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The Health and Fitness that Matters Most PDF

1 Timothy 4:6-10

 

It's not till we realize how extreme our situation is that we are willing to run to Christ, and we find in Christ the One we most desperately need. I had two conversations today after the service that provided such an amazing contrast. Two responses to the Gospel. Two people outside of Christ, at least when the service began. One of the persons I talked to said what a good Christian in a particular denomination she was and that surely God would look with favor on the kindness she has shown not just to people but also to animals. She felt that God would honor that. She liked to pray and was a religious person but not yet to the point of seeing the need of a Savior. Another man, his eyes filled with tears, said that God had brought him to believe what was preached this morning: a God who does mighty works. What was extraordinary was that this morning was the first time this man has ever been in a church service in his life. He had been given to Satan as a child. His one comment was, "I don't know if God will receive me." I can say on the authority of the Word of God that God receives sinners under Satan's bondage. This man trusted Christ today. I think our problem is that we think ourselves too good and too strong and too capable, and we cannot figure out why we need Christ so badly. God has a way of teaching us otherwise. That really is the difference between the Gospel of God and religion that's merely from man. We might use the Bible, we might pray to God, we might do all things decently and in order, but utterly be free of the Spirit of God and the power of God. The power of God breaks the tyranny of sin and of Satan, transfers us from darkness to light, and gives us real health, not just a whitewash job, not just turning over a new leaf, but actually changes who we are.

This is Paul's great burden as he writes to Timothy in the book of 1 Timothy. We had already studied as far as 1 Timothy 4, 1-5. Now we head into 1 Timothy 4:6-10. The whole burden of this book is for Timothy there in Ephesus to charge people not to be teaching a different doctrine from the Gospel. People pawn off other kinds of teaching. They even dress it up as if it's Christianity and pawn it off as somehow necessary to spiritual growth and sanctification. Paul says no, nothing else works like this. Nothing else produces the health that this produces, so you are to charge them to teach no different doctrine. He really gets back to that theme in chapter 4 as he talks about those that would teach doctrine that would cause people to depart from the faith and picks up his admonishment in verse 6. 

6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

I want to talk to you about the health and fitness that matters most. We will see in verse 6 that this fitness that God is working in us through the Gospel is nourished in truth to minister for Christ. In vs 7-9 it is exercised in godliness for now and forever. In other words, it's valuable now in this life and in the life to come. Third, this health and fitness involves agonizing in hope toward the Gospel goal. There's a reason to be godly, to be fit, and it has to do with the mission we have been given on this earth.

 

I. Nourished in Truth to Minister for Christ

First look with me in verse 6 where we see that to be fit the way God wants us to be fit we need to be nourished in Christ.

6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

"If you put these things before the brothers...." What things? If we drop down into the middle of the letter, we see he has been talking about warning against any teaching outside of what the Scriptures teach or contrary to what they deliver to us. This kind of teaching deceives people into departing from the faith. As such it is powerless to help them. It cannot produce the spiritual health that sound doctrine can produce. It's a different doctrine of the variety he talked about even in the first chapter. He says I want you to put in mind the brothers regarding these things. What he's teaching here is not just for preachers and Christian school teachers. This is for anybody who is part of the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. If you have God's life in you, if your spiritual DNA has changed because you've put trust in Jesus, if there's evidence of the spirit of life in you, then this admonition is for you. If you remind the brothers of these things you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ. That language--"good servant"--is the same language that Paul used back in chapter 3 when he was describing the deacons, the official servants of the church and their important role of dealing with the practical matters that arise in the church. He talks about deacons serving well, being appropriate, beautifully accomplishing what they are to do as servants of the church, appointed to dealing with those practical needs. He says if you will put your brothers in mind you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, and he uses the same word that could be translated deacon. It's the same word used in Ephesians 4 about how we all are to operate. If we belong to God we all are to be equipped for the work of the ministry. Ministering to people is work. You can't sit on your hands, you can't be an armchair servant, you can't just tell others what to do, you need to roll up your sleeves and get dirty, you serve them in humility and love. This is the way the entire church builds itself up in love and to Christ-like maturity. It talks about being trained: ..."put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith." He uses a different word that he's going to use later, a word that has the idea to be nourished up. It's often used in the context of parents giving children just what they need. When you're feeling under the weather there are certain things you eat and certain things you don't. Probably you'll go for something like chicken noodle soup. When I don't feel well, I do not want junk food. This is kind of what he's saying here--you need the chicken noodle soup, not the junk food. You need to be nourished up in the words of the faith, the fundamental truths of the Gospel. Truths like, your own inability to do this in your own strength, truth like the everlasting love of God that knew you from eternity past and will hold onto you for eternity future, truth like God giving you the Holy Spirit to change who you are on the inside so it changes what you do on the outside, truth that says that if you are in Christ He is not going to let go of you -- he will complete what He has begun in you. The words of the faith, the things we hold onto that we know are true, we know are reliable. The promises of God, and of the good doctrine. The kind of instruction that is healthful versus the kind of instruction that is not. There's all kinds of instruction out there. When you're talking about being right with God, growing in Christ, the gimmicks don't work. The debates, the divisions, the controversies over things that are trivial, those things don't help people be more godly. Those are the junk food of the religious world. We need to be nourished up.

