Tuesday, 11 March 2014 10:29

Amen

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Here is a question for you, dear friends, perhaps a rather unusual question. Do you know how to say ‘Amen’? With this question, I don’t just mean, “Do you know how to pronounce the word ‘Amen’? I read about the word ‘Amen’ that it has been called the most known word in human speech and in many languages. However, what I mean with my question now is: “Do you know how to say ‘Amen’ as God would have you say it?” That is, saying it from your heart, and meaning with it what God means with it? No doubt, you can pronounce the word ‘Amen’. In fact, if you have been raised in a Christian home and you are a faithful churchgoer you may say ‘Amen’ thousands of times each year even. Perhaps you say ‘Amen’ a lot, but do you and I say it as God would have us say it and mean it? Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise is the theme for today. It is based again on Matthew 6:13 in connection with the Lord’s Prayer and the last word of that prayer being ‘Amen’. What we want to do now is look at the different ways the word ‘Amen’ is given and used in the Bible. The purpose in doing so is not only that you find it instructive but also helpful. May God the Holy Spirit use this message to enable and encourage each of you to say ‘Amen’ genuinely and gladly to God’s praise, numberless times here on earth and endlessly so in eternity too! When you look up the word, ‘Amen’ in the Bible, you will find this Word close to 100 times in the English, and it is even more times in the original. What does it mean though actually? Sometimes people think of ‘Amen’ only as “It’s over now, or it’s finished finally.” It’s the end of the prayer or the end of the sermon. But ‘Amen’ doesn’t mean “The End.” It doesn’t mean “Finally all done!” No, the word ‘Amen’ means literally: “This is true, this is certain.” As the Heidelberg Catechism explains, ‘Amen’ signifies “it shall truly and certainly be.” ‘Amen’ is a word of affirmation; a one word acknowledgement of that which is valid and binding. ‘Amen’ means you agree with what has been said, truly! So in Psalm 106:48 we hear the psalmist say: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.” In a parallel passage in I Chronicles 16 where David gives a psalm of gratitude, he said in conclusion in vs. 36: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, ‘Amen’, and praised the LORD.” Their ‘Amen’ meant: “Yes, so let it be! Blessed, indeed, be the LORD God of Israel forever and ever! Amen.” So now then, let us study from the Bible and the Catechism’s Bible-based teaching how God would have us understand and use the word ‘Amen’. What does saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise involve and include? It is special to study this. Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise means, for one, agreeing totally that God is just and righteous altogether, yes, also in His condemnation and judgment against us as sinners by nature. I say this because of the first use of the word ‘Amen’ in the Bible. If I’m not mistaken the first ‘Amen’ is found in Numbers 5:22. In that verse God pronounces judgment on the sin of adultery, and interestingly He calls for the adulterer to say “”Amen, Amen” to the judgment and punishment prescribed. Also in Deuteronomy 27 in a passage where the LORD pronounces His curse upon wickedness and evil, twelve times in a row in twelve consecutive verses God instructs, “and all the people shall say, Amen”. God would have all the people to confess and confirm that His holy pronouncements against every sin and evil are only always right and true. Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise means acknowledging God’s verdict against sin and us sinners by nature is correct and totally just. What does God’s Word say about the natural man, fallen in Adam? God’s Word says we are all by nature sinners, guilty, vile, rebellious sinners. He declares that the wages of sin is death, spiritual, physical, eternal death! That is God’s judgment against all of us as we are in ourselves. Have you learned to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise in reference to yourself and the condemnation and judgment you deserve as a sinner by nature? Do you say ‘Amen’ to a text like: “There is none righteous, no not one” [Romans 3:10]? Do you say ‘Amen’ to a text like: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” [Jeremiah 17:9]? Do you say ‘Amen’ personally and really to a text like: “If Thou LORD shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand” [Psalm 130:3]? Do we, you and I, say ‘Amen’ to how great and grievous our sins and miseries are by nature with each and all of us, left to ourselves? It must be said, sadly, that many people who might use the word ‘Amen’ have not learned yet to say ‘Amen’ in reference to God’s just judgment against us as sinners. For sure, praise God, the Christian says ‘Amen’ to much more than only God’s righteous judgment against us for our sins and sinfulness. But isn’t it true, if you won’t say ‘Amen’ at this point then all the other ‘Amens’ you might say will be more hollow than real, more just a pronouncement of the word than an understanding of the word. Do you say ‘Amen, Amen’ to God’s judgment against sin? Have you learned to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise in this way? You and I need to, shall it be well with us. And the older we become, the more we should be able to say ‘Amen’ to God’s judgment against all sin. Do you know how to say ‘Amen’ in this way to God’s praise? But yes, there is more involved in saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise. Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise means also believing from the heart that with the Triune God, our covenant God, there is a way of escape from the guilt of our sins, and from the bondage and misery of sin, and from the deserved punishment for all our sins and sinfulness. This is the gospel message of the Bible, isn’t it, page after page, from beginning to end. We say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise when you and I acknowledge from the heart that with Jehovah God there is hope of salvation and eternal life, even in spite of who and what we are in ourselves. God is revealed in the Bible and in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, as the one escape from judgment. This Lord God is the source of all blessings and the only hope of sure redemption for us, and trusting and believing this, leads God’s people to say ‘Amen’ to the gospel in a God-honoring way. Here let me mention again I Chronicles 16, starting at vs.34-36. David exhorts there in praise to the LORD as Redeemer God: “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel for ever and ever. And the people said, ‘Amen, and praised the LORD.” Do you hear it? They were saying ‘Amen’ here to the gospel truth that God is the Fount of every blessing! ‘Amen’ to the fact that the LORD is a great and gracious God, saying ‘Amen’ to His praise for that! There are other texts in the Bible similar to this. I already mentioned Psalm 106 but think too of Psalm 41. In the last verse of that psalm David acknowledges in praise to the God who hears and rescues the afflicted and needy: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.” Do you know how to say ‘Amen’ this way too, in praise to God? There is more still included in saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise. Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s honor means, thirdly, recognizing and confessing also that Jesus Christ is specifically and only and supremely THE Saviour of sinners! Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise means believing that in and with Jesus Christ and all His saving work on sinners’ behalf there is sure hope yet even for the vilest of sinners. Yes, through Jesus’ sufferings and shameful death on the cross and with His glorious resurrection from the dead, now abundant salvation may be proclaimed to all sinners worldwide, for each and all who repent of sin and trust in Christ the Saviour! Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise means to affirm as surely wonderfully true what Paul says of Christ Jesus in II Corinthians 1:20. He declares emphatically and jubilantly: “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him, Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” You see, in and with Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Saviour, is found all the salvation for all His people. Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise involves and includes, we may say even stronger in reference to Jesus, actually recognizing and acknowledging Jesus Himself as the AMEN. Jesus in His person and work is declared in Scripture as the ‘Amen’ of God to us. For all that Jesus is, and has done, and still is doing, and will yet do, only always validates and confirms that everything God has said from the beginning, is most certainly and surely so! The Bible, in fact, tells us one of Jesus’ names is actually just ‘Amen’. Did you know this? You find it in Revelation 3:14. There the exalted Saviour speaks to the church of Laodicea where many were neither cold nor hot but just superficial and worldly church people. Jesus says to them: “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness.” Jesus warned them that He was true to His Word, His Word of loving warning and His Word of loving encouragement and invitation. Jesus calls Himself “the Amen” and so for us also, to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise means to recognize and confess Jesus Christ as the Amen of God. As someone wrote in a poem: Amen! this is the Saviour’s name. He is the faithful, true Amen. As He has said, so shall it be, Amen to all eternity! The Bible also makes plain to us how that Jesus really was and is the faithful and true witness from God. You know how? Often when Jesus would speak, He would begin with saying, “Truly, truly” or “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” And in the Greek language those words “verily” or “truly” literally are the word ‘Amen’. Jesus often would say, “Amen, Amen, I say to you.” Think of this now. Our ‘Amens’ follow what was said at the end. But Jesus could say ‘Amen’ even as He opened His mouth for He only always spoke what is altogether absolute and true and always simply and profoundly God’s holy Word and will. Furthermore, we know Jesus in all His life lived, worked, and died that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. This all teaches us so clearly and wonderfully that yes, Jesus is the ‘Amen’. And it makes so much sense that He is given also this name and title for He is a faithful and true witness of God in perfection and fullness. Indeed, He is the Word made flesh! So saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise means also surely to think on Christ and to trust and follow Him as only Saviour. It means to praise and thank God Triune for Jesus as the one and only true and all-sufficient