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Universal Praise! PDF

Psalm 148

This morning we want to look at the question, "Who should be worshiping the Lord?"  I am speaking of just affirming what we know is true about God, rehearsing words out of a hymnal or off a screen that give praise to God, but rendering to God the kind of worship that springs from our heart like a fountain, that makes us want to leap for joy. Who should be involved with that kind of worship? I draw your attention to Psalm 148. This is the last Psalm from the Psalter that we will llook at during this series. This is coming to a crescendo of universal praise to the Lord. This Psalm is book-ended with "Praise the Lord." Thirteen times we are called to exult in the Lord. Nine of those times are in the first five verses. This is something God is calling us to do because it is the right thing to do. Whenever people are drifting from God one of the first things that happens is they fall off in their praise of God or their awareness of who He is or what He does. The better I know Him the more natural praise will rise from my heart.

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!

9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!

This Psalm breaks down easily into three categories:

  • In Psalm 148:1-6 the heavens are called upon to praise God. The reason the Psalmist gives is because He is the Creator. He is the one that established the heavens as they are.
  • In vs 7-10 the earth is called upon to praise Him because He is the ruler. His Word is fulfilled because all creation is doing what He has commanded.
  • Finally we come to people, those made in God's image. They are called on to praise Him because He is the Savior. My hope is that these words from God will ignite our hearts and lives so we join the mighty chorus and render to God the exultant praise that gives Him the glory He deserves and that draws people. On the day of Pentecost, people were praising God in their native tongues and proclaiming the good news of the Gospel ought to be proclaimed everywhere. Then Peter preached that great sermon. This has everything to do with our mission on earth. How can we get across to others that we have received the good news if we are not overflowing with the joy of the Savior in our lives? We want to show them the God who creates an exuberant, excited, joyful spirit because of who He is and what He does.

I. Heavens—Because He is the Creator (Psalm 148:1-6)

Consider with me first that the heavens are called upon to exult in God because He is the Creator.

Go out on a clear winter night away from the lights of the city, and you will be awestruck with the far-flung stars and galaxies. It sets you thinking about things far greater than you are and makes you feel very small. Ancient civilizations worshiped the sun, moon, and stars—breathtaking, seemingly infinite numbers through immeasurable space. But they were never meant to be worshiped. They are called upon to worship the Creator. God created them with a word of command. He established their appointed places and purposes. They serve Him according to His design. Genesis 1:14: And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years. We still keep our calendars and have a seven day week. When was that established? At the beginning by God. You know what marks those days? The sun, the moon. What marks the seasons? The stars. God established them to fulfill His purposes. In the beginning the morning stars sang to Him. A shining star led wise men from the east to the newborn Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. The stars still serve to turn man’s thoughts toward the God who made them and who made us. 

The hosts of heaven are not only the planets and the burning spheres of light, but ranks upon ranks of myriad angels—flaming spirits shouting glory to God in the highest. They are His servants sent to minister to those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). Angels do His work. Sometimes people entertain angels unawares. God made spirit-beings that we cannot detect unless they make themselves visible. All these created things exist for one reason--God decreed that they should be and they serve to this day His perfect purposes. 

Paul says it this way in Colossians 1:16-17: For by him (Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Not only is Christ the greatest Being in the universe, He is the one for whom they were created. When the sun comes up it is because Jesus is keeping things working. God keeps your heart beating and your lungs pumping air when you aren't even thinking about it. Hebrews 1:6: Let all God’s angels worship him.

Here you have sun, moon, stars, and angelic spirits who inhabit the highest heaven—they all exist to serve God and to elevate our thoughts Godward and to spark within our hearts grateful awe and jubilant praise to God. The Psalmist said earlier in Psalm 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God. When you see the sun rising or the stars spangled across the sky it sets you thinking and exulting in a God who can create such magnificent, glorious things and yet care about you. God calls the stars by name and He knows your name, too. So let the sun when it rises wake up your praise. Let the moon cause you to wonder at His majesty. Let the stars stir your song to Him because that's why they are there. They exist to praise God and we should join in that mighty chorus. 

 

II. Earth—Because He is the Ruler (Psalm 148:7-10)

You look at the list in these verses and think how many times recently you have been privileged to see the handiwork of God, to see that these things are fulfilling His design. Every morning that you wake up, every night when you go to bed, and every time you pet your pet, you can be reminded of a God who has such amazing attention to detail and such creative genius. 

