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Belgic Confession Art. 15

08/01/95; 1 Kings 8:46-53; 1 John 1:8-10; BC 15. Original Sin.

When Solomon had finished building the temple in Jerusalem, he organized a dedication service, and during that service he led in prayer. Solomon’s prayer contains a major theme: it is that prayer of intercession for people who fall into sin, knowing that to be true for everyone, “for there is no one who does not sin.” That’s life. The yeast of sin permeates the dough of life into every molecule. We do not sin by imitation; we sin because the very stream of our being has been corrupted. That is the way it is. This evening I will deal with original sin as it is involved in the sins we do, and our response to it.

At our creation, we were not corrupted by sin. As Calvin said: we must remember our original nobility which ought to arouse in us a zeal for righteousness and goodness. But we are no longer as God created us: our fall was exceedingly great, to put such poison and corruption in our souls as human behaviour continually demonstrates. As we think of our original nobility, we cannot help but notice the contrast, the sorry spectacle of our foulness and dishonour. Bk II, ch.1, 1. This is now the sorry truth concerning every person: “the mind of man has been so completely estranged from God’s righteousness that it conceives, desires, and undertakes, only that which is impious, perverted, foul, impure, and infamous. The heart is so steeped in the poison of sin, that it can breathe out nothing but a loathsome stench.”

A War Veteran was reported as saying something like this: “we act like beasts, but we know that is not what we are.” That’s the human dilemma.

We act like beasts indeed.

We see so much human behaviour that is really and truly terrible, but we hardly notice anymore. Our hearts are hardened. But sometimes the reality of it strikes us personally, and then we face how ugly we sometimes are, and how sinful. “We can’t figure it out,” we say. Or we ask about criminals: “what made him do it?” Or we hear about something horrible and we say: “I don’t believe it.”

The church has an old expression for it: the mystery of iniquity. That means: while we can say much about sin and evil, the bottom line is that we do not understand it. This is the way things are. Boys not yet in their teens kill a child. A university professor justifies date rape by saying that young men need release. One person dies in the midst of life, another, late in life prays every day: “may this be the last day of my life, dear Lord,” and lives on and on. Christians, across many centuries, have struggled to understand human reality as it is, and I believe we do well to take very seriously the church’s conclusion: iniquity is at heart mysterious. It certainly exists; but it should not be, and we cannot understand it.

Take this to heart, when some form of evil faces you, or hits you so hard that it knocks the wind out of you. “Why?” you ask. I have heard people scream this question with great rage. The church says: face it: this ugly reality, this horrible enemy is beyond understanding. Somewhere along the line we must come to terms with the fact that our efforts to understand will not succeed. We understand your quest for understanding what has happened, but the response to evil, and coming to terms with it will not be found that way.

From the Bible we know something of how things came to be this way. The creed says: this is how it was with Adam and Eve. They sinned. They were not supposed to. They knew better. But they did it anyhow. And this disobedience was carried into the whole human race. Fact: Adam and Eve sinned. Their children did, too. Think of their two boys: one became a murderer who killed the other, his brother. And we lived sinfully ever after.

We know from Scripture that this new intrusive reality caused God great sorrow. In Genesis 6: 6 we read that it grieved God to his heart that he had made humankind. Only Noah found favour in the sight of God, and the rest he blotted out with a flood.

The Church uses the phrase “original sin” for this. It is not found in the Bible. Augustine invented it 1500 years ago in his dispute with a teacher named Pelagius who said that we sin only by imitation. Augustine picked up a Biblical theme, that you find expressed sadly in Psalm 51:5; “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.”

Theologian James Packer says that the church means to make three points when it speaks about original sin. Sin is present in everyone from birth in the form of motivationally twisted hearts. This inner sinfulness is the root of all sinful deeds. And sinfulness comes to us in a mysterious way from our first parents, Adam and Eve, especially from Adam, our first representative before God.

What do we do when we awaken to the power of sinfulness? What do we do when we tremble before God in our self-discovery of being sinners who stand before a Holy God?

