Category Archives: Worship

Colossians 1.15-20

I had the privilege to preach at the BMA Seminary in Jacksonville this morning. I was deeply honored that Dr. Charley Holmes would invite me back again this year. I wanted to post this message, but warn any regular readers that I’ve sampled some recent illustrations from my Sunday morning Romans 8 Series Sermons to fill in with some great examples. 🙂

Title: Boys, Do what you’ve been called to do, because of what you know to be True.

Text: Colossians 1.15-20 ESV

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

I want to thank Dr. Holmes for giving me the hardest text of Scripture to preach on to a bunch of young theologians… I wonder if more denominations and cults have been started from these few verses than from any other few verses grouped together in Scripture? Let me just affirm that using an archaic word with a contemporary meaning can bring a lot of confusion! It is so easy to use a word that sounds one way, without understanding its meaning in the appropriate way.

Misunderstandings can happen, but they can also leave a lot of damage.

  • Autocorrect on your phone can contribute to some of this.
  • Not totally understanding what someone is asking for is how we got Potato Chips. The story goes that a man wanted French Fries. The cook didn’t know what French Fries were. The man did his best to describe what French Fries are. When his plate came out, he had on his plate what today are called Potato Chips.
  • World Magazine issue February 28th, 2019 reported that a young Kentucky man, Allan Harris, wanted to get his wife, Nina, what she wanted for Valentines. He did his research. He found out what she loved and wanted for Valentines. He knew she would be happy with them, after all, it was what she asked for. Then, he went and searched high and low for her special gift. When he showed up with a few turnips, she clarified it was tulips she had wanted.

My hope this morning is that I would not be misunderstood.

Let me quickly show you the words that bother me; words, I’m afraid you might mistake.

  • Verse 15: Image. We see the word image and we think it is a reflection to some degree of what the real thing looks like. But it isn’t the real thing – it is just an image of the real thing. uuuuuuu….
  • Verse 15: firstborn; (cf.: 18). We see this word and think that it was the first of its kind. Sounds like it was created first of all things…. Uuuuuuuuuuu…
  • Verse 20: reconcile all things to himself; this has a universal sound to it. Like ‘all’ things and no ‘things’ will be left out. Uuuuuuuuuu….

Let’s deal with this first misunderstanding: image.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And it was good. Along with all of this, God created man. The Text says: 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

                27         So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

Made in the image of God… I wonder what that was like? You know, when it was all still good. You know, before the fall. Too bad they couldn’t have done things right. Too bad they couldn’t just obey. But they fell for the lie – you know the lie: the one that says, “you’ll be like God”.

Somehow, they missed that they already were like God. He had made them in his image. I want you to ponder that thought for a moment. They were made in the image of God, but Satan fooled them into distorting that image.

  1. Perfect Creation: made in the image of God and marred in the Fall. They were supposed to be the image of God, but Satan said: Don’t listen to him! He knows that you’ll be like Him when you eat of the fruit! This is the lie of Satan. He wants to distort the true image of God.
  2. God’s Children, Israel, commanded to image God and be holy as he is holy. They were to not make idols and not worship idols but instead chose to worship the creation instead of the creator. They worshipped images of things made by men, instead of the perfect, holy God. Like Adam and Eve, they failed to image God perfectly. Enter Jesus…
  3. Jesus imaged God perfectly! 2 Cor 4.4; In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Hebrews 1.3a; He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Col 1.15;

He is the Image of God the verse says, but to clarify Paul continues: of the invisible God. So, what we see is that – what was invisible has now become visible. God, who is invisible has become God visible before us. He is the divine representation of God. That is true, however, I like the phrase, the divine manifestation of God here on earth even better. Or, as we said when I lived in Hawaii: That’s mo’ bettah! If we go to John 14 we find some strength for our understanding when Philip, in a bit of frustration, said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Just by itself, that request doesn’t seem so bad. But, Jesus appears to demonstrate a little frustration toward Philip in his response: Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

For me, that’s pretty clear. I wish I could say to people who ask me to show them Jesus: Dude, how long I have been your pastor that you still don’t know me? Whoever has seen me has seen Jesus! How can you say to me: Show us Jesus?

I feel more like Adam or Israel in this regard – I’m a poor image of the Messiah. Because you see me in a fallen state!

Paul is declaring that Jesus is God right here. Now, he strengthens his remark with another one, which is my 2nd concern: the firstborn of all creation.

I told you this is my second concern because I’ve personally seen this one totally misunderstood.

Ill.: Our church began a small group of women who were having Bible Study and losing weight. I was fine with it because this Bible Study was purchased from our Denominational Bookstore. The ladies were in a few weeks when my wife asked me about something that the teacher said. I didn’t like it, made the correction and we moved on. But then I got word that the Bookstore, which by the way is Lifeway, was pulling it because the author declared that Jesus was the first created being. The author misunderstood this verse. She quoted from it in her defense. As the pastor, without talking to the ladies, canceled the Bible Study. One woman from the study was furious with me. She had lost more weight doing this study than by any other diet.

Every translation I looked at translates this firstborn of all creation. But firstborn doesn’t mean born first. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages states that this Gk word πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos), ον (on): adj.; and it means birthright, pertaining to the inheritance rights of the firstborn; in other words, it isn’t a position in the order of birth, it is the position in order of importance. It deals with the right of the firstborn, which we know, isn’t necessarily the one who is born first (Ishmael, Isaac; Esau, Jacob; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah). But check it out, it continues: existing before (Col 1:15); 3. LN 87.47 superior (Col 1:15), as in showing position.

We see this used exactly this way in the Old Testament – of those who were not the ‘firstborn’ sons in the family, but the title is used of them to give them a position of inheritance. It is used to show their prominence. Consider Jeremiah 31.9 where God says: …for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. If you know birth order, you know Manasseh was born first. But, Grandpa Jacob, did a switch on Manasseh and Ephraim. The point is that it isn’t about the first to come into being – it is the one who is given the rights and privileges of the one who has this position.

Herein is our first point of the morning. Paul is declaring that Jesus is Lord over all creation.

1. The Supremacy of Christ in Creation (15-17)

exp.: first he created it all; Jesus is the agent by which all things came into being; rd v 15-16; I love to quote John 1 here: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Jesus made it all!

That makes him a really big God! J. MacArthur expounds on Creation in his commentary series on Colossians: By studying the creation, one can gain a glimpse of the power, knowledge, and wisdom of the Creator. The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, has a diameter of 864,000 miles (One hundred times that of earth’s) and could hold 1.3 million planets the size of earth inside it. The star Betelgeuse, however, has a diameter of 100 million miles, which is larger than the earth’s orbit around the sun. It takes sunlight, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, about 8.5 minutes to reach earth. Yet that same light would take more than four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, some 24 trillion miles from earth. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions or even billions of galaxies. What they can see leads them to estimate the number of stars in the universe at 1025. That is roughly the number of all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches and deserts. (Colossians and Philemon, J. MacArthur, Col. 1.16)

Consider that we’ve not even really been able to search out the farthest most remote places in our Universe and the Bible says he created all of that.