Saviour of sinners Whom God has given, even as He promised from the day of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. If you won’t acknowledge Jesus Christ as your one and only Saviour and that only Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved then you actually blaspheme the name of God even every time you say the word, ‘Amen’. That is quite something to reflect on, don’t you think? To say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise includes not only believing God’s judgment against sin is right and true, and with God alone is deliverance from sin, and that Jesus Christ is the almighty gracious Saviour of sinners. Yet there is still more! For truly saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise includes also calling upon the Lord in sincerity and truth in the way of true faith and repentance. This is also why we find ‘Amen’ after the Lord’s Prayer. It is an expression affirming that you truly look to the Lord to save you, and that you entrust yourself wholly to Him. Do you say ‘Amen’ to the Christian confession of faith as given in the Bible-based Heidelberg Catechism [Q & A 1]? That confession which states: “My only comfort in life and death is that I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ; Who, with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him”? Does your mind and heart say ‘Amen’ to this Christian testimony to God’s praise, by God’s grace, in your life? If you are not earnest and genuine in seeking and serving God, and if you are consciously untruthful and hypocritical even in your life before the Lord, then you can’t say, ‘Amen’ to God’s praise, not even at the end of your prayers. Yes, even to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise at the end of our prayers is something really significant and something very special and serious! It is confessing: “Lord, what I have just prayed, I really mean.” As the Westminster Larger Catechism puts it: “And to testify this is our desire and assurance [also in our petitions with the Lord’s Prayer, and with all our prayers] we say, Amen.” Oh, if you think of this, how often don’t we sin and fall short of the glory of God, even just in speaking that word ‘Amen’. How often we can say ‘Amen’ so thoughtlessly and flippantly even. But how good it is to realize this with a repentant heart and to seek for your refuge and salvation with THE AMEN! Christ is the Saviour of sinners through whose precious blood shed on Calvary even also all our sinful and so often just thoughtless “Amens” may be washed away. Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise means always looking to Jesus Christ and trusting sincerely that all our salvation is completely in Him and of Him and through Him. Do you say, ‘Amen’ so to God’s praise? Another point involved in saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise is that shall we say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise we must live more by God’s Word than by our own feelings and impressions. Today it seems all too many confessing Christians let feelings rule their life rather than the Scriptures. When the Heidelberg Catechism asks “What does the word ‘Amen’ signify?” the Bible-based answer is “Amen signifies it shall truly and certainly be, for my prayer is more assuredly heard of God than I feel in my heart that I desire these things of Him.” From this answer you can see that included in saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise is trusting God’s infallible Word above all, at least wanting so to live. Living the Christian life is not relying on your feelings mostly but on God’s Word and His promises therein. When you say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise, you acknowledge what Jesus says in Matthew 24:35 about Scripture. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise means living by the Word and letting its doctrine of salvation, as faithfully summarized also in the ecumenical Creeds and the Reformation confessions, be your guide and strength throughout your life. If you simply don’t care to have God’s written Word and Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, be your authority and hope and confidence time and again, you really can’t say, ‘Amen’ to God’s praise, can you? Certainly all who despise God’s Word and think nothing of discrediting it in doctrine or in life, for all such, every ‘Amen’ spoken by them is more in mockery of God than in praise to God. ‘Amen.’ Do you speak that word in praise to God? Is this your prayer and care even with this closing word, this precious word, ‘Amen’? Let me mention yet two more points involved in saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise. When you say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise, it means also that you long for others to come to know the Lord Jesus too, and that this whole world actually be filled with His glory. You can’t truly say ‘Amen’ before the LORD without being evangelically minded and motivated. I say this on the basis of what David, for instance, says in Psalm 72:19. There David acknowledges “Blessed be the LORD God, blessed be His glorious Name for ever. And let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.” David says ‘Amen’ after or in connection with an expressed earnest longing that God’s kingdom be promoted and extended over the whole world! Also, can you say ‘Amen’, that is it shall truly and certainly be, after saying the Lord’s Prayer without a heart burdened for the lost and zealous for God