leave that place and live in the mansion of faith.

You might ask, “Can I really know if I am saved?” Oh, yes, my friend, you can! As John the Beloved articulates, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Take note, the Bible has been written in order for believers to have absolute knowledge of their salvation in Christ. Can you honestly sing with Fanny J. Crosby?

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

O what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God,

born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.

Now it is not necessarily true that once you become a Christian, you will never experience doubt. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains in his book Spiritual Depression, “Doubts are not incompatible with faith…. Some people seem to think that once you become a Christian you should never be assailed by doubts. But that is not so, Peter still had faith (as he panicked in the storm in Matthew 14)…. His faith was not gone, but because it was weak, doubt mastered him and overwhelmed him and he was shaken…. Doubts will attack us, but that does not mean that we are to allow them to master us.”

With love let me challenge then those of you who are like Thomas. Are you allowing your doubt to rob you of the joy of assurance of salvation? Are you allowing your doubt to keep you from growing in your faith in Jesus? Are you making an effort to stay away from the cottage of doubt? Again, like Thomas, my mother-in-law struggled with doubt, but she strove for assurance. She wanted to be certain of her salvation. Thankfully, after a long struggle, she experienced full assurance of salvation and could echo Thomas’s declaration.

 

III. His Declaration

Thomas doubted. But, look what he declares in our text after he has been confronted by Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). This confession is the clearest confession on the deity of Christ. Of all the twelve disciples, only Thomas explicitly calls Jesus God. In this sense, Thomas has surpassed his fellow disciples.

Notice the personal and possessive pronoun “my” in Thomas’s declaration: “My Lord and my God.” What Thomas is saying here is this: “Jesus is my Lord and my God, and I am His. Jesus belongs to me, and I belong to Him.” There is no more doubt here but assurance. Two days before my mother-in-law died, my wife and I sang for her the famous hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Despite her extreme fatigue, my mother-in-law still sang with us:

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

For many years my mother-in-law had struggled to call God her Father. Now by God’s grace she could prayerfully sing with full confidence, “O God my Father!” What a confession! What an assurance! Can you say by God’s grace that God is your Father, too? John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Oh, I urge you, my dear friend, to receive Jesus by faith; and you will be given the right to become a child of God. Are you His child, or the Devil’s?

Remember what Jesus says to the proud and self-righteous Pharisees in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil.” They belong to Satan because they have not received Jesus. Have you received Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior? Consider this verse—“Jesus receives sinners” (Luke 15:2), but you must receive Him, too.

On her death bed, shortly before she died, my mother-in-law prayed with her hands lifted up toward heaven, “Lord Jesus…..please come quickly!” Unquestionably, my mother-in-law borrowed her prayer from John the Beloved who pleads in Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus!” This is a prayer of a true believer who longs to be with Jesus Christ. This was my mother-in-law’s last prayer.

Amazingly, my mother-in-law had a calendar that provided her a daily verse. The verse that she was supposed to read on the day she died was John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans [or comfortless]; I will come to you.” Indeed, Jesus heard her request. He came quickly and gently to take her home to be with Him. What a comfort and joy to know that she is now with her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! She is now free from sin and sickness. Also, it is a comfort to know that Christ bought not only her soul but also her body. As the Heidelberg Catechism so beautifully states in response to the question: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”

That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil….Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

This body then in the coffin that we are about to bury is Christ’s. He purchased it, and it will someday be changed into an immortal one (1 Cor. 15:51-54). On the great day of the resurrection of the saints, this mortal body will be raised from this cemetery to be with the Lord forever and ever and ever. It is with this glorious doctrine of the resurrection that the Apostle Paul exhorts us to comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18). Hence, as we bury my mother-in-law’s body, we do not need to say goodbye but only good night to her; for we believers shall see her again in heaven. May the precious reality also that her soul is now in heaven sweeten our sorrow! She is now in a far better place than we can imagine (Phil. 1:23).

 

Conclusion

Let me close this message by simply asking you: Do you belong to Jesus? Does He belong to you? Is He your Lord and Savior? If not, and you were to die today, you would go to hell for eternity. Oh, once again I beg you to come to Jesus by faith and be saved. Jesus promises, “[W]hoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Therefore, with the words of the hymn writer Joseph Hart, I plead with you:

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready waits to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow’r:
He is able, He is able,
He is willing, doubt no more.

Jesus says, “Stop doubting and believe” (v. 27).

 

 

 

Death Funeral Heaven Mother Sermon