But v 17 tells us even more; rd v 17; He is not only the one who created it all; he is the one who holds it all together. The Supremacy of Christ in Creation tells us that he is the Creator and the Sustainer.

I feel a song coming on! Worthy of Worship (Blankenship)

Verse 1

Worthy of worship worthy of praise
Worthy of honor and glory
Worthy of all the glad songs we can sing
Worthy of all of the offerings we bring

Chorus

You are worthy Father Creator
You are worthy Savior Sustainer
You are worthy; worthy and wonderful
Worthy of worship and praise

The fact that Jesus created all that is, and is still moving. Consider the fact that he sustains all things, too.

Ill.: Being here today brings back wonderful memories for me as I think about my years of Seminary training. I was privileged to sit under some of the most wonderful minds in Theology. I’ll bet some of my professors wrote some of your textbooks. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me. One such professor was Dr. Bill Tolar. He’s gone to be with the Lord now. He passed away this past December 29.

I want to encourage you to Youtube Dr. Tolar’s message: Creation. Chance or Choice? Good stuff. In that message, he lists 10 different scientific facts about the earth, the moon, and the sun. And, he demonstrates how life would not be able to exist if any one of those facts were to change. Here are some of those:

  1. The earth is tilted at just the right angle (23.3o ) – straight up and down, life couldn’t exist
  2. It is spinning at just the right speed (1,000 mph) – a little slower and things would burn up; a little faster and things would freeze – life couldn’t exist.
  3. It tilts back and forth just far enough, going no more than 3o in either direction; any further than that, then life could not exist.
  4. It is just far enough away from the sun. It spins and encircles in an oval rotation – perfectly. If it was any further away, most of life would die, probably from starvation. But we need plants to make oxygen. Any closer and the plants would burn up. We would burn up.
  5. The moon is just far enough away. It regulates the tides. If it were closer or further away, then the tides would either pull back and make too much ground or the waves would crash against the Rocky Mts.
  6. There is just enough water in the oceans…any more/ any less by just three feet!
  7. There is just enough land and just enough of the earth’s crust. If the earth’s crust were just 10 feet thinker life couldn’t exist the way it does. And the earth’s diameter is about 8,000 miles. But just 10 ft would make that difference so dramatic, life couldn’t exist as it does.
  8. I highly recommend his message, but listen, here’s my point: Christ not only made it all, but he also holds it all together!

Transition. 1st, We see Christ’s Supremacy in Creation as Creator and Sustainer.

2. The Supremacy of Christ in the Church.

Exp.: we stand and look at Creation and are all in awe of Christ. Well, Paul says that there is something as wonderful that Christ created and it is His Church. Rd v 18; When you read that, it almost sounds like he’s talking about two different things: one, the church and 2nd, something about being resurrected from the dead. But consider this: these are really about the same thing. They cover the same topic.

If Christ had not risen, what difference would there be? Ladies and Gentlemen, I propose to you that it would make all the difference in the World! The Resurrection is a vital part of our Faith. Indeed, if you remove the resurrection, what do you have? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ has not been raised, we are still in our sins, our faith is futile and we’re to be pitied above all men!

The Resurrection is important because it is the basis by which all other matters rest. Without the resurrection, the church falls flat on its face. But consider this: those who are in this body, of which Christ is the head, they have the hope of the resurrection. Christ is simply the first to be raised and never to die again. His resurrection demonstrates for us that we too will be raised on that day. Here again, we see position: that he might be preeminent. That he might be in the first position. He’s the boss. He’s Lord. There is no one above him. There is no one who outranks him. The buck stops with Him. But, just so you don’t miss what Paul is saying, he brings more clarity: rd v 19; He’s God in the Flesh; rd v 20; So,…

In this passage, we see His Work in Creation and His Work in Redemption.

You know I began my message with the Creation story. The Fall marred it all. But here we read that Christ is reconciling the world to him. This doesn’t mean that everyone gets to heaven. This is a reference to what shall be.

Ill.: If you’ve not been to a Simeon Trust Preaching Workshop, I highly encourage you to go. If you’re a woman here, they host workshops for Women, too. But, one of the lessons we learn in a Simeon Trust Workshop is about books and finding the theme or topic in a book. One such way to locate your theme is by locating the top and the tail. It isn’t just the book, but it can also be used for a pericope or a passage. It helps us to determine what the theme or topic might be. An example we use is Mark. Mark begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The introduction climaxes with God proclaiming in v 11: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – So with the introduction, you have this claim that Jesus is the Son of God. Throughout the book, demons and spirits call him the Son of God. Before he is crucified the High priest asks him if he is the Son of the Blessed. And Jesus says, yep. And at the book’s climax, as Jesus dies on the cross, the Centurion witnesses the entire events and says: truly this was the Son of God. You can then go back through the book of Mark to see if this is a theme that flows through the entire book and wah-lah! There is… Demons declare him to be God’s Son. Remember the Gadarene Demoniac: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most-High God? That’s just one example.

I’m preaching in the book of Romans right now. Let me show you the theme in Romans: read the introduction. Observe 1.5: Paul is declaring the Gospel is preached to the nations to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name. Now look at Romans 16.25: 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

There you have it. You do a little research on Romans and you’ll see that this is exactly what the Letter is all about: The preaching of the Gospel to all the nations in order to bring about the obedience of faith.

So, what am I getting at? At the beginning of this book (The Bible), you have the story of Creation. A topic near and dear to this passage. In that beginning, we see perfection. Then, there is the fall. Everything falls apart. The couple is banished. Perfection is lost. Thorns, weeds, storms, chaos, murder. Sin has corrupted what was perfect. But, Paul is telling us about the end of this book. In the beginning story, you have a unique relationship with God. In the end, that relationship is restored. You have a river in the garden in the beginning. Look, you see the same at the end. There is a tree in the midst of the garden in the beginning. What do you know? There is a tree in the end, too. Coincidence. No, that is the melodic line of this book. God is reconciling a fallen world to himself. And, in the end – that is exactly what will be! There will be a new heaven and a new earth. All things will be reconciled.

Conclusion: So, is all of this theology important? You bet it is. Not just because you’re going to be preachers and teachers of God’s Word. But it must apply to your life and to the life of those you serve.

Many years ago, when I was first in ministry, there was a man who came to see me. Pastor? You got a second? Sure. This man hadn’t been going to my church for very long. His beliefs were different than ours, but he loved our worship and was complimentary of my preaching.

He began to pour out his heart about his struggles. He had been a member of the Hell’s Angels gang in the Los Angeles area back in the ’60s and ’70s. The hard life had left him in constant pain. As an addict, he shied away from drugs. So, he lived with the pain. He told me he had a certain amount of money in the bank, in a savings account. He gave me the number of the account. I wasn’t sure where he was going.

He asked me to explain my theological understanding of suicide and, as a pastor, would I ever let someone who committed suicide to have a funeral in the church. He told me that he would be ending his life in a couple of days – he was going to commit suicide. But, the money, that was for the funeral and to make sure his boys were taken care of. He still had two sons at home. They were pretty close to being able to take care of themselves…

I was caught off guard. I knew I couldn’t let him just kill himself. I didn’t know the laws, but I was pretty sure this guy needed help. He needed help beyond what I could give. I was this young buck just fresh out of seminary.