These are the things that Timothy had followed since he was a child. When he was an infant his mother and grandmother were teaching him the sacred ABCs of Scriptures--the things that had the power to make him wise unto salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul taught him these things as well. Timothy was probably 17 or 18 when he met Paul. One of the first things he saw in the apostle was that the Gospel was so important that a man was willing to suffer and even die for it. One of the first experiences Timothy had was to see Paul stoned by angry pagans who initially had started to worship him as some kind of a god and when Paul said. "No I'm not a god, you need to worship the true God" and he tried to give them the Gospel, they began to stone him, and left him for dead. Have you ever seen anyone mobbed and beaten up and left bloody and broken in the streets? You could probably access that, but to actually see it happen with your own eyes is a traumatic experience. This was one of the first things Timothy experienced. He saw Paul suffer for Jesus. Paul bore in his body the marks of following Jesus. Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10 as he awaits his execution: ..."you have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness." Timothy, you saw from the beginning that the Gospel is not just talk, it's a life empowered by Jesus, a life willing to suffer for Jesus. It's a life where God's power is manifest in weakness. How can we best be rendered fit to serve the needs of others well so that the body of Christ is built up to His glory? We have to be nourished in the faith and in sound, healthful instruction. I remind you again what Ephesians 4:12 says: Paul says there that teachers of the word are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry to build up the body of Christ into Christ-like maturity in truthful doctrine and loving lifestyle. How do they do that? They do that by giving them the Word. It really is an amazing thing! How is it that words can change anybody? The Gospel is the good news--it's words. How can words change who you are--radically change who you are? Those are the words of God. They are so powerful that when God speaks, out of nothing comes everything. The words of God are so powerful that the words raise the dead. The words of God are what the Holy Spirit uses to bring life to people who are dead in trespasses and sins and give them the actual character of God through the Holy Spirit of God. Words. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read words that are very familiar but give the same message: All Scriptures is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. It's a picture of a man training for warfare. He has to get in shape physically. He has to be given the equipment and weapons and know how to use those weapons. God says--I use the Word of God to do that in your life. There's no way we can have the health and fitness we need if we are not in the Word--if I'm not paying attention to the faith. You can't be fit if you're not in the Word. You say, that's a problem because I don't like to read. In the first century there were people who couldn't read. Whether you like to read or not is no excuse, especially today. If we don't like to read, what can we do? We can go to our IPhone, go to our Uversion of the Bible, go to the text we are talking about today and listen. [Listening to 1 Timothy chapter 4 being read.] You get the point. Think about your commute to work. Think about the times you're eating breakfast as a family or by yourself. Why not let the Word of God fill your mind and your heart? Instead of turning on the TV, why don't you turn on the Word? Because the Word, the faith, sound doctrine is what we all need to be nourished up in the faith--to be nourished so we can accomplish what God has given us to do. . You may not like to read, but you are not cut off from the Word. Listen to it. Fill your mind with it. Meditate on it. When you're in a service like this and there's something that catches your heart, write it in your notes, put it on your phone or your Ipad and later review that, make it part of you. Figure out when and how you're going to get the Word each day. You can’t be fit spiritually if you don’t get healthy nourishment!

 

II. Exercised in Godliness for Now and Forever

7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;

Paul gets more specific in his description of this dangerous false teaching. He calls the false teaching he's referring to as irreverent—the opposite of true godliness. This is hard to get our minds around because what he's talking about are religious people. He's not just talking about their being crass. He's saying they're not really godly because they are teaching something that does not produce godliness. He says it's silly. What they teach are silly myths for the gullible, unthinking, naïve, those that have reached the point of suffering dementia. It's basically people with religious dementia--they're gullible. They go for these myths, these fictional stories. That is the way he describes this different doctrine in vogue at the time. He has quite a bit of description of what was going on at that time in 1 Timothy 6:3-5: "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain." Does that sound familiar? That sounds like what passes for religion half the time. He calls them myths, endless genealogies, promoting speculation rather than love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith; vain discussion (1 Timothy 1:4-6). Irreverent babble and what is falsely called knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20). He calls it irreverent babble that leads people into more ungodliness and spreads like gangrene (2 Timothy 2:16-17). Foolish, ignorant controversies that breed quarrels (2 Timothy 2:23). Controversy, dissention, envy, slander, different doctrine that doesn't match up with what you find in the Scripture, that isn't there. People that think their standing with God is measured by how they are doing financially. How much time Christians waste on such debates and side trails! How many man hours have been spent on passing resolutions that don't matter? How many endless libraries of books and blogs on stuff that doesn't matter? Spend your time cultivating godliness. Those that teach the Word are to have nothing to do whatsoever with such unhealthy, worthless teaching. They are to stick to the Book and be intolerant of anything else—for the sake of fostering true godliness in themselves and their hearers. 

 Philip Ryken, 170: “Good Christians, and especially good ministers, do not speculate about matters not taught in scripture. They refuse to become distracted by the trivial ideas of the day. They do not allow controversies in politics, sports, education, or even religion to distract them from solid biblical truth.” That's not to say there is not a place for politics, sports, education or religion. It is to say we need to stay focused on what actually brings health to people. There's a time for those other things, but it is the Word that brings us that health.

In contrast to unhealthy myths that produce ungodliness we are to train ourselves for godliness. He uses a word we get gymnasium from. He's drawing a picture from ancient games where people do the Olympic competition. What does that mean? Godliness—a reverent, God-centered, God-honoring way of life, bringing God into every part of your life. Godliness is a 24/7 awareness of our relationship to God, our dependence on God, our desire to honor God. What qualities in your life would cause a person to describe you that way? Would someone say of you, "There goes a godly person." God has privileged me to know some godly people. When my grandfather prayed you felt like you had entered the courtyard of heaven because he had walked with God for many years and he had the character of Christ.