People travel thousands of miles to experience the thrill of sighting whales. Over the centuries mankind has worshipped storms, mountains and hills, sacrificing their offspring to imaginary gods of storms and harvest. To this day, you find tens of thousands who leave sacrificial meals of food God created to the nature spirits to protect themselves from harm. Those that dabble in witchcraft, scientology, New Age, paganism -- all are seeking spiritual power by bypassing God when true power comes from Him. Meteorologists track the weather patterns and try to help us know what to expect. God created weather and controls it. How often He has used natural disasters to wake us up from our self-sufficiency and put our trust in Him alone. How many times the devastation of a storm brings forth a flood of loving compassion from people who understand what God is like and seek to show to others His loving care. No wonder the text says, all these things, all these creatures do what they do to fulfill His word (v. 8). God oversees and directs them all. From the dark depths of the sea to the far reaches of the sky, from the deep woods to sprawling fields dotted with grazing cattle and sheep; lizards, snakes, frogs, furry critters, and birds of the air; insects familiar and those that look like sci-fi creatures. All these living things owe their existence to the LORD. He sees to it that they are fed, and knows every moment of their life on earth, and uses them to further His perfect plans. Every time you bite into a ripe peach or a strawberry, every time you take a mountain hike and overlook a valley, every time you drive into a lightning storm -- all these things should make you think of the God you serve and who takes care of you. 

 

III. People—Because He is the Savior (Psalm 148:11-14)

Kings, peoples, princes and rulers sometimes gather to themselves significance they don't deserve. They think that they are captain of their fate and yet from time to time God shows them just the opposite. Daniel 4:17: The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men. By the time he has been through his humbling season where he is a lunatic--at the end of those days he says in Daniel 4:34-35, 37:

 34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. We look at political talks, we look at wars and rumors of wars, we look at those who pound their chests and think they will lead us out, but God is greater than all. He controls their success and their failures. Paul preached that to the city fathers in Acts 17:24-27: 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. 

Kings and rulers may feel they have free reign to do what they please, but they are entirely dependent on the LORD, even if they do not acknowledge Him. Their life breath is in His hand, as well as their rise and fall and their range of power. The authorities that exist God has appointed (Romans 13), so we pray for them, submit to their laws when those laws do not violate God’s, serve the benefit of others in order to shine out the goodness of the God we know rules over it all. Praise is not relegated merely to one age group or another — young men and maidens, old men and children. Every part of your life from infancy to old age and every year in between, the LORD is worthy of our leaping-for-joy kind of praise.

Why? Is it just that He is great, powerful, controls the earth, the skies, the angels, history? No, the Psalmist tells us we should exult in Him because His name, His character that He has revealed is like no other. There is no other person like Him in the universe. He is exalted with shining majesty greater than anything or anyone else on earth or in heaven. The things that make your jaw drop are a drop in the bucket compared to the power and majesty of God. But there is a greater reason to praise Him. This one causes us to shake our heads in wonder. Verse 14 is key—why we are so exultant in Yahweh:

14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him.

A horn is an ancient way of describing great strength. Someone powerful enough to deliver a people. Great strength exercised on behalf of His people. God has raised up a horn for us -- a Strong Deliverer, a Mighty Savior. That Horn of Salvation is Jesus Christ alone. We have not been abandoned to our sin. We have not been left in death’s dark prison house. We are not strong enough, wise enough, good enough to break free from our sin and our dying. When you get to that level we are hopeless and helpless if God does not provide for us a Horn of Salvation. But the Lord has raised up a Savior-King for us, mighty to save, stronger than sin, stronger than death, stronger than demons and the devil himself. Praise is appropriate for all his saints—his lovingly loyal ones—Romans 8—them that love God, the called according to His purpose—they have received His loyal love and return it from their hearts. It is a word that is the language of relationship—love, loyalty, kindness, rooted in a covenant relationship ratified with the blood of the Savior. God will never let you go. He has demonstrated His love through Jesus Christ. When your best friends have turned away, He is there. When death would seem to push you under, when sin would destroy your life, He is there. He has given to you a Savior that is stronger than any of that. That is why we praise Him. 

It is for the people of Israel that are near him. Israel—reminds us that wasn't Jacob's name initially. He was a deceiver. God wrestled with him and he wrestled with God until he finally quit fighting God. God made him a prince with God and changed his character and the trajectory of his life. God intervened and made him Israel and his children the children of Israel, and then God grafted us in through Jesus Christ his descendent. These are the people of Israel that are near Him— literally, “the people of His nearness”. Think about who God is. He is infinite and we are finite. How do we even connect? He is holy and we are sinners. How can we come close to this God? Only if He makes the first move. Only if He provides the salvation. He's not only the God who is great, He is the God who is close, He has tabernacled among us. He has changed us forever. This is the God we exult in.