  1. We are inclined to seek to understand. But part of our discovery of how bad and ugly and powerful sin really is includes the discovery that we cannot understand it. Think of the murderer Teale. We can probably find contributing factors. Maybe he had a bad childhood. Perhaps he drank too much. Was pornography a contributing factor? Likely such factors enter in. But all sinful and criminal behaviour will have a dimension that we do not understand. Sin is an ugly part of who we are. It is also a mystery.
  1. The effort to understand sin is often in cahoots with our desire to excuse ourselves. “I couldn’t help it,” someone says. “My excuse is that my father beat me mercilessly.” Another says: “sorry, when I drink, I lose control. So, don’t blame me.” When we try to blame sinful behaviour on such factors, we are saying that we are not responsible. We cannot help it. There are all those excuses. However, a statement like: “I did it because I was drunk” is never adequate. Even worse is a statement like: “she made me beat her up.” When we do become aware of circumstances, we do often say now that understand better. Indeed, we must take circumstances into account.
  1. The right thing to do with our own sinfulness is confession. When all our efforts to understand have been carried out to the fullest extent, and when we have taken account of mitigating circumstances, the most important thing to do remains confession. We might say: Lord: I don’t know why I did it. I do not understand the sinful person that I am. And I do live in difficult circumstances. However, when all is said and done, I did it.

The proper response beyond understanding or excuses is confession, because that is how we deal with it before the Lord. We go to the crucified Jesus, and we acknowledge what we did.

We do not say: if I sinned, forgive me. When we realize what sin is all about before the Holy God, we stop playing cutesy little games like that.

We do like David did in Psalm 51. We plead with God for mercy, and we come clean. We dust off all the shelves in our hearts. Out of David’s awareness of sin, comes this heartfelt prayer: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

When we have learned to be transparent, honest and open before God in this way, then we have learned the wisdom of God in our secret heart.

And then the gospel comes: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When out of our awareness of guilt we go to the Lord and hear his word of forgiveness, then we understand Psalm 32: 1,2:

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

 

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3 JOHN

1 John 1

Life-giving Father,
it is a great privilege to have the word of life, that is Jesus Christ who was from the beginning, is now and shall be evermore.

We believe that You have revealed eternal life to us, and established fellowship with our brothers and sisters and with You, our God, and Yous son Jesus Christ. We have heard and believe this message, and it brings us complete joy.

God, in You are both life and light.
Enliven and enlightened by You, may we walk in the light, for that is the way to wholesome relationships, and in this way the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

We believe and rejoice, knowing that you are faithful and just and will forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 JOHN 2

God, righteous and just in all Your ways,
sin is a grievous matter in Your sight.
Again and again Your word warns us about all manner of transgression:
disobeying Your commandments, we walk in darkness;
we do not love our brothers and sisters as we ought.
We love the world, and listen to what our flesh desires and what appeals to our eyes.
We are proud of our wealth and our achievements.
However, Your word teaches us that all these are passing away.

We hear the warning against abandoning Your people.
You tell us to be alert in the end times, when the Antichrist is coming.

Father, we know sin is such a grave matter that rather then to let sin conquer,
You have provided an advocate, Jesus the righteous,
the one who made atoning sacrifice for our sins.
He is the true light that is already shining.

How blessed we are when we abide in the gospel, for then we abide in the Son and in the Father.

We pray for the gift of abiding in Jesus, until he is revealed,
for in abiding we may be confident and not ashamed in the day of his coming.

1 JOHN 3

Father God, without You we do not know who we are, but now that You have given Your love to us, we receive a wonderful identity from You: we are Your children! What love! And yet greater truth will be made known, for one will be like You.

Because we belong too You, we have great reason to fight against our sin, and to purify ourselves.

You call us to do what is right, and You give us help to live this new life, because we have been born of You, our God.

May Your love bear fruit in us in loving one another and helping those in need. In Jesus, You have shown us to love not just in words, but in deeds.

God, as we strive to live as Your children, our hearts will not condemn us: instead we will have boldness before You.

Encourage all people to believe in the name of Your dear son, Jesus Christ.

Thank You because as we love, we know that Your Spirit lives in us.

1 JOHN 4

You are love, O God.
We do not know You through seeing You,
for no one has ever seen You,
but if we love on another, You live in us,
and we abide in You through the Spirit You have given us.

Through Your Spirit show us clearly how to test the spirits, and to turn away from the antichrist who denies that Jesus came from You.

We, Your little children are from You, our God.
We listen to the good news as brought by Your servants the apostles.