8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 

Godliness—valuable in every way—creates a better future in this life and in the life to come—valuable now and forever. On the other hand—bodily training (gymnasium again) is of some value—of value for a little while. He could be referring to physical fitness, but in context Paul is likely focusing on the ascetic teaching being promoted at the time—that restrictions on diet and other denials of basic body needs were somehow of value in promoting sanctification. Paul did deny himself what would interfere with gospel progress or create an indulgent spirit in himself that would turn his heart away from serving Christ or be a reprobate (1 Corinthians 9), but there is no inherent value in self-denials that the Scripture does not call for. There's no inherent value spiritually in that. Adding man-made philosophy and rules stricter than Scripture itself doesn't feed godliness. It feeds worldliness, it feeds pride, it feeds a reliance on man-made things rather than God-made things, just as the Pharisees of the day demonstrated. They were very strict, disciplined, they hated God, but you would think that they were the biblical believers of the day, but they had added a great hedge about the law that they were more loyal to than God's Word itself. Colossians 2:20-23: 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental principles of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. What stops the indulgence of the flesh? Godliness, walking with God, the Spirit of God taking over your life--being close to Him. How are you training yourself in genuine godliness? Would anyone describe your life as a gymnasium of training for being godly or are you just hoping it's going to happen as you watch other people being godly? Do you spend time and effort in the Word and prayer? Are you like a gymnast working at that? If it were easy to do everyone would be doing it. Don't waste your life on man-made strategies that don't work. Use the God-given means--time and effort in the Word and in prayer. Are you cultivating the fruit of the Spirit? Do you know what spiritual health even looks like? Like love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, self-control. How are you serving the needs of others in self-sacrificing humility and love? We need to get close enough to people so we're praying for their needs and we are there for them in the rough times, and we're encouraging them on the away. We have to be able in humility and love to sacrifice ourselves and help them along. Is that something you are cultivating, you're training in? Are you connecting with others who can encourage you and hold you accountable just as you do for them? This is highly profitable. You might find out in doing so that you need help. In giving of yourself to another person, that person gives to you and you both grow. That's exactly the way the Bible describes the growth of the body so that we're all built up in Christ-like maturity and love. Are we practicing this until it's part of who we are? Athletes train until they don't have to think about what they do. That's the way godliness should be for us.

 

III. Agonizing in Hope toward the Gospel Goal

10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

We are a soft culture. It is hard for us to train hard at anything. He describes how that training is--toil, labor to the point of exhaustion. We've all probably had that experience at some point or another. Paul and Timothy and those who would give themselves to the goal of the Gospel are to labor that way--to exhaust ourselves for the sake of the Gospel, to strive, to give our all. People don't exert that kind of self-sacrificing effort without a goal worth striving for. What is the goal? It is that our hope is set on the living God. Our hope is a certainty regarding the future. It's' being positive how this war is going to end and who is on the winning side and being willing to give our all for it because we know in the end we win, because Christ has won. Our hope is set on the living God, not lifeless idols, not lifeless, spiritless rules, but on a Savior, a Rescuer. Our hope is not in ourselves, it is in Him--the Savior of all people. His ability to save is sufficient for all. That's why we can share the Gospel with anybody everywhere. It is sufficient for all, especially of those who believe—not that they are saved to a greater degree; to be specific, those who believe. The salvation He offers is sufficient for all. It is efficient, it works, only for those who believe. No one is saved who does not put faith in Jesus Christ. That's the Gospel. We want to be fit and healthy spiritually so that we can fulfill the gospel mission given to us as God’s people. We are to display and proclaim the gospel and to do that effectively we have to be godly. We have to be for real. As we train ourselves it's so that we can get the job done. What our community needs to see in us is that the Gospel works so God will get the glory He deserves. God gets glory this way. 1 Cor. 10:31: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. What is that talking about? It's in the context where Paul says to give no offense or stumbling block that would make it hard for someone to believe on the Gospel, that they may be saved. If you don't care about godliness, you don't care about people being saved. If the godliness isn't there it looks like fiction or a myth. 1 Timothy 2:1-6: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. That is our mission. What we see is that the health and fitness that matter most not only requires being nourished in the faith, nourished in truth so we can minister for Christ, not only requires our exercising ourselves in godliness because of its value both now and forever, but it has this goal that makes us willing to agonize in hope toward a gospel goal of seeing others come to know Jesus. Paul has laid out our mission for us and what it will take to achieve it. The question is, does this matter most to us or not? According to the Scriptures it matters most to God. According to the apostles, it matters most to them. Does it matter most to us? Then let's gives ourselves to it. Let's labor to the point of exhaustion. Let's agonize. Let's press on toward the goal, striving for the sake of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ would be praised and we'll fulfill the mission He has given to us.