John writes about Him in 1 John 1:1-7:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

This is why we leap for joy! I don't deserve to know this God. I deserve to be destroyed by this God. Instead He has laid my iniquity on His Son and destroyed Him instead. Then His Son broke the power of death itself to be my living Savior who intercedes for me to this moment and will do so till I'm safe in glory. If people aren’t praising the LORD, they aren’t paying attention. They are far from the God who is near.

Psalm 148 calls heaven, earth, and all people to exult in the LORD—Yahweh--"He is, I am that I am". The infinite God who graciously enters into relationship with finite, sinful man through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. To know Him is to love Him and to praise Him. Are you participating in this universal praise? The stars praise Him, do you? The animals and trees praise Him. All creation stands on tiptoe waiting for Him to fulfill what He has begun in us. Are you participating in this universal praise to God? If the answer is no, isn't it time you started? Open your eyes and bow your will and wonder at the love of a God that would rescue you.  Cling to the Savior that has come near. Then you will be part of this universal praise.

LifeGroup Application Questions

1. What are some practical ways you can turn attention to God's creative power displayed in the heavens?

2. What kinds of things keep you from noticing God's ruling hand in all nature?

3. When you consider mountains, trees, snow, mist, and storms, along with all the animals of field and forest, what truths about God come to mind?

4. What are some common ways people today divert attention away from God's power displayed in nature?

5. How do passages like Psalm 148:11-14 shape our understanding of history?

6. Explain how verse 14 ties in to the gospel.

7. What is the main story of human history? How does the main story connect to the chronicle of your life?

 

Pastor Drew Conley 

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

September 15, 2013



 
Rooted in the Gospel, Living by the Gospel PDF

Colossians 2:6-7

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

What is the most important ingredient in your walk with God? Perhaps you might say it's being in the Word every day. Maybe you might think it's communicating to God through prayer. Perhaps it's regularly repenting of and confessing sin, in light of how God is working in your heart. Of course, we know we need each of these things. There's nothing more important, though, than recognizing that the same gospel that gave you life is the good news by which you must grow in Christ. We are saved by the gospel, and we must live by the gospel.

Proposition: Because we are rooted in the gospel, we should live by the gospel. We'll consider two primary points this evening: (1) Rooted in the gospel, (2) Living by the gospel.

1. Rooted in the gospel (Colossians 2:6-7)

The word "therefore" is a signal that what we see here takes place in light of what came before. What is it that leads Paul to say what he says here? Take a look back at Colossians 1:15-2:5.

Everything we need is in Christ ... therefore, we should live in Him.

  • He is God, and He rules all things (1:15-20).
  • He has reconciled God's enemies to God and made them His friends (1:21-23).
  • He lives in God's people, and He is the hope of God's people (1:24-29).
  • He is the full revelation of God's mystery and is the source of wisdom for God's people (2:1-5)

By considering the way we receive Christ, we can be built up in our walk with Christ. There is a direct relationship between receiving Christ Jesus the Lord and walking with Christ as Lord. How do we receive Christ? Through repentance and faith. How do we walk with Christ? By repentance and faith. The Christian life is a walk of repentance and faith. The text doesn't say "the Lord Jesus Christ," as we often see in our New Testaments. It says "Jesus Christ ... the Lord." The point is that Jesus Christ is the one who is Lord. He is the one described in Colossians 1. He is the one we receive. Receiving Christ and being rooted in Christ are different ways of describing the same thing. We receive Jesus, and we are rooted in Him. Our roots are dug down deep into good soil.

This is the only place in the New Testament letters that refers to the gospel as receiving a person. Elsewhere, writers refer to receiving teaching, receiving the Word. Here Paul equates receiving the gospel with receiving Jesus. To believe the gospel is not merely to embrace the message but to embrace the person, Jesus Christ. When you receive Jesus, you receive Him as your master. All that you are and all that you have becomes His. You receive Him for who He is, and you embrace Him as Lord of your life.

Application: Is it enough to embrace Jesus as Savior and not as Lord? Is it enough to accept a ticket out of hell? Is it enough to pray a prayer and get a quick fix for your problems? No! To receive the gospel is to receive Jesus and all that He is. Who is Jesus?

Illustration:

He is ...

The image of God, housed in humanity.

Greater than all, magnificent deity.

Source of all life, the creator of all.

He is ...

The fullness of God, Redeemer of sinful man.

Giver of peace, the slain Lamb who rose again.

Head of the church, the light of the world.

He is ...

Supreme over all: rulers and sovereign kings.

Sustainer of creation, upholder of everything.