But, the moment he noticed me interceding, he threatened me. Did I tell you guys that he was a former member of the Hell’s Angels? He was more than twice my age, but I also knew that he knew how to put a hurt on me if he wanted to do so! It didn’t matter. I knew what I needed to do.

Then he said if that is what you’re going to do… Then I’m going to go home and kill myself in front of them.

I was scared. I didn’t want that.

Now, at this moment, how does your theology impact your actions?

You study that Christ is God. He is the creator of all that is. He is the sustainer of this whole thing. He is the head of the church. He is the first to be resurrected and has shown us exactly what it will be like for us on that final day when we, too are resurrected to a new life. But does that help you at that moment?

You bet it does! Your theology grounds you in what you do as a pastor. And trust me, your theology will conflict with your experience. You know God is sovereign, but what about the day that it feels like he isn’t. You know that Christ is in Control. But, what about the day it feels like he’s lost control. You know God is powerful. But what about the day he doesn’t display His power in your life.

I told you when I began that I don’t want to be misunderstood. Hear me now and once again: You can go and serve where he has called you because you know this is true. He is Lord over all Creation and Lord over his Church. And because of this, you know that he is Lord over eternity. And he will sustain you in whatever you go through. Boys, Serve Him well and do what you’ve been called to do because of what you know to be true about Him. Let’s Pray…

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Colossians, Creation, Scripture, Sermon, Worship

Psalm 130

**for the audio track of this message, click here www.soundcloud.com.

Title: Out of the Depths

Text: Psalm 130

We’ll be in two texts this morning: Here in Psalm 130 and later, we’ll turn to Romans 5 for a moment.

Introduction: A young boy from down south attended Sunday school for the first with his grandparents who lived up north. He was so excited he couldn’t wait to tell grandma about the lesson. “My teacher taught us all about the whales,” he announced. “You mean Jonah and the whale?” grandma asked. “No,” he said, “Jacob and the whales.” “I think it was Jonah,” the grandmother gently corrected. “He was swallowed by a whale in the ocean.” But this young man knew his lesson. “No, it was Jacob. He moved out into the desert and when he got thirsty, he dug some whales.”

Communication sometimes can be hard. Especially when you think you already know what the other person is trying to say. But what about when someone wants to communicate, but they’re in a place where there just are no words. For instance, praying. What is it like when you want to pray, but you don’t know what to say or even how to say it.

ill.: The Valley of Vision; a help in praying; sometimes, I just don’t know what to say.; Read the first one…

Have you ever been in a place where there were no words to adequately describe your plight, your plea? That place – that is where the Psalmist describes, Out of the Depths.

I have to say, though, we could categorize this struggle. What I mean by that is people get to the bottom of life – to the depths in different ways. We could create categories out of those different ways. Two come to mind: First, Some people reach the bottom, but not by their own doing. It wasn’t their fault, per se, just life and the calamity that sometimes plagues it.

  • The loss of a child
  • The suffering of a spouse
  • The tragedy of a natural disaster, just to mention a few.

But this Psalm doesn’t come from that category. Consider the despair someone feels from hitting the bottom because they have put themselves there. That would be the 2nd category. You made that decision. There is no one else to blame but you. And you know it. This Psalm, Psalm 130, was born out of that pain and despair.

Now, before we dig in, I want us to look closely at the Psalms four natural separate sections: 1-2; 3-4; 5-6; 7-8. The ESV, NIV, CSV has formatted the passage with space in between 2-3; 4-5; 6-7 to help us identify them.

Show slide:

  • His Prayer from a place of deep despair (1-4)
  • His Trust (Faith) in the only place he can hope (5-6)
  • His Plea for Israel to put their hope in God (7-8)

For our purposes this morning, I’ve made my divisions between verses 4-5 and 6-7. So, I’m going to group verse 1-4 together. You’ll notice he’s speaking to God. That’s his prayer. I want you to then be looking ahead to verses 5&6, where we find the basis for his prayer: God’s faithfulness. This man’s faith and his trust in God are grounded firmly in God’s faithfulness to his Word. And thirdly, what he’s found is what he wants for his people, so he issues this plea: Israel, hope in the Lord, too. And he then tells them why.

Transition: Let’s begin with this first section…

I.     His Prayer: A cry and a confession born out of his condition (1-4)

exp.: Psalm 120.1, 5; a call that comes from the distress of living in exile; Psalm 121.1, 7; a cry for rescue from ‘all the evil’; Ps 123.1-2; Have mercy, v3 Have Mercy; why? V4; we’ve had more than enough of what this world offers;

Question: What are these circumstances that surround this Cry? Is it from a geographical place? Or, is it from the depths of anguish? The context of the Psalms of Ascent would lead us to both – geographically and spiritually. This word depths is used metaphorically to refer to the overwhelming personal devastation in Psalm 69 – as in, the Psalmist suffers from those who are attacking him.

In Psalm 124, David presents this idea of being swept away: 4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Had God not intervened on behalf of Israel, they would have been cast into the depths!

For the Jew, the depths is the scariest place to be. In Revelation 13 we see the Beast rising up out of the depths of the sea – coming from this place of darkness and evil – a very scary place where evil abides.

What a picture! And the writer is here, in the depths, crying out to Yahweh.

To be in this place alone… that would be bad. But he isn’t alone and he knows it. He knows there is someone he can call to and count on… And that, my friend, makes all the difference in the world!

Note the poetic efforts to whom he is addressing:

  • vs 1: Yahweh, vs 2, Adonai
  • vs 3: Yahweh, Adonai
  • vs 5: Yahweh, vs 6: Adonai
  • vs 7: Yahweh, Yahweh

Using both terms, the Psalmist is appealing to the almighty power of Yahweh and to the close personal relationship the Psalmist has with God. Goldingay says the Psalmist does this because he believes God has the power and the obligation to respond. The obligation comes from the close personal relationship.

app.: What a beautiful picture of God: We should always retain an understanding of the Great Omnipotent God who created the Universe. And, this same Great, Almighty God desires a personal relationship with each one of us. This is the message we preach. And the hope we bring to the world.

But remember, why is this person here? Why is he in the depths (whether in exile or in circumstances), why is he crying out in anguish for God’s mercy?

  • Not the world’s mistreatment, even though we’ve read that happening (129.3)
  • Not evil against him, even though the world will be that way
  • Not contempt by those evil doers, even though they are contemptuous.

No, this comes from the writer’s recognition of his own sin. Continuing on in v. 3-4: If you, O Lord (Yahweh, Almighty God), should mark iniquities, O Lord (Adonai, close and personal Father), who could stand? But with you (sweet, loving Father) there is forgiveness, that you may be feared (Yahweh, God Almighty).