LifeGroup Questions

1. What have you found helps you most to be in God's word on a regular basis?

2. What are common ways we waste time on trivial debates, myths, and speculations?

3. How are you training yourself in practical godliness?

4. In what ways are you showing your willingness to toil and agonize in order to display and proclaim the gospel to those who have not yet believed?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

September 8, 2013



 
Exulting in the God Who Does Mighty Works PDF

Psalm 111

The big WHY, the reason for our existence, is to display and to proclaim that God is calling out a people for His name from every nation, kindred and tongue through Jesus Christ alone. Look at all of the world's history, the ups and downs, and even current events. The big story is what God is doing. Everything else is just sidelines, props for the big story. The more we focus on what God is doing, the better off we are. I was thinking about the difference between the newspaper and its kind of news and what we read in the Bible. What is the major difference between the two? The newspaper talks about what man is doing. That's why most of the news is bad so much of the time. Read the newspaper and you are likely to be depressed to the point of despair. You can also be self deceived because you also see sections that talk about the creativity of man, the good things that are planned in education, and other good things that are reflective of the common grace of God to us and the abilities God has given to us. They also often portray a sort of self-confidence, a utopian view of what we can do on our own versus what God is doing. You can hardly look through a newspaper without seeing the marks that man is in trouble.

When we are troubled and are going through deep waters, one of the best things we can do is direct our hearts and minds to the Psalms. Some hearing these words are going through deep waters. That is part of being human. The Psalms show every kind of struggle human beings face, both inside in their faith struggle and outside in their situations, and they direct our hearts to God. The word "Psalm" is where we get the word "hallelujah," and it means to exult in God. 

One of the books that really shaped the approach to preaching that I believe God wants is The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper. He said something like this: "God is the unknown cure for our troubled lives." Often we think that a cure is to have a "how to" lesson on how to handle this or that -- how to handle finances, how to get out of debt, how to make your marriage better, and how to deal with cancer -- all very practical -- but the ultimate cure is to get our hearts and minds on God and focus on what God is doing. It is the cure for any church family. Look at all the people here today. How many people here have problems? Every one of us. This auditorium is chock full of problems. What gives us hope is that the problems are not where our focus is.  It is on the God who solves problems.

I draw your attention to one of those Psalms, Psalm 111, as we look at exulting (the leaping-for-you kind of praise) in the God who does mighty works. What you think of God and how focused you are on Him determines the level of your joy. 

1 Praise the Lord!

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

 

I. Exultant Praise to the LORD (Psalm 111:1, 10b)

1 Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

As we look at this Psalm, we see exulting praise at the beginning and at the very end -- bookends. God never calls on us to praise Him without a cause for praising Him. In between the praises, He gives us four categories for reasons we can and should exult in the Lord: for His great works, for His gracious care, for His reliable words, and for His awesome character. Even when we are not sure what He is doing and we cannot see what He is doing, we know who He is and what He is like. For this reason, even in the dark times we can exult in the Lord. 

Consider with me first the exultant praise to the Lord. Starting with the hallelujah, praise to the Lord, and giving thanks to Him, there is an emotional side to exulting God as well as a basis in reality, in facts. The question is, when I sing praise to the Lord, is my praise to the Lord with my whole heart or I am I just singing on cue? Is it coming not from a songbook but from my heart? When I praise the Lord, I am praising Yahweh: the LORD—Yahweh—He is (I am that I am), the god who has entered into a covenant relationship with His people through blood covenant. We are praising a powerful, knowable God.

Praise: hallel—to exult in

Give thanks: to affirm publicly what is true about God

With my whole heart: not divided, not half-hearted

Company of the upright—circle of friends

Congregation—all God’s people

The praise is in the company of the upright, a tight-knit circle of friends who have lined up their lives with God's Word. We are coming together on the first day of the week as a circle of friends of God and of one another because we are related to Him. But for God and apart from what He does, we would have no reason to be here at all. There would be no need of the campus, no need of the buildings or order of service. There would be no point for our being in church at all. We may as well be sitting at Starbucks or going to a ballgame. We are here because God is at work. His praise will endure forever. 

10b His praise endures forever!

There will never come a day when we won’t have every reason to praise God. The best is yet to come—we’ll praise Him then in a nobler, sweeter song. Compare everything and everyone else we praise or revel in! Timebound. Weak. Flawed.

Is my praise just the thing I do at certain times—a worship service? Is this a scheduled pep rally where I try to gin up an emotional response? A charade? A play? Or are there real reasons for it—motivating realities that create spontaneous praise? Are you struggling to experience the surging joy of praising God with your whole heart? What will spark that genuine, heart-felt praise to the Lord?

 

II. Great Works of the LORD (Psalm 111:2-4a)

2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

Consider all God has done. Peer through a microscope or a telescope at His deeds, and you will see the fingerprints of God: His creation the subject of every scientific discovery, the inspiration for countless artistic expressions, the pursuit of every seeker of theological truth and spiritual reality, every mathematical equation and logical process, every historical event, every delicious morsel of food or satisfying melody. Every beat of your heart, every breath you take, every step, every word, every deed is dependent on what God has done and is doing. You cannot open your eyes without seeing evidence of what God has done. Take away God’s works and you have nothing, because He created everything out of nothing. Vast libraries of information vanish. The I-cloud vanishes because there is nothing to store there apart from God.

His work (unlike most of ours) is full of splendor and majesty

Splendor: height of power

Majesty: glory, grandeur, like the royal robes of a king, or the ornamental beauty of nature

Eternally enduring righteousness: God never stops doing the right thing

Wondrous works:  saving miracles that produce amazement

Think of the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in nature -- rugged mountains of Alaska, stunning sunrises or sunsets, the delicate beauty of a flower. All of those things are but reflections of Him who is altogether beautiful. His majesty is endless, and His righteousness endures forever. God is always going to do the right thing all the time. Go a billion years into the future, and He will still be doing the right thing. His works are wondrous works!