Beginning and ending, majestic, eternal,

He is the Christ; He is beautiful.

He is Jesus Christ, the one who is Lord. He is the one we receive and say, "You are Savior and you are Lord!"

Proposition: Because we are rooted in the gospel, we should live by the gospel. We've seen that our Christian life is rooted in the gospel. Let's take a few moments and consider what it means to live by the gospel.

2. Living by the gospel. (Colossians 2:6-7)

We may be tempted to think that living by the gospel is passive. We just consider what God has done, and God does the rest. Considering God's work is a biblical way to grow in Christ (cf. Romans 6:5-12). But the text lets us know that we have an active part in living by the gospel. There are two actions which explicitly belong to us in this passage: (1) receiving Christ Jesus and (2) walking in Christ Jesus. We receive Christ and walk with Christ in repentance and faith. God converts our hearts at the moment He declares us righteous, and in sanctification, we live lives of repentance and faith, in light of who we are as God's children. As we act, God acts. We receive Jesus and walk in Him ... and therefore, we are built up, established in the faith, and we abound in thanksgiving. There is an amazing relationship between God's work in us, and our work as God's children.

The gospel is the root of our growth in Christlikeness, and it produces the fruit of the Spirit. There is a danger in mixing up the root and fruit. The root is God's work in us to save us; the fruit is our effort to know God and become more like Him. God works; therefore we work. It's not, we work; therefore, God works. Our growing in Christ isn't merely passive. As God works in us, we labor to walk in Christ.

We often fall into two primary thought patterns about our sanctification:

 A group that thinks of sanctification as more passive and thus aren't disciplined about their spiritual walk ("I can't do anything to make God accept me more"--which is true). A general (not universal) characteristic of this group: they are younger people, given to focusing on freedom.

 A group that thinks of sanctification as something we do by our effort, a group that works at spiritual disciplines in a way that can divorce spiritual growth from the power of the gospel. A general (not universal) characteristic of this group: they are older people, given to focusing on duty.

And sometimes, I fall into both of these groups. Both of these schools of thought, if taken by themselves, fall short of what God says. So, on the one hand, we must be careful not to view sanctification as something passive. Simply thinking about what God has done isn't enough. But, on the other hand, working to discipline ourselves in growth toward Christlikeness isn't enough either. We must rest in what God has done, yet also recognize our responsibility for growing in Christ. The battle is one of motivation. We can do many of the same things in a way that demonstrates we understand the gospel or in a way that shows we don't understand the gospel at all. 

Colossians 2:7 uses four participles to give us an idea of the relationship between our salvation and our growth in Christlikeness. The text says we "have been rooted." The tense of the Greek participle lets us know that this is something that happened once. We have been rooted/planted in Christ. That happened when we received Christ Jesus. What are the results of having our roots dug down deep in Christ? The next three participles are present and have ongoing implications for our walk today: we are being built up in Christ and established in the faith, abounding in thanksgiving.

What happens when we try to grow in Christ, apart from our connection to the gospel? We wither and die. We must dig our roots in deep and never lose that connection.

Explanation: If we lose sight of the fact that Christ is the primary cause of our sanctification, we will end up working hard, but being weary and frustrated. Far from being built up in Christ, we will be worn out and discouraged. Attempting to live out the Christian life, apart from the power of the gospel, will bring bondage and frustration.

Application: Have you ever experienced that feeling? Working hard to become more like Christ, only to experience discouragement and failure?

  • Perhaps you've made a decision to get up early and read your Bible and pray each day.
  • Maybe you've even cut out obvious sin patterns that cloud your view of God.
  • And you've gone a step beyond and highlighted time wasters--things that are "ok" but that prevent you from spending time on more profitable things.
  • And yet, you still experience failure and discouragement.
  • What's the answer? Remember that you are rooted in the gospel, and live by the gospel. Nothing you do can increase God's acceptance of you through Christ! No matter how hard you work, you can't make yourself any more righteous than God has declared you to be in Christ.

Gospel: When we place our faith in Jesus, to rescue us from our sin, God exchanges our sin and wickedness for the righteousness of Christ. He not only declares us "not guilty," He gives to us all the righteousness and goodness of Christ. He takes our sin: lust, fear, pride, anger, greed; and places it on Christ's account. He takes all of Christ's righteousness: holiness, love, goodness, kindness, peace; and places it on our account. 2 Corinthians 5:21: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Those who place their faith in Jesus get this as a gift. Do you know Jesus this way? If you don't, you can't experience the joy of being forgiven, the grace of knowing that you are perfectly righteous in God's eyes! Turn from your sin to Jesus, and you can enjoy being God's child. He will call you His son or daughter, and Jesus calls us His brothers and sisters!