This is an excellent question: who can stand before Yahweh? Surely not this poor fellow! Or, if you choose to look at it as being written on behalf of the nation, then surely not the Israelites. They had rejected Him. Hence, they have found themselves exiled and far away from home. The question is asked in such a way that it deserves a response in the negative: No One! The writer recognizes his own sinful state. And, without God’s forgiveness, he cannot stand before God. This close personal relationship with the Almighty God has been fractured.

The Holiness of God:

Why is this? Because God is holy; none can stand in his presence because all have sinned. Ps 14 & Ps 53 declare there is none righteous, all have become corrupt! The writer is moved to pray a cry for mercy because the writer has become aware that he is out of sorts with God – not with the world, or an enemy, or not because of his circumstances. No, he is out of alignment with God. He says: If you, Yahweh, should mark iniquities; iniquity is defined as something that is not equal; something out of proportion to God’s character.

Let that sink in. Iniquity is defined as something that is ‘not equal’; something out of proportion to God’s character.

Don’t get me wrong: we can be out of sorts with an enemy, or circumstances and situations, or the world. But that will never show us our sinfulness like when we cast ourselves in light of God’s Holiness.

The writer here sees himself in light of a holy God and knows that none can stand. David asks in Psalm 24: Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.

Nobody fits that description but one: Christ. Jesus is the only one who has clean hands and a pure heart. Our writer in Psalm 130 acknowledges that without the forgiveness of sin, he cannot hope to stand in the presence of God. But, rd v 4a: But with you there is forgiveness…

May I veer off course for a moment and ask a question? Who prays like this? Our prayers are not typically like this. Our prayers concern ourselves with where we are and what we’re doing. Our prayers are more focused upon the fact that we’ve been mistreated, the circumstances we find ourselves in are beyond our control, or some evil has been perpetrated against us. Not this prayer! This is an acknowledgment of the fact that this person is where he is because he has sinned against God. And he knows there is absolutely nothing he can do to rectify the situation. He needs God to intervene on his behalf.

app.: I wonder if you’ve ever been here? In some respects, this is a wonderful place to have been. Not to stay, but to have been. Let me ‘splain… when you’ve been in this place:

  1. It causes you to realize that you are a weak individual. When you are in the depths because of your own doing, you begin to see how pitifully weak you are. You thought you were strong, but now you see you’re weak and you need the strength of the Lord to protect you.
  2. It causes you to realize that you are prone to sin. You need help getting away from people, places, etc. that hurt you. And sin never just hurts you, but those you’re intimately involved with: your husband, your wife, your children, your church, your ministry, etc. You’re weak and sinful!
  3. It shows you the damage it does to your relationship/fellowship with God. You see separation, you’ve lived being separated from God and you hate it! You understand what it means to say as in Psalm 32:

        Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

        Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

        For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

        For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

Maybe this is our problem today in the church: we don’t have a high view of our holy God. Maybe we’re presenting a god to the world who isn’t holy and doesn’t display holiness. We show the world that Marriage isn’t important to God. Children aren’t important to God. Relationships aren’t important to God. Our view of God is way too small – his holiness is not clearly perceived in our actions and our sinfulness is too readily accepted as being ok. We think to ourselves: Oh, it ain’t that bad!

But the writer here sees it. That is why he writes: If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

t.s.: That is why he prayers a prayer born out of his sinful condition. He sees it, he knows it, and so he declares out from the depths, his trust in God:

II.     His Trust: A Contentment born out of knowledge and experience (5-6)

exp.: rd v 5: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; One who hopes in the Lord knows that he will not be disappointed or put to shame. Why? Look where his hope is: in his word.

Turn to Romans 5.1-5; Romans 4 teaches us that our faith is the same as Abraham’s faith. Here is the basic teaching: God said it. God gave his word. Abraham believed God and because of that, it was credited to his account as righteousness. Abraham’s faith – that is, trusting God at His Word made him righteous. God made him righteous because he took God at His Word. In the same manner, we believe God, that if we confess Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, then, we will be saved. When we’ve taken God at his word, we’re justified and we have certain blessings of now being able to walk with him. Rd 5.1; the blessings from our justification:

  • We have peace (v1)
  • We have access into the Grace of God. (v2a)
  • We rejoice
    • In hope of the glory of God (2b)
    • In our present suffering (3-4)

And this is where we’re going in v 5: and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. And v6-8 tell us that God shows us his love in a physical way by placing his Son upon the cross of Calvary to die for our sin. So, how is it that we won’t be ashamed? Two actions by God lead us to this place of understanding that our hope will not disappoint us. He has poured his love into our hearts (Holy Spirit) – and he gave his son to die for our sins.

A lot of people think that we’re out in left field when we talk of heaven and the spiritual things of God. But, we know because of these two actions that one day – our hope will be a reality. We’ll see him face to face – we will be like him for we shall see him as he is AND, we will not be disappointed.

That’s what faith is. That’s what this man’s trust is all about: Hope in God and what He has said. For hope is a knowledge of something to come that has yet to be realized. But we know it will and we will not be disappointed!

            I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. The writer knows that God’s promises are true. The writer knows that God’s word is something in which he can put his hope! And so he waits because his trust is in God.

Transition: now the writer moves from the first person to the third person. He was praying to God, He gave testimony of God’s faithfulness, now he directs what he has to say to the people.

III.   His Plea: A Call to Hope (7-8)

exp.: rd v 7-8; O Israel, hope in the Lord, That’s where my hope is! The best salesman is a happy customer and the Psalmist fits that description. O Israel, hope in the Lord. Why? He gives two really good reasons:

  1. For with the Lord there is חסד steadfast love, I asked a Jewish rabbi what חסד (hessed) means. He said: most simply put, Grace.
  2. And with him is abundant, plentiful redemption.

These two characteristics are the 2nd and 3rd characteristic we’ve seen to which the Psalmist attributes being ‘with’ God.

חסד is with God; abundant redemption is with God, look back to v. 4: forgiveness is with God! He reminds us of that in v. 8 – And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. It doesn’t matter where he is or how he got there. God will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Conclusion: Chuck Swindoll writes: Do you remember the last time you got a spanking? I remember…As a matter of fact, the spanking was on my thirteenth birthday…In our home…when you had a birthday you were sort of “king for a day.” I remember lying around in bed and on the sofa, barking orders…. And so my father, from the flower bed outside, sensing the need for some correction, called me, “Charles.” And I said, “Yeah,” which was mistake #1 because in our home you didn’t say “Yeah,” you said, “Yes sir.” And then he called…again and said, “Come out and help me weed the flower bed.” And I said, “No,” which was mistake #2. He graciously continued…, “Now don’t lie there and act like a three-year-old. Come out and help me weed this flower bed._” I said, “Daddy, I’m not three, I’m thirteen.”

     …that’s the last thing I remember on that day because with both hands and both feet he landed on my body. And he did not let go until I was very vigorously weeding the flower bed….

Chuck ends the story with a profound thought: I still remember it even though it was years ago. As we worked together through most of that day, he said to me at a time that was well chosen, “Son, I would be less than a good dad if I did not correct you when you disobey.”

Redemption often comes from that cold, dark deep hole we’ve dug ourselves into. We thought we were king, but the King of Glory, in all of his love, redeems us from the pit.