What is the proper response to His works? We are to study and delight in them with joy and pleasure. There is delight in focusing on all that God has done. For those who know God, the pleasure is only heightened as we study the God connection with everything we enjoy -- the abilities, the taste, the sight, the hearing.

His works are to be remembered, kept in mind. We think about how He uses that terminology. It is very possible that the Psalmist is thinking about the amazing, saving works of God such as when He delivered Israel from Egypt. What did He do? He instituted the Passover Feast for the purpose of helping Israel never to forget their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. They would never forget that it took the blood of the Lamb to deliver them. It took the mighty works of God, plagues poured out on this ancient, powerful nation so that they would loosen their grip on these slaves.

In the New Testament it is the same. As we celebrate communion, Christ said, "This do in remembrance of me."  Never forget what Christ did to deliver us from the slavery of sin. It took the blood of the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. His works were made to be remembered. There is joy and pleasure in focusing on what God has done—and there is no end to it! Are you noticing what God has done and what He is doing? Is your focus on that, or is it on man's news? In what ways are you studying the works of God and exulting Him? Find a person, find a church family where God is displaying His mighty works and people are taking notice, and you will find uncontainable joy there! It is not possible to be gloomy and down. It is not possible to mumble your praise and sit on your hands and do nothing when you see that God at work! That's what makes history sing. God is at work! That is what makes our heart rise and causes us to serve Him. His great works display His gracious care.

 

III. Gracious Care by the LORD (Psalm 111:4b-7a)

the Lord is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;

God shows us grace and mercy in so many practical ways. He gives us undeserved favor, and He is merciful much like a mother feels compassion for her child. His works are faithful, reliable and just. He has the justice of a wise ruler. Of His hands means that God sees to it personally. That means we can depend on what He does. The character of God's actions toward us is not theory or philosophy but is a display of His grace and compassion. We are not all sitting around saying, "I think God is gracious and merciful because I think that is what a god should be like." The reason the Psalmist says it is because it is true. God has proved it in history. What gives you joy is not just reciting some catechism, it is in having seen God actually at work in your life.

The people of Israel knew that God supplied food. He fed them manna in the wilderness. In this nation of abundant food, sometimes it is easy for us not to think provision of food is a big deal. But for those who have ever gone without food, been in a survival mode, or lived in a poor community with only bare necessities, not knowing where the next meal is coming from, this is huge. You can't survive without food.  God provides our food. God provides food for every living thing. That's why we thank Him for our food. We could not even digest food but for him. He shows His care for us just as a parent would care for a hungry child.

He remembers His covenant forever. Man often turns back on His promises, but not God. He will never turn back on His promises to people. He will keep them forever. We are completely safe if we have a relationship with God.

He displays His power by giving His people the inheritance of a nation. God gave Canaan to the Israelites—the promised land and all its inhabitants. It would be easy to think of this as just a conquest of other lands, but there is something way more in view here. His promises to Abraham were greater than that. He told Abraham that in His offspring (Jesus Christ) all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The gospel fulfillment shows that the nations actually ended up becoming part of the people of God and citizens of Messiah’s kingdom. When God sends His disciples on a mission, He sends them to make disciples of all ethnicities: "in Christ shall the Gentiles hope."  We worship God through Jesus Christ today because God has fulfilled His covenant promises with stunning power! Every conversion, every infusion of life into a person dead in trespasses and sin. Miraculous. Amazing grace! Infinite compassion! Every time we see a conversion of a sinner into a saint we see the miraculous, amazing grace of God and His infinite compassion. That kind of compassion makes us want to live a certain way and makes us want to worship Him not just with our mouths but with our lives.

Romans 12:1-2: I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies (compassions) of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (What follows is practical Christian behavior toward others.)

 

IV. Reliable Words from the LORD (Psalm 111:7b-9a)

all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.

Thankfully, God helps us with that. He gives us reliable Words from the Lord, directives for living. "All his precepts are trustworthy." Precepts are directives, orders from headquarters. Are you afraid of yielding to God's will? In a crisis of battle when we are not sure how to respond, we seek Someone far wiser than ourselves and cry out, "Just tell me what to do!" That's why there are generals on the battlefield, and God is our General. Knowing you are doing what God wants you to do gives tremendous courage and joy even in the most difficult times.

His precepts are established forever. They are timeless. It is always right to love God supremely. And it always will be. It is always right to love others as yourself. And it always will be. It is always right to reverence Him. It is always right to trust Him.

We want to faithfully carry out His orders and align our lives with His straight (upright) standards. Often when carpenters, framers or artists want to draw a straight line, they use a framing square (shows an example). This helps them align what they are building, framing, or drawing with a straight standard. A person who is seeking to honor God and follow His directives is seeking to line up his life according to the straight standard of God's Word. It is impossible to live our lives straight without aligning them with His Word.

He sent redemption to His people. That's the great theme of the Scriptures. That's the big story, the gospel, and Christ is at the center. He has commanded His covenant forever. He brings all His authority to bear on His promises to those with whom He has entered a relationship—ratified by His own blood. Never nullified! How could He prove His commitment to us in any stronger way? He has signed His covenant with His own blood! God will be faithful to you even when you are not faithful to Him. Why would God do this? Why should we benefit from His mighty works? He does it because of His character -- His awesome character!