We confess and rejoice because You gave Jesus as the lamb who gave himself as the atoning sacrifice for sin.
That is how great Your love is for us.
And now we pray that Your love will be made complete in the love we show each other.
This love we show has no fear in it:
it casts out fear.
And that is true because of the love You first gave us.

So now, You who are love, may we love our brothers and sisters, today and always.

1 JOHN 5

Father of Your family,
You desire a world where love rules, and so do we.
However, we know that the world of love and holiness does not come by weapons, might, terror or any other human means.

We trust that only through faith in Your only begotten Son can we be born anew to love for You and obedience to your commandments.

We believe the testimony You have given us eternal life,
the new reality for today and for all time to come.

Thank You for the assurance that if we ask anything in name of Jesus, You hear us.
Through our prayers You forgive the sins of our brothers and sisters, unless these sins are mortal.

Thank You for giving us understanding that Your word is true.

May we never put our trust in idols, but only in You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

2 JOHN

We thank You for servants like John who love You, Your people, and Your truth.

We trust that Your grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from You, our God and Father, and from Your son, Jesus Christ, in truth and love.

Mall all Your people walk in your truth and obey Your commandment to love on another.

Keep us alert always to those who would deceive us with lies, and help us to keep them at arm’s length.

3 JOHN
God of Your people,
we thank You for the multitudes of people like Gaius.
He was faithful to the truth.
He showed hospitality to strangers who were messengers of the gospel, and who accepted no support from unbelievers.

May we, like them, and following their examples, never imitate evil, but what is good, for only good comes from God.

We pray for the well-being of all Your servants, both physically and spiritually.

Give us Your peace, Oh Lord!

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Galatians 5

Father of the redeemed and free,
we pray to be on guard against
any seduction that will leads us
again into a yoke of slavery.

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ,
whose Spirit helps us to eagerly await
the hope of righteousness
which motivates us to become
one another’s loving servants.

We pray that we may be like fruitful trees,
bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit:
love, joy, peace patience, kindness, generosity and self-control.

Every step of the way, guide us Holy Spirit,
into a life of humble service,
setting aside
conceit, competition and envy,
for your people’s blessing,
and your glory.

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Galatians 4

Dear Father God,
Just as we human parents embrace our children
even before they know we are there for them and love them,
so you embrace us and send your Spirit into our hearts,
so that we may be identified as your sons and daughters.

Your wondrous gift to us is this:
in the right time
you sent your Son to us
born of a woman
born under the law
to redeem us who were under the law,
and so we receive
adoption as children.

Therefore we now have the unspeakable privilege
of calling you “Abba, Father.”
Now we know who you are,
and who we are:
we are yours,
you are ours
we are your heirs,
heirs of the kingdom!

Glory to you, Triune God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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Religious Music

There is so much music available on the internet, it seems like an embarrassment of riches. Here are some suggestions.

If you go to musicareligiosa.nl you will go to a web page that has two streams.

http://musicareligiosa.nl/defaultOrgel.aspx plays only organ music.

http://musicareligiosa.nl/ plays religious, Christian choral music. There are no interruptions for commercials and there are no comments, so even though this comes from the Netherlands, there is no language barrier to enjoying these sites. Each piece is identified, composer and performer, etc.

Priory records, http://www.prioryrecords.co.uk/ has an internet radio that plays both organ and choral music, by and large from the Anglican tradition.

Dutch organist Sietze de Vries has an excellent web site with organ music, both by other composers and improvisations of his own. http://www.sietzedevries.nl/

Youtube has music by many organists. Look for them, for example Cameron Carpenter, Virgil Fox, Feike Asma, Duo Majoya and many more. If you search for any of them, youtube will provide many additional links, too. If you look for the Finnish organist Kalevi Kiviniemi, you will find links to quite a few additional Finnish organist, etc.

There is a lot of music for organ with other instruments. A youtube video I think is truly wonderful, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRb8dv-8ioI this is meant as an expression of spirituality, Suphi, I would think. This Canto Ostinato has been done on piano, and so on.

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EPL.Ca

If you have a card for the Edmonton Public Library, you can access a great deal of music. This will likely work for many other libraries as well.

When you reach the library web site, look for the digital content, and then go to the digital music link. From this you can go to the Sony Library, from which you can download 3 files each week. You can also go to the Naxos link, and listen to any of thousands of CDs.

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