It is this same hope in God’s Word that we preach. It is this same faith we hold so dear:

  • That God is holy, perfect and righteous.
  • That we are sinners… unable to change our condition.
  • So in his tender mercy toward us, he acted:
    • He sent his only Son to live a perfect and sinless life.
    • And then crucified him on the cross of Calvary to take away our sins.
    • And by placing our trust in him – this powerful, almighty God, we can have a sweet relationship with him forever.
  • If you’ve never trusted him before, let today be the day!

 

Title: In a moment we’ll be dismissed, but our time together isn’t over. We’re going to spend some time in fellowship. There will be coffee and some goodies in the back – there in the Cornerstone area. Let’s visit together. Maybe you have questions about what it means to commit your life to Christ. Maybe, you’re interested in joining the church. Come visit with me about that. Maybe there is another decision on your heart. Let’s talk.

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Psalm 128

Title: The Blessings of God

Text: Psalm 128

Introduction: I could say something – a phrase or a word – and for many here, it would trigger thoughts of times past. Someone would come to your mind and there would be a feeling of nostalgia that would fill your senses. I have my own, but I’m sure we share some together. Do you remember who used to sign off: And that’s the way is…? Yeah, Walter Cronkite. You hear it and you’re taken somewhere. Here’s another one that’s very special to me: And now you know, the rest of the story. I always loved Paul Harvey, not so much for the news, but more for the story at the end of his short broadcast. Do you remember he would say the page number as he made his way through his reading?

For those who don’t know, Paul Harvey would tell these wonderful stories and just leave you wondering all the way through where he was possibly going with this bit of information. And then, in the final couple of seconds, it would all come together. It was like: Oh, I didn’t know that! Now that makes more sense.

In our text today, Psalm 128 picks up where Psalm 127 leaves off. It’s like, here’s the rest of the story.

Psalm 127 review: God is sovereign over every aspect of our lives. He is the source from which our blessings come. And, which flows naturally into 128; Where 127 reminds us of the source of all blessings (the Lord), 128 teaches us where we need to be to receive those blessings. Where you might ask (you see it in v1): walking in the fear of the Lord.

At first, it looks like there are two commands or points of reference here: (1) fearing God and (2) walking in his ways. However, I think they are one in the same. So let’s begin here.

What you do demonstrates who you are. Your fear and reverence of Yahweh (or lack thereof) will be evident in your actions and behaviors. Many people may say they have reverence for the Yahweh, but their hearts are far from him because of what comes out in their lives.

I say that to say that the author’s first statement about fear and walking is really just one reference point. Put that down as a foundation for what we’ll build upon this morning and let’s launch into the heart of the Psalm and the sermon from there. What you do demonstrates who you are. From that point of reference, from that application, upon that foundation now, allow me to build upon that thought and give you a thesis statement that comes from this Psalm:

For the man who walks in the fear of the LORD, the LORD blesses his life: His Work, His Family, and His Church.

I think the scene is easy to picture. The pilgrims have journeyed from afar and have arrived in Jerusalem. They’re coming to the Temple to worship. They’re inside the gates and near the Temple. There is joy. There is laughter. There is excitement. There is … singing.

Maybe the priest sings this song to the pilgrims. First, he preaches and then he blesses. He declares:

        Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!

            You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. (There is food in their pouches; the streets are lined with people selling more food, fruits, and vegetables).

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. These people are standing around him. I picture him even pulling them close to him. It would be a photographic moment if cameras existed in those days.

4             Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. This creates a sort of bookend to the preaching. You see the blessing begin in v 1 and bookend here at the end of the sermonette.

Now, the priest changes his tone and voice and pronounces a blessing upon the people.

5             The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!

6             May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

And for sure, Israel would experience peace if the people walked in the fear of the Lord all the days of their life.

So you see the two parts of the Psalm from the outline of the priests Preaching and Blessing. I would divide this psalm into three parts. These three are the same areas or aspects of one’s life from last week:

  1. Work (1-2)
  2. Family (3-4)
    1. Husband (His Wife)
    2. Father (His Children)
  3. Church (5-6) (last week we said community because the context is community, but the application is the church).

Don’t worry, I’m not going to preach last week’s sermon again. Instead, let’s look at a few words and maybe make those the columns we use to build up our house. Do you remember our foundation? What you do demonstrates who you are.

Rd v1: 1 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!

  1. Blessed:: is Asher, it means happy. Genesis 30.13: 13 And Leah said, “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.” So she called his name Asher. When you hear that word Asher, think of the beatitudes (Mt 5.3-11). This word appears in v 1, 2, 4, and 5. It really is a continuation of Psalm 127.5; Question: Would you say you are blessed? Would you say you are happy (in the Biblical sense)? The 2nd column is…
  2. Fear: v1 & 4; bookends; All of Proverbs is dedicated to teaching one how to walk in the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1.7 is the thesis of the book and it reads: 7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

When you see this word fear in the Bible, just as you do with happy, I don’t want you to think about it in terms of today’s use of that word. It doesn’t mean to be afraid like Friday the 13th afraid. Sure, there is that aspect, but it means so much more. I like the word reverence. It means to have a deep respect and honor for someone or something (like a tradition or practice). To revere someone or something means to show devoted deferential to; to regard as worthy of great honor.

Ephesians 5.33 – 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. See that word respects? That’s the word phobia in the Greek. You know phobia means fear, but not exactly. This translation really brings out the meaning. Respect.

I wonder if many Americans and even people from around the world really understand that. Devotion to God isn’t just a verbal assent to his existence. It means walking in his ways out of reverence. And, it isn’t just having reverence for the traditions of the church. Some traditions are wonderful, but some are not God-honoring. Some are probably even wicked and evil.

Some churches light candles to start the service. Is there anything in the Word of God about lighting candles before worship? Should a pastor be fired or should a family leave a church because they stopped lighting candles?

I said: Some traditions are not God-honoring. Some are probably even wicked and evil. Let that sink in for a moment. You might be offended at that statement. Ask yourself: are there traditions in my church that I value more than the commandments of God?

Jesus confronted the Pharisees on this very topic and they didn’t take it very well. Do you want to upset people: attack their traditions. I’m in Mark 7, beginning in v 6:

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“ ‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

    in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

app.: As a Jewish man, his responsibility to care for his parents was established by the commands of God. But, the Pharisees saw a way to get that some of that money and they used their religious practices and traditions to get their hands on it. So they voided the commandment of God and established this new practice, this tradition. A man could claim “Corban” – and devote what should have gone into caring for his elderly parents to God. A loophole was created in the commandment of God to benefit the Pharisees and the man himself.

So, ask yourself: are there traditions in my church that I value more than the commandments of God? This is hard to answer and you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Your tendency and my tendency is to see your traditions as commanded by God. So, ask yourself and then answer: are there traditions in my church that I value more than the commandments of God?

t.s.: Solomon, Son of David is saying through his proverbs to his sons and his people, and to us: The Beginning of Wisdom is the Fear of the LORD. Blessed, Fear and

  1. Fruit: fruition is evident in v2, 3a, (3b), possibly 5; Fruition is the heart of this passage and each aspect of the man’s life deals with the man being fruitful.

ill.: Ligon Duncan points out that his passage is directing us back to the garden – that is, the Garden of Eden.