 

V. Awesome Character of the LORD (Psalm 9b-10a)

Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.

The reason God’s works and words are so powerful and reliable and amazing is that God is that way. Sometimes we aren’t sure how His words apply. Sometimes we can’t discern what He is working in and around our lives. In those times of uncertain darkness, we rest on His unchanging character.

We do that with people we trust, don’t we? We don’t always know what they will say or do. We just know their character well enough to know they’ll do the right thing. We can count on them. Even those we respect and trust most will let us down sometimes. But God is always reliable, even when we can’t figure it out. We can say with Job, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!"

His Name is Holy. That is His known character/reputation. His Name is Holy. It is unique, like no other being, untainted by sin or failure or flaw. Such an infinite Person cannot be ignored or dismissed or treated lightly. He must be reverenced and feared and worshiped. Fear of the LORD—reverent awe for Yahweh. This is the way the Old Testaments describes true believers. They are responding to the true character of God (end of verse 9).

Why is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom, the starting point, like the head waters of a great river? Wisdom is knowledge applied: "know how." Its practice shows good understanding, insight, sensibility to perceive or see reality. It is not just what you know but what you do and how you live. In what ways are you showing your reverent awe of the Lord in your life practices? Do you see how awesome He is?

The Gospel is the news that brings joy; not what man can do to reach God but what God has done to rescue man. We desperately need rescue! As long as you look to yourself you will never find deliverance, you will never find enduring happiness.

 

LifeGroup Application Questions

1. What causes you to really exult in God?

2. What are some ways you can take more notice of all that God has done?

3. What are some ways God has made His grace, compassion, faithfulness, and justice evident to you?

4. What directives from God are you carrying out on a regular basis? What divine orders are you neglecting or resisting?

5. In what ways are you expressing your reverent awe of God?

 

Dr. Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

September 8, 2013

 

 
United in Worship, Abounding in Hope PDF

Romans 15:5-6, 13

 

This is an exciting day, and what we are talking and singing about is what Jesus Christ does with people. The Gospel is for all ethnicities. Every kind of culture finds their hope in Christ alone. We are a fallen race, rebels against God--it is impossible unless Jesus Christ miraculously works. For the most part what makes the news is bad news. Headlines are all about division, debate, and conflict. We have the obituaries. We see the creativity of man, but we see division and fighting and the work of sin in our world. The ancient world was just as divided as our own, if not more so. Even though Rome ruled over most of the Western world, there were huge divides: free men and slaves, Greek and barbarian (non-Greek speakers), Romans and the conquered Jews and Gentiles. 

The Jews for thousands of years had been the guardians of the Scriptures that revealed the Creator God and promised hope of a coming King and Savior: the Messiah, the Anointed One. Those were the privileged, chosen people. The Gentiles were everyone else, many of whom were slaves to imaginary deities—the idols created by man to fill the God-shaped vacuum of his soul. These idols often deified human appetites, and the worship was just an indulgence in those appetites. It promoted human vice, and according to the apostle Paul, it was supercharged with demonic power. When people gave themselves to worship of these demonic gods, they were giving themselves to spirit-beings that were destructive and would take them to the grave. Jesus commanded His followers to take the good news of salvation to all the nations, the ethnicities, cultures of every kind, many of them at war with each other, at odds with the Jews. Many of them had customs that were anything but Jewish and anything but godly. Immoral practices had to go, but should the Gentile believers adopt Jewish ceremonies and customs that had nothing to do with morality? How Jewish would these nations have to become if they were going to be good Christians? That was one of the huge debates in the first century, and it traveled to Rome and is part of what Paul was dealing with.  Whenever the gospel travels from one culture to another there are often similar questions. It can be tough for people of different cultures to worship together. It is tough for people to love one another as Christ has loved us when the other of the one-another is so different from us. It's hard for us to build each other up instead of tearing one another down. It is hard to distinguish between what is essential to the faith and what is merely the cultural context to which we are accustomed.

Paul spends a lot of time addressing that issue when he writes to the churches. Romans 14, the chapter before today's text, does just that. Paul calls on believers not to look down on those who practice more limited choices and not to criticize those who are more free. We are to look out for one another. We are to welcome, embrace one another. It will cost us to do that. It will require some self-sacrifice, humility, love. When we read the pages of the New Testament, isn’t that what Christianity is all about? If your Christianity is not characterized by that, can you really call it Christianity at all? Can you say you're following Jesus Christ if you are reluctant to sacrifice yourself? If you're proud? If you are not willing to show others an active kind of love?

It is a common theme in Paul’s letters to various church families to turn away from divisive, self-centered behavior and to practice love, humility, longsuffering, forbearance. The kinds of behavior that the Spirit of God plants in us and causes to grow in us promote the unity we have in Christ. Paul had to talk about it a lot because we aren’t naturally that way. This requires supernatural behavior, something empowered by God. People needed to understand the practical impact that the true gospel has shows up in the way they treat one another when one-another comes from a different background.

We have the same issues today, nothing has really changed. Church splits, backbiting, and hard feelings are legendary among those who profess to know Christ. It is the shame of the church because it so contradicts what the good news is supposed to produce in our lives. The good news is that God has reconciled a rebel world to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son so we can have fellowship with God. The good news is that that reconcilation works a restoration of relationships with other people. If people can't see that happening the good news looks like a farce, it looks like a game instead of good news about what God has done.