and His gospel cause? No, saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise clearly involves also being desirous for His praise and glory to be extended everywhere, and for His kingdom to be established with all peoples. Do you say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise in this sense too, by God’s grace? Shouldn’t we say this one more point, namely, how saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise also means surely longing and waiting for the day of Christ’s triumphant return on the clouds of heaven one day, who knows how soon now? Think here of what we read in the last verses of Revelation 22. There Jesus promises in vs. 12: “Behold I come quickly.” And how does the church respond [vs.20]? “Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Clearly, when saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise, God’s Word teaches us that means also believing in Jesus’ return and longing for that day when you will meet THE AMEN Himself, face to face, and when you will be able to say ‘Amen’ perfectly and endlessly to God’s praise! Yes, in that great day of the Lord when Jesus Christ returns. Is this something that lives in your mind and heart, by God’s grace, that you live life always with an eternal perspective in view, and you realize you are not rightly focused when that isn’t the case? Saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise has been our theme. What’s involved in saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise? Looking at the various uses of ‘Amen’ in the Bible, we are taught saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise includes saying ‘Amen’ in at least the seven ways we just described. After hearing all this, do you know how to say ‘Amen’? Do you say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise and honor? Maybe you respond: ‘You have made it all so complex and difficult just to say that one simple word!” And it could be that’s how I’ve come across but in a certain sense that is also what I was intended. For you know what we need to realize, each one whether older or younger? This little word ‘Amen’ though easy to pronounce and good to learn to say even at a young age already, yet this little word is actually a word you and I can’t say to God’s praise except we be taught by the Holy Spirit. To say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise, you and I need God the Holy Spirit to direct and lead us with His regenerating and saving power. This is humbling, I know, but it is the truth! The most known word in human speech is beyond us really except God Himself teach us to say it. And you know what is so great now? Even with this sermon on the word ‘Amen’, God the Holy Spirit would teach you and me to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise and honor. Through the foolishness of preaching God would teach you and me that we really can’t even say that simple word ‘Amen’ in a God-honoring way except we ever look to and rely on the Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who is THE AMEN of God. Our “Amens” to God’s praise flow from Him, THE AMEN, and His saving work for us and in us. Will you ask God the Father, through the Saviour of sinners, by His Spirit and Word to teach you to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise? Don’t be self-confident and with sinful proud thinking just conclude of course you know how to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise. Without Christ in our hearts, we can do nothing to God’s praise. We can’t even say ‘Amen’ to His praise, not even as a minister of the gospel. But with Christ in our hearts, by grace through faith, we may be led to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise over and over again! With THE AMEN, as our Saviour and Lord, aren’t there endless reasons to say ‘Amen’? You may know how in the musical piece of Handel’s Messiah, it ends with a chorus singing ‘Amen’ over and over as a most fitting climax. And for God’s people taught by the Lord, isn’t it true, they learn to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise more often and more fervently as they continue onward in life’s journey, always looking to Jesus? What if you should be a person who doesn’t care about saying ‘Amen’ to God’s praise? Maybe I am describing you. If so, I ask you to hear me in what I say next. Do you know that all the wicked and unbelieving will one day also say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise? If you don’t care to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise here and now, you still will one day. Yes, when Christ returns. But your “Amen” then will not be said in jubilation but in terror before the Lord. How terrible forever in hell to be saying ‘Amen’ to God, not enjoying His salvation gifts but only the just eternal punishment of God for all your ongoing sins and sinfulness now and forevermore. As the ambassador of Christ, I would urge you, be sure to be reconciled with God now, hearing and believing His gospel message. I plead with you in Jesus’ Name, learn to say ‘Amen’ to God’s praise here and now, that you may say it one day with exaltation and exceeding joy forever! Do you know how to say and pray ‘Amen’ to God’s praise? Oh, even as parents aim to teach their young children to say ‘Amen’, will you listen to God the Father now as He calls out to all of us to learn to say ‘Amen’ to His praise? Amen. Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor
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