By the way, this psalm has clear allusions to the Garden. You see them in the three blessings that we’re going to talk about in a few moments — work, wife, children. Rule — work the land. Here is Eve — God gives her in marriage. Be fruitful and multiply — children. This psalm is deliberately taking us back to the Garden and we see that in the battle to understand the blessedness of the fear of the Lord in the very first verses. Because in Genesis 3 what did the serpent say to Eve and to Adam? “If you want to be like God, disobey, disobey God. Take of the fruit of the tree of which He commanded you not to eat.” And what did the serpent say? “You will be like God. You will find true blessedness. You will know true fulfillment. You will have true satisfaction. You will find true happiness. You’ll be free. You’ll be doing what you want to do. You’ll have everything that you’ve always wanted to have and you will be like God.” That is the temptation of Genesis 3 from the serpent to Eve and to Adam. What is the serpent doing? He is deliberately separating holiness and happiness and he is saying those two things are incompatible. “You will not be happy, you will not be like God as long as you obey, as long as you are holy. You’re going to have to separate those things in order to experience true happiness.”

And what is the psalmist doing? He’s putting those right back together and he’s saying, “Wrong, Satan. The place in which true happiness is actually enjoyed is in the fear of the Lord.” He is responding to the world and the flesh and the devil and he is saying, “No, holiness is the sphere in which the happiness that God intends for every one of His children is enjoyed.”

What a great lesson for us! Satan isn’t doing anything different than he has always been doing in his cunning and deceitful ways. It’s the same old lie, just packaged with a different wrapping.

Conclusion: Friday night we left my mom’s and went by to visit Lisa’s mom. Our mothers live about an hour away from each other. Lisa’s sister came out and joined in the visiting. Mom pulled out some genealogy papers as the girls were talking about family and the past. I wasn’t paying too much attention because I usually can’t get into their conversations. I don’t mean I can’t get ‘into it’ by the fact that it is boring. What I mean by that is they have an intuitive, an instinctive ability to know when the other is going to stop speaking. And so, one or the other will continue the conversation without a drop in the flow. After 35 years of marriage and watching these ladies do this, I know to just sit back and enjoy. It truly is a beautiful work of art when these ladies are at maximum power. First of all, I can’t interject something when the flow is happening. I would have to interrupt the flow. And men, you probably know what I’m talking about – you just don’t do that. And 2nd, if there is a lull, it means that part of the conversation is over anyway. Finally, what I have to say was a part of the conversation three or four topics ago and is no longer applicable.

Well, in the flow of that evening, someone was mentioned. I don’t think he was family, per se, he was just someone who had the same last name as the family. Maybe he was just a friend of the family. It was mentioned that he was a pastor. I heard pastor and I was drawn into the conversation. But my heart sank when that part of the conversation concluded with him leaving his wife and children and running off with another lady. He left “the ministry.”

I don’t know what generation that was in. I don’t know what part of the family was affected by his actions and behaviors. I only know that it must have been devastating. And that Satan was victorious in that battle. Like Eve, he fell for the lie. And in their conversation, his life relegated to a footnote. No real work in ministry done, just a footnote…

Next week, as we come to Psalm 129, we’ll see this. The point of next week’s Psalm is just the opposite of this week’s point: those who do not walk in the fear and ways of the Lord will not be blessed.

 

Application: Wouldn’t you like to know what it feels like, what it means to be blessed by God? Wouldn’t you like to guard your life and your walk and protect it in such a way that you can experience his blessing? I do!

I love the picture here of these people coming to Jerusalem. They’re here in Jerusalem to bless the Lord. But before they get to do that, the priest speaks a blessing over them. Take that in for a moment. Rd v 5-6: 5 The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! 6 May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

What a blessing! For the person who walks in the fear and reverence of the Lord will experience the blessing of God in his life. Here in this Psalm, the writer limits the topic for the moment to these three spheres: his work, his family (i.e.: his marriage, and his children) and his church (community).

Some here today might be asking why they haven’t experienced this fulfillment in their life. It might be in the sphere of work, or marriage, or with children. Maybe you’ve haven’t experienced this in your church. Can we go back to the Garden for a moment? This garden theme flows through Scripture. We see it in Genesis 1-3. We see it in the Israelites inheriting a land flowing with Milk and Honey. We see it in the New Jerusalem in Revelation.

There is a taste of heaven here on earth, but not in its total fulfillment. This is how it once was and this is how it shall be one day. It is the day that we look toward. It is our hope.

In this life, we cannot walk perfectly in the fear and reverence of the Lord. Sin gets in the way. Just as it marred the garden experience for Adam and Eve, so we’ve been affected. But there is hope, and that my friend, is what Paul Harvey would say is the rest of the story.

But there is hope for you, and that hope comes through Christ. There is hope for your life, for your labor, for your lineage.

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Introduction to the Psalms of Ascent

Title: Psalms of Ascent

Text: Psalm 120-134

Introduction: Ezra (and Nehemiah)

When you read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah you get an understanding of the intense passion these two men had. Their desire was for their heritage. Their passion was for their God and the city he gave them – Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, the Temple. Ezra was responsible for leading the rebuilding of the Temple. Nehemiah was responsible for leading the rebuilding of the wall around the city.

The journey these men took began in Persia. It is believed by some that this is where the small collection of Psalms that we know as the Psalms of Ascent originated. We don’t know this for sure, but it is a very good theory. The idea behind this theory is that the Psalms of Ascent were compiled by Ezra (or priests working with him). The same word is used in Ezra 2.1 (7.9) as in this title telling of how the people “went up”. So, Ezra then compiled these Psalms and the priests then taught them to the people as they journeyed to Jerusalem. At least that’s one theory. I like it. It would have been inspirational and motivational. And so after the people returned from exile, they kept the tradition alive and would sing the Psalms of Ascent whenever they would journey from their homes in Israel to the Temple in Jerusalem for their seasons of feasts and festivals. This is how their children and their children’s children would learn.

There is a 2nd theory and this is the one I learned as a young man. The theory is that the priests would make their way to the Temple and as they ascended the 15 steps to the Temple, they would stop and recite one Psalm for each step. The 1st step would be Psalm 120. The 2nd step would be Psalm 121, and on up we go.

Let me show you some pictures.

I would propose to you that both of these happened: the priests reciting the Psalms as they climbed the stairs to the Temple and the People singing them as they journeyed to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple. Theory probably isn’t the right word. There is evidence both happened, it is just that neither one became a prominent tradition practiced through the years.

This leads to a question you might have: Why are we working through them? Why the Psalms of Ascent? Why did we leave Romans? Well, it is hard! Romans 8-11 are probably some of my favorite passages in Romans. Two Reasons: 1. I calendared it this way months ago. But really, the simple answer is Worship; I want to focus on worship for a season – that is the reason I put it on the calendar. Consider our three areas of focus as a church:

  • Worship: One Passion
  • Discipleship: One Mission – the Great Commission
  • Mission/Ministry: One Body serving in ministry and mission.