We come to Romans 15 and read these words:

5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

As you look at those verses I want you to notice the “God of” phrases. The kind of harmony and hope Paul describes in this passage are from God and they are possible only through God’s gracious power. When we talk about being united in worship and abounding in hope we are talking about a God-thing. We're talking about giving credibility to the Gospel because we are demonstrating that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

 

I. God’s Gift of Harmony      

Endurance is sometimes translated as patience and has the idea of the power to bear up under. It's like someone carrying a heavy load and being able to bear up under that. That is this word. Do you ever feel crushing weight with all you have to do, with the spiritual battles, and sometimes you wonder if you can make it another day? Here is the God of endurance. The omnipotent God, the God all powerful is the God of endurance. If you want all the endurance you could ever need, you need this God. He's the God of encouragement. It's interesting that this word is a word related to one of the names for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. He the one that comes alongside to do what needs to be done. This is the God who has come alongside to comfort and exhort. Jesus Christ Himself has tabernacled with us. When Jesus was walking on the earth you could look into the eyes of another man, his name was Jesus, and you could be looking into the eyes of God. God is the source of this endurance and encouragement. How does He do it for us? The immediate context—preceding verse tells us:

4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

One of the ways God gives us endurance and encouragement is by giving us His Word. We read in the promises of God that however bad it looks the best is yet to come and God will not fail to fulfill His promises. Endurance, encouragement of the Scriptures gives us hope. This is a future that is certain for us because God has promised it. When we talk about hope in the Scriptures we are talking about anchoring our faith and pulling toward the shore. We are assured of the future. The Scriptures give us that. The Scriptures teach us that the suffering in our lives has its purpose and reward; Jesus Himself bore abuse for our sake. The Scriptures present a uniting of Jews and Gentiles—all nations—through the Person and Work of the Messiah. The Scriptures say the world will never be united, except through Him. We can bear up under the strain, we are encouraged and can encourage others, because we know God’s promises, we know how God has sustained and rewarded the saints of old, we know how God has brought Christ through humiliation and crucifixion—to be raised again and exalted to the right hand of God. This God has revealed Himself and His ways in the Scriptures. In that way He gives us power to endure and to be encouraged. He gives us the ability to live in harmony with one another—to be of the same mind. We don't give up on one another. We endure, we encourage, because we have confidence of a sure future that Christ has accomplished for us.

Who was Paul talking about in the first century? He was mainly talking about Jews and Gentiles. You could not find a more diverse set of cultures, a more hostile attitude toward one another. Paul says Christ has broken down the wall between us and made us one. God has given the ability to be of one mind. How did that happen? The text says, In accord with Christ Jesus! The Messiah, the Anointed One, the King of the Everlasting Kingdom, the God-man Savior who ransomed both Jew and Gentile with His own lifeblood. He makes it possible. We all were far from God. None of us had any hope at all. We all were helpless to help ourselves. We could as soon make it to heaven as to leap the Grand Canyon! You might be well-educated, you may know a thousand Bible verses, but you can't make it one inch closer to heaven than the one who hasn't unless you have Jesus. You must have Christ or there's no way you will enjoy this kind of unity.

If you have been to a concert where an orchestra is going to play or a band, you know that they always tune up before they begin. Whatever they play will go much better if they are in tune. Instruments are all different. You might say, "How can they play together and make music?" They are supposed to be different. Jesus is the perfect pitch—when we tune up to Him, we can live our lives in harmony even though we are as different from one another as one musical instrument is different from another. When you're lined up to Jesus you can become useful to those in the body. Figure out who the folks are sitting by you. Talk, find out their names and what is going on in their lives. Ask, "Is there anything I can pray about for you this week?" There are people sitting by you with impossible burdens. If they knew you were praying for them this week, it might help. You might actually be able to lift some of those burdens. When we take an offering it's a free will offering of how God has supplied for you. What would you do to show your heart for other people, to help those not just in our congregation, but our community and around the world? What would you do to help place someone in the world where the Gospel is being shared? Do you want to be part of that because God has made us one?  Harmony is not the ultimate goal. We see in verse 6 that worship is. 

6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The goal of gospel mission is true worship. It's showing the worth of God to the world. As sinners we fail in our created purpose. We're at war with God and each other. When we are brought to Christ we are no longer at war with God. We want to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Where God rules, love reigns. Where love reigns, God is glorified because people don't do that naturally. They only love their own and sometimes they don't even do that. But His power makes a difference and it draws other people. I have yet to see a person who does not respond positively to love--real love, not fake stuff. They respond negatively to self-righteousness. When you genuinely love them and don't make it conditional, people respond. It's a powerful demonstration of what God does. With one voice we glorify God. We unite our hearts and our voices in giving God glory. When we are self-centered we are off pitch and our song together is full of discord. When God is our focus and we have been united with Christ—we glorify God with harmonious voice. 

 

II. God’s Gift of Hope

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Hope is not a wish, but is certainty regarding the future. God is the source of hope. I teach the worldview class to our seniors at HPCS this year. One of the things we are looking at is the big story, where the main story is the Gospel and the main hero is Jesus Christ and what you see in our world is the effects of Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. Every person is created in God's image. Man shows even in his fallen state that he has been given the capacity to reason and to know God. The Fall, everybody's a sinner, so when we sin we are doing what comes naturally, it shouldn't surprise us. Death reigns everywhere. Redemption--Christ with the ransom price of His own blood is the one who is rescuing us from our sin and death. I like to go to the newspaper and other media to demonstrate that what we're talking about is reality. Flipping through the newspaper you see effects of Creation (man’s capacity to communicate, create, etc), effects of the Fall (man’s fatal addiction to sin and death with all the wars and disease and problems). But when we look for Redemption, except for an occasional reference in the obituaries about some day we'll see you again and maybe some reference to the Lord, there is very little about redemption. There's no hope. Lots of information, lots of creativity, lots of what man can do, but very little about what God has done. The church's cause, our mission in the world, is to hold high what God has done, to point the world to our only hope. Man’s history is depressing apart from redemption because there is no substantial source of hope.

In high school I read The Lord of the Flies about kids marooned on an island and quickly it turns into a world of children behaving like animals and killing one another for survival. Finally they are rescued. The story is set in the days of World War 2. While all this is going on among the children and they are finally rescued, the question you're left with at the end of the story is who will rescue the rest of the world. What was happening with these pre-teens was going on in the rest of the world as nations were at war with each other. Who will rescue them because The Lord of the Flies rules there, too. Christ alone. There is no hope apart from Jesus. This God fills us with all joy and peace, not just internally, but peace among people. How does He do that? In believing. Faith in Christ Jesus. Romans 14:17: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. People were arguing about what was right to eat and drink and were pitting themselves against one another over the debate, but what they needed was righteousness through Christ, who alone brings peace and joy through the power of the Spirit. Apart from Him there is no lasting joy, You can try to escape your problems, but your problems haven't gone away. You're still a sinner. Who will rescue you? We have no excape from reality apart from Christ. He is the only one who can rescue us from our state of sin and death and impending wrath. Any joy we experience is the spillover of God’s common grace to man. It's like a party on a cruise ship heading into a iceberg and watery grave. You have music, laughter, and fun, but it's the stuff of horror because you know the ship is speeding toward tragedy and death. That’s our lives apart from Jesus. How can you possibly get along with others if you are out of sorts with God? You can't. Love God. Love others. In that order. If you love others you have this joy, this peace. How do you know when someone is out of fellowship with God? He can’t get along with others. You see it with husband and wife; parents and children. Faith in Christ unites/reconciles us to God. It's the Fruit of Spirit that gives us love, joy, peace, and longsuffering. It's the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace—guard it with longsuffering, gentleness, forbearing with one another in love. This joy and peace that comes from believing has a purpose—that by the power of the Holy Spirit (not a man thing) you may abound in hope. Whatever the difficulty, persecution, setbacks, diseases, challenges, fears you might have, you may abound or overflow in hope. 

I have two pitchers of water. One is almost full, but not abounding or overflowing yet. I have another pitcher with more water. God fills you up with joy and peace, that you may abound in hope. Is your hope overflowing? When people see you go through deep times, are you abounding in hope? God will take you through. Life isn't easy; it's really hard. God has been honest with us about that. Sometimes when things are going well, we say, "Life is good." Life's not that way most of the time. Life is hard. Even on the best days the obituaires are still there. Even in the best families there is friction and disagreement. How can you abound or overflow in hope? Only God can do that for us. Overflowing hope. Your certainty regarding the future God has promised fills you up and overflows. In John 7:38-39 Jesus promised: Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” He said this about the Spirit of God. Whoever believes in Jesus—Jews and Gentiles, people from every nation (ethnicity), kindred, language are going to experience this hope! Romans 15:12:  And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” The Gentiles were the ones according to Ephesians 2 that were without hope because they were without God. God said to Abraham: In your offspring (Jesus) all the nations of the earth will be blessed. They will find happiness and peace.

What is this Hope?

Hope of a day when all created beings unite their voices to gives Christ praise—every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Hope of a day when death dies and life rules.

Conviction of a moment when sin and corruption vanish from human experience.

When tears of pain and sorrow become fading memories.

When joy and peace flow over all the universe like river.

When the victory Christ won at the cross and at His empty grave is complete.

We long for that day. We live for that day. We march toward that day. We will never quit because God is with us. He has saved us. He will never let us go. In Christ we have it all. God’s gift of harmony, God's gift of hope. In harmony we worship Him. And our joy and our peace overflow with hope by thepower of the Spirit. We are leaning on Jesus the Savior-King. He saves to the uttermost and His kingdom is forever. The question is, "Do you have Him?" Are you trusting Christ to rescue you from your sin or does your sin still have its clutches around your throat? Are you trusting Jesus to lead you to that promised land of that new heaven and new earth where sin is gone and death is banished? Do you have Jesus? Because if you do you, too, can be United in Worship and Abounding in Hope.

 

LifeGroup Questions

1. Why does discord among believers, however culturally diverse, undercut worship that brings God glory?

2. Asking another believer how you can pray for him or her is one way of showing spiritual harmony. What are some other ways you can show that you are of one mind and heart with your brothers and sisters in Christ?

3. In what ways are you remaining close to Jesus Christ in your daily living?

4. What is the difference between wishful thinking and the hope God gives those in Christ?

5. How would someone full of joy and peace and overflowing with hope conduct themselves?

6. Why is faith in Christ the foundation of joy, peace, and hope?

7. In what ways do you sense the Holy Spirit's power in your life?

 

Pastor Drew Conley

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

September 1, 2013


 
The Precious Promise PDF

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