Sermon for Sunday, September 17th, 2023 at The Old Clove Church, Wantage, NJ.
[Heb 13:8-16 ESV] 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
The Lord God IS “THE LIVING GOD.”
While the nations of world worshipped idols made of dead materials (stone, wood, and metal), the people of Israel worshipped the Living God.
The Living God cannot be replicated in any statue nor image and does not live in temples made by man. He is worshipped in spirit and truth.
The Living God is the only God; He alone truly lives, and by Him alone the world came to be.
The Living God is an active God. He makes the nations rise and fall. He kills and brings to life. He brings low and he exalts.
And the Living God, perfect in all His ways, says “I, the Lord, do not change.”
The Lord is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
And because the Lord same yesterday, today, and forever, the Faith in Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Faith in Jesus Christ is a Living Faith.
Years ago the editor of the magazine CHRISTIANITY TODAY met a well known European theologian who didn’t quite like their paper. Because CHRISTIANITY TODAY was evangelical, the theologian quipped “Oh, you’re the editor of CHRISTIANITY YESTERDAY” clearly implying that such view are “old-fashioned.” But the editor responded well. To the question “Do you mean CHRISTIANITY YESTERDAY?”, he answer “CHRISTIANITY YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER.”
Let us then look at our living God and living Faith yesterday, today, and forever.
I. Faith Yesterday at the Clove
YESTERDAY—or we might say yesteryear— at the Clove Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God, was worshipped.
Faith in Christ in this area of the Clove predated even this ancient building. In fact the Rev. Elias Van Bunschoten never preached in this meeting house as it was only built a dozen years after his death. But the truths that He preached (in an earlier chapel nearby)—and the truths that the people of this area believed—were those of the Holy Scriptures. Truths that do not change.
The God who was active in Israel was active also here at the Clove. After Van Bunschoten’s death, the Lord raised up a new minister, the Rev. Gershom Williams, to re-establish this church as a Presbyterian one, rather than a Dutch Reformed congregation. While the church “Americanized” and the Dutch language was heard less and less, the truths taught here did not change. The same God was worshipped and the same God was active in the lives of the people.
The Christian life here was not without its rocky stretches and difficult climbs.
When the Re. Gershom Williams soon took a call to another church, the congregation was again “sheep were without a shepherd.”
And the Reverend himself, in 1820, on charges of “moral character,” was deposed from ministry and excommunicated from the church.
Even more, this church, many years later, ceased to be an active congregation.
But the Lord remained an Active and Living God.
From this church sprang other congregations. In its closure we do not see the demise of the faith.
And, as for Rev. Williams, some years later, he was restored “to the communion of the church, and to the office and work of Gospel ministry.”
II. Faith Today
TODAY we continue to have a LIVING FAITH.
We continue to have a living faith because the living God is active in our lives.
There are two ways that the term “faith” is used in the Christian church.
First is “Faith as in THE FAITH.” This is the cumulative body of truths which come from God in His holy word. The Faith which never changes.
We are warned in our text from the Book of Hebrews not to be led astray by diverse and strange teachings. It is apparent that some were putting their faith in something other than Christ. They desired animal sacrifices, but our the author of the book reminds us that Christ died once and for all to sanctify his people. And God desires steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
So we are to hold fast to Faith in Jesus Christ which is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is all those truths we know and love, summarized in the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds, confessed in our churches. The very term “creed” in fact comes from the Latin “credo” meaning “I believe.” The Lord God of Truth has revealed truth to us that we may believe in Jesus Christ and have eternal life.
That is the second way that the term faith is used in the church. Faith as in belief. There are the truths that are believed, and then there is the believing itself. Actively believing in the truths of God, and especially trusting in Jesus Christ as one’s savior. That is faith.
It is active because it directs us in the way to go. And the Way (and the truth and the life) is Jesus Christ. When moral quandaries arise, we look to the word of God and directed in the path of righteousness.
Faith is active because it is the work of the Holy Spirit within the believer, working in us so that we both will and work for his good pleasure.
And it is through this living faith that we are promised salvation in Jesus Christ and life eternal. For it is no just belief in anything, but trust in Christ, the son of the Living God, that being united with Him we are assured that we shall be resurrected as he was first resurrected from the grave
III. Faith Forever
FOREVER. Thus, through faith, we are a promised life forever.
The truths of God shall always be true, and the promise of life eternal shall never fade.
Those buildings and congregations come and go, the promise of the Lord remains.
Let us then consider these truths.
1. God is active in the world even in our day.
He still makes nations rise and fall.
He stills kills and brings to life.
He still brings low and he still exalts.
The most amazing thing in this life is that profound change you see in a person when they’ve come to Christ. This is often presented as a sudden change, and indeed it is sudden in certain ways. The believer is immediately justified in the sight of God by the blood of Jesus Christ. His status changes. He who was once an enemy is now called a friend. But that sanctification process, of slowly becoming “holy as God is holy” takes a lifetime and yet does not finish until glory. But whether it is the instanteous change or the slow but change that we see in the life of the Christian, it is always the work of God. He is active. He is living. In Him alone do we boast.
I pray that the Lord is active in your life. More than once a year at the Clove annual service. More than once a week at your home churches. I pray that you see that the Lord is active at all times and in all places and so worship Him for his great mercy and blessings showered upon you.
2. Faith is for living.
At times, Christians are criticized for focusing solely on the world to come. And while indeed the life ahead is our great hope in Jesus Christ, we are yet given faith for living; faith for the here and now.
The truths of God direct us day by day.
And faith in Christ sustains us day by day.
Faith is for living. “16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Live out that faith which you have.
I often wonder — though I dread the answer — where does the unbeliever turn in times of trouble?
When we have troubles, we have a Living God who can hear us. We “take it to the Lord in prayer.”
And we know where to go in times of trouble. There are no other options, Like Peter, we must think: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
3. Faith is for eternal life.
Indeed, the living faith that we have is saving faith. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED.
So we are called to believe. Called to have faith in Jesus Christ.
This is the faith of our father, living still.
And so it our faith. Faith in the living God.
We are called to believed. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ, you are not only invited to do so, you are commanded to do so.
Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)
We are commanded: “Repent and believe in the gospel”
And indeed the Lord brings faith to His people as a gift, so that we can boast only in him.
So we have eternal life in Christ. And while we thank the Lord for his blessings each day, “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” And so we are to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God” by acknowledging his name and living according to his precepts.
So what? What is our takeaway?
Let this sermon be a reminder that the Christian faith will never die. Because it is the truth and the truth is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Modernism has come and gone. Post-modernism came and only recently departed. Wokism has come. But it too shall leave. Yet through it all, Christianity, the living faith, will continue. While this church is a historical society, the faith in Jesus Christ is not merely historical, but alive, as He is alive. We have among us members of various churches from around the area, showing that the Faith is very much alive. And we know it, as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and in our lives.
And let this sermon also be a reminder that the faith must live in each individual. We are to believe the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, to believe all of the Holy Scriptures and to walk according to the Word of God. We are to love our neighbor and to love the Lord our God will all our heart and all our soul and with all our mind and all our strength.
And the Living God promises to live in us that we may have Living Faith and even life eternal trusting in Him who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Let us pray:
O Lord God of Truth, sanctify us with your truth.
Bring us to faith in Jesus Christ, our only hope, and the only name under heaven by which man can be saved.
Bless all of the churches and all of the families represented here today.