So, for this season, we’ll keep an eye on this task of worship.

Let’s approach it from the same standpoint as Ezra and Nehemiah. Consider their lives; where they were and what they were going through:

  1. Israel has been in exile for the past 70 years or so. So, these guys were born in exile. They’ve never known a Temple. All they know is what they’ve been told. There is much of their past they don’t know about or they don’t understand.
  2. They are in exile because of their sin and their rebellion; Daniel 9.3-19; Wow, what a prayer, an acknowledgment of why they were where they were. Consider this: God’s actions were so real, so evident and so very effective, that the Israelites never again had trouble with worshipping idols.

Let me ask you as you consider the prayer of Daniel: Do you want God’s blessing on Calvary? Do you desire for God to pour out his blessing on this Body of Believers? Do we deserve for God to bless us? No, and we must remember that we cannot appeal to God because of our righteousness, but only because of his mercy. Let us keep this in mind and ask God to draw us closer to him in the coming weeks as we focus on him, as we experience his mercy and forgiveness, and as we are moved to worship.

The plan is to sing the Psalms, study the Psalms and hopefully be moved in our worship.

A Word about the whole book: The Book of Psalms used to be understood as a random collection of Songs. But, today, more and more scholars are seeing the organization of these Songs.

  1. Outline of Psalms – 5 books
    1. Book 1: 1-41 tell of David’s reign
    2. Book 2: 42-72 is more of David’s reign and the transition to Solomon’s reign.
    3. Book 3: 73-89 is about the divided kingdom and the eventual conquering of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria and the Southern Kingdom by Babylon and being carried into exile.
    4. Book 4: 90-106 covers the years Israel was in exile.
    5. Book 5: 107-150 is post-exilic in nature.
  2. You could break that down even further with an Introduction (1-2) and a conclusion (146-150)
    1. Psalm 1 is about the torah and Psalm 2 is about the King of Israel. So the idea is of delighting oneself in the Law of God and following God as their King.

Speaking of organization, there are even smaller segments with different types of focus. Let me show you some famous segments.

  1. Segments
    1. Hallel (113-118)
    2. The Law (Psalm 119, Psalm 19)
    3. Psalms of Ascent (120-134)
    4. 103-107

Let’s talk about this particular segment, the Psalms of Ascent, for just a moment, as we prepare to study them in the coming weeks. I want you to see there is flow here, too. There are smaller segments that demonstrate cohesion.

  1. It appears that these songs were selected with their theme of the Temple:
    1. 7 of the 15 Psalms mention Zion. 125, 126, 128, 129, 132, 133, 134
    2. Psalm 122 mentions Jerusalem.
    3. Psalm 121, 123, 124 use formulations related to Zion.
    4. Psalm 127 mentions the ‘city’ and 130 and 131 mention the faith community of Israel gathered in the Temple complex.
    5. Only the 1st Psalm (120) doesn’t mention the Temple in any fashion. So, what does that mean?
  2. From the Jewish viewpoint, the Psalms of Ascent begin with the Jews at war and ends with the priest’s blessing them in the Temple. So, the flow appears to be a journey. The people are in a foreign land (120.5), Meshech and Kedar as the Psalms of ascent begin in 120 and they are in the Temple worshipping in Psalm 134. Read those passages.
  3. The high points: popularity and familiarity
    1. Psalm 121: 1-2
    2. Psalm 122:1
    3. Psalm 127:1, 3-5a
    4. Psalm 130: 1-4
    5. Psalm 133: 1

Conclusion: So, what am I hoping to accomplish here?

Well, I mentioned earlier the purpose of this study is worship. But where does worship come from? How does it well up within and boil over? I mentioned earlier that the introduction to the book of Psalms in Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 are about delighting in the Law of God and following God as their king. But, I think it is deeper than that. I think that both of these two themes are all about Jesus and He’s the one I want us to see as we make our way through the Psalms of Ascent.

Look at Psalm 1 with me. rd v 1; Blessed is the man who… rd 2. …Blessed are all who take refuge in him. So, you see these already go together with these bookends. Go back to Ps. 1: read v 1; Really, who is that? Anyone here do that perfectly? Anyone you know of? Only Jesus. Look at v 5-6; who is the only one who can stand on his own in the judgment? Only Jesus, the perfect man.

Look at Psalm 2 with me. rd Ps 2.1-9; This is about the King – The Lord’s King, who according to v 7 is – His Son. Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in Jesus.

I propose to you that the Psalms of Ascent, as with all of the Psalms, point us to Jesus – God’s Anointed One. He is the theme, the purpose, the reason for those songs. It is Him we will see and it is Him we will be inspired to worship. In the Psalms of Ascent, you’ll see themes of:

  • Peace
  • Unity
  • Mercy
  • Protection
  • Rest and Restoration
  • Family and Community and how they impact each other
  • Discipline
  • Redemption
  • Faithfulness
  • Blessing

Application:

  1. Read through the POA
    1. You can read through them in one easy sitting.
    2. Read half on one day and the other half on the manãna.
  2. See how they go together. Is there a familiar theme in the previous Psalm or in the next Psalm? Is there a flow here? See if there are bookends to different Psalms, like I showed you in Psalm 1 and 2.
  3. Be praying about your worship.
    1. As an individual
    2. As a family
    3. As a community

Ask: Do I come in here Sunday after Sunday without having prepared my heart for worship? What is your Sunday morning routine like? Does it include yelling? Scrambling to get here in a fashionable time? Be praying about your worship and how you contribute to this time on Sunday. Also, pray about what God might be doing in your life concerning worship. Where does he want to take you? What does he want you to see? Is there anything about your worship he doesn’t like – that he wants to refine?

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Nehemiah 8

Title: The Word of God at Work in the People of God

Text: Nehemiah 8.1-18

CIT: Ezra reads the Law of Moses and it greatly impacts the lives of God’s people.

CIS: if we believe the Word of God is power and effective, then we’ll demonstrate that truth with our actions by allowing it to dictate our existence.

Introduction: How does one really determine the importance of God’s Word in affecting one’s actions? Is God’s Word important? Is God’s Word important to you? If so, how important? Do you wake up on Sunday morning with an excitement about gathering together with God’s people to hear his Word and obey? For me, I’ve been blessed. Because of my position in the church, Lisa took it upon herself to get the kids ready and to let me worry about myself. Oh, sure, there were Saturday nights when I would be a part of getting things ready – but that was more rare than regular. I didn’t worry about kids eating or what they’d wear. Mom took care of that. She did everything so that I could focus upon my task as a pastor or staff member. For the most part, we didn’t even travel together. That’s what a 2nd car was for. But that isn’t the way it is with most families.

Tony Payne in his book, How to Walk into Church, writes:

I exit the car, usually with a wife and various kids in tow, an amble in the front door, tossing off a quick greeting to whomever is handing out the folded sheets of paper that in church-speak are called ‘bulletins.’

After a quick scan of the seating situation – who has already parked themselves where, who I might want to avoid and so on – I chose a spot not too near the front and sidle into the chosen row, smiling feebly at the person sitting on the other side of the seat that I’ve politely left vacant between us.