Don't separate your spiritual disciplines from the fact that Jesus is your Savior, your only hope of eternal life, and your only hope of deliverance in this present life. If discipline were enough, heaven would be full of self-righteous Pharisees who don't need Jesus. Don't make personal discipline your savior in the place of Jesus the Savior! Discipline yourself unto godliness, but always be mindful of the fact that Jesus has rescued you, and He is actively at work in you!

Paul changes metaphors midstream in 2:7. He begins by using agriculture: we are rooted in Christ. He follows that by using a construction illustration: we are being built up in Jesus and established in the faith. The words "the faith" give the picture of our growing in the gospel itself. There's a sense in which growing in the faith can refer to our personal relationship with Christ. In this case, though, there's more of an emphasis on the faith as it's revealed in the Bible. It's the faith we have been taught. We are established more firmly as we understand the teaching of the New Testament in regard to the gospel.

We can't grow in the faith, apart from personal discipline and knowing the Savior. So ... nothing you do can make you one bit more righteous in God's sight. But, on the other hand, your enjoyment of your relationship with God is directly connected to your fruit-bearing, to your acting like you're a child of God. Does it matter if you read your Bible and pray? Yes! While we are here in this fallen world, we have an old nature that rises up and does war against the new creation we are in Christ. We must actively put that nature to death and pursue Christ-likeness. Objectively, we can't become any more righteous in God's eyes. Subjectively, we can enjoy greater fruitfulness and joy in our relationship with God by working hard to know Him more.

Illustration: Fruit trees in our backyard (pear tree & fig tree); water and care leads to fruit. Does the fruit grow because of the tree? Yes! Does the fruit grow because of water and nutrients? Yes! So ... it's not so simple as "read your Bible, pray every day, and you'll grow." It is "because of what God has done, read your Bible, pray every day, and God will help you grow."

What is one fruit that God's children can enjoy by being rooted in Him, built up and established in Him? According to 2:7, it's that we abound in thanksgiving. Abounding in thanksgiving is like a river overflowing its banks. The picture is of a heart so overflowing with the grace of God, that we just can't hold our gratitude in. Since we know who we would be apart from Jesus, we understand the amazing gift God has given us in making us His children! We abound in thanksgiving, like a river overflowing.

Because we are rooted in the gospel, we should live by the gospel. Rooted in the gospel, living by the gospel. Do you know God this way? Do you live your life in the power of the gospel? Or have you separated your salvation from your growth in Christ? Doing that will lead to futility and frustration. Are you self-reliant, believing you can make yourself more righteous? God is calling you to repent. Are you lazy, not disciplining yourself to godliness? God is calling you to repent. Let's take a few moments and talk to God, asking Him for grace to turn from our sin and faith to believe His Word.

  

LifeGroup Applications

  • What is the most important ingredient in your walk with God?
  • Is it enough to embrace Jesus as Savior and not as Lord? Is it enough to accept a ticket out of hell? Is it enough to pray a prayer and get a quick fix for your problems? No! To receive the gospel is to receive Jesus and all that He is.
  • Have you ever experienced the feeling of working hard to become more like Christ, only to experience discouragement and failure.
  • Perhaps you've made a decision to get up early and read your Bible and pray each day.
    • Maybe you've even cut out obvious sin patterns that cloud your view of God.
    • And you've gone a step beyond and highlighted time wasters--things that are "ok" but that prevent you from spending time on more profitable things.
    • And yet, you still experience failure and discouragement.
    • What's the answer? Remember that you are rooted in the gospel, and live by the gospel. Nothing you do can increase God's acceptance of you through Christ! No matter how hard you work, you can't make yourself any more righteous than God has declared you to be in Christ.
  • Nothing you do can make you one bit more righteous in God's sight. But, on the other hand, your enjoyment of your relationship with God is directly connected to your fruit-bearing, to your acting like you're a child of God.
    • Does it matter if you read your Bible and pray? Yes! While we are here in this fallen world, we have an old nature that rises up and does war against the new creation we are in Christ. We must actively put that nature to death and pursue Christ-likeness.
  • Do you know God this way? Do you live your life in the power of the gospel? Or have you separated your salvation from your growth in Christ? Doing that will lead to futility and frustration. Are you self-reliant, believing you can make yourself more righteous? God is calling you to repent. Are you lazy, not disciplining yourself to godliness? God is calling you to repent.

 

Pastor Joshua Pegram

Hampton Park Baptist Church

Greenville, SC 29609

September 15, 2013

 
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

 

 
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