I wonder what it is like for most families. Is it like the experience Payne writes about when he and his wife had 5 kids – all under the age of 12: After a week of long days and short sleeps, followed by the chaos of getting everyone out the door on a Sunday morning, and culminating in a circus of noise and infighting in the car, I didn’t really walk into church. It was more of a stagger, followed by a semi-collapse into a seat, followed by lengthy periods of zoning out.

Maybe it isn’t like that at all for you. Maybe you’re more of a strategist. This is what you do. 1, 2, 3, 4 – checked it off my list. Now, to my next task on the agenda. Again, that wasn’t and isn’t me. I’ve been truly blessed. But, I digress. Let’s get back to the question at hand: How does one really determine the importance of God’s Word in affecting one’s actions? Is God’s Word important? If so, how important? How does it impact your day – your Sunday? Does it touch even the way you walk into church?

Today’s passage is all about a people who wanted to hear and learn of God’s Word. We’re in Nehemiah 8. Thank you, Clay, for reading this passage for us this morning. I would say there are three main sections to this chapter:

  1. Ezra, while being flanked by other leaders, reads the Law of God at the request of the people who’ve gathered in the city. These people give their full attention to its reading. Ezra has the help of certain Levites who give the sense of God’s law so that the people clearly understand this teaching.
  2. The people of God then demonstrate their understanding of the Law of God when they begin to weep at hearing the words of the Law. The leaders then command them to stop their weeping and to rejoice, for this is a day set apart for the Lord. Furthermore, the people of God “went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”
  3. This understanding is further demonstrated as they celebrate the Feast of Booths according to the commandment of Moses. Nehemiah even references those Scriptures.

I’ve outlined it into two main points:

  1. The Request of the People of God Concerning the Law of God (1-8)
  2. The Response of the People of God to the Law of God (9-18)
    1. Obedience – their actions fall into line with what they’ve learned.
    2. Observance – practicing the holy day as it has been designed in Scripture.

 

Transition: let’s begin with the 1st main point in v1-8…

1.      The Request of the People of God Concerning the Law of God (1-8)

exp.: rd v 1; this, I find interesting. Let’s look at the actions of these people.

  1. All the people gathered as one man… that’s a picture of the church; synagogue means to gather together with. I love the intentionality of this action. I’ve never seen this in the American church. I think this would describe the churches I’ve experienced overseas. You could argue that these are missionaries I’m talking about. They’re working overseas. They’re holier than most of us – maybe so. But should we expect less of ourselves?
  2. They told Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses. The Leaders aren’t organizing this from what we can gather. So, Ezra agrees – this is a good thing. And he reads. Look at v 3;
  3. They are attentive. They’re giving their full attention to what God has to say. Rd v 4a
  4. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. This is important to them. Let’s set this up so we can all hear. Build a platform! Notice, this isn’t in the Temple. You might think that the Temple would be a better place. Not if you understood how the Temple works. The men and the women and the children can’t stand together. It’s just different. They do not want to sacrifice animals here. That happens at the Temple. They just want to hear God’s Word – so, they construct a platform for this occasion. The rest of v. 4 tells us who was on his right and who was on his left. Look at what the people do next. Rd v 5;
  5. All the people stood as the book is opened. I love that. You’ve experienced it before I’m sure. Ezra steps up onto the platform. The people are murmuring, but it dies down. He opens the book, a scroll, I’m sure. The people are standing. Wow… rd v 6;
  6. All the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. What an incredible moment for these people!

ill.: I’m sure they’ve dreamed of this day for their entire lives. And, as God has answered their prayers and kept His promises, they are eyewitness to this moment. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring all at the same moment.

app.: the people are active in this whole process.

t.s.: And it doesn’t change once they hear what God has instructed them to do… which brings us to the 2nd part of this passage;

2.     The Response of the People of God to the Law of God (9-18)

exp.: rd v 8-9; here we see a 7th action from the people;

  1. All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law; I’m sure the weeping is varied. Thousands of people are there and each one encountering the Words of God for the 1st There is shame; there is conviction; there is awe; this is an incredible moment – a moment which has culminated over decades of separation. A torn down, burnt up city and Temple – now restored. A wall, and gates and doors in place. But the leadership is telling them not to weep and mourn. This isn’t that time! No, this is a holy day to the Lord. Eat, drink and be merry! Rd v 12
  2. And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. They’re being obedient to what they’ve heard.
  • They Obey the Word of the Lord: there are some famous verses in this chapter; v 8; v 10; but v 12 moves me; They hear; They understand; They obey.

Now, that must have been a joyous day and even into the evening. I picture God’s pleasure at his people in celebration. That’s what our time of worship should be. That is what our times of fellowship should be – something that brings our Father pleasure. But the day ends and the heads of the households want to know more; so they come together to learn from God’s Word in v 13-14, and they find that this timing is perfect for a time set apart for celebration: The Festival of Booths. The passage is referenced in v 15; rd v 15b; “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.” They get this from Leviticus 23 & Deuteronomy 16.

This is how I picture this happening. You see Neh 8.2: on the first day of the seventh month. It is now day two and they’re learning about what God requires of them to be and do. In their studies they read about the three yearly requirements and come across Lev. 23.39ff: 39 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Someone notes that this is the 2nd day of the 7th month (v13) and says: Hey, that’s only two weeks away. Can we pull this off? Ah, yeah! Let’s do this! They see the requirement. They note the day and realize that they can do this.

V 16-18 tells us they did just that…

  • They Observe the Festival of Booths as prescribed in the Law.

Conclusion: So, what can we learn from this?

Q.: Is this passage a prescription for us or a description for us? Should we require all people to stand when the Word of God is read? In short, no. It would be nice. We could begin the practice. But not because it is prescribe in Scripture this way. This isn’t a commandment for us. But it would be nice. I do believe that there is a principle here: The author wants his readers to identify the Word of God as the authority by which we must live our lives.

In light of this truth and in light of our comprehension of this truth (God’s Word is the authority for our lives) then what must we do about this?

Application:

  1. If God’s word is to accomplish its primary purpose in our lives,
    1. A sense of expectancy should mark our approach to reading and studying it, and
    2. A positive response to apply it to our daily lives must be required.

Let’s expound on these two truths. If these two statements are indeed true, then how should it affect the way you walk into these facilities on Sunday morning?

  1. How to enter the church facilities on Sunday morning: Re-phrase: how do YOU enter?
    1. Pray about where to sit. That’s right. Some of you might think there is assigned seating. That’s a joke. May I press you on this?
      1. If God is Sovereign, and you’re totally surrendered to Him, then you must believe He has a message for you. Where is the absolute best place for you to sit and be free from distractions and be able to hear? Is sitting next to your friends really the best place or the most comfortable? What about taking notes?
      2. If God is Sovereign, and you’re totally surrendered to him, then you must believe that he has brought others here for that same reason. If that is true, might God want you to sit near someone who needs encouragement? A guest who needs to be shown the ropes (where are the restrooms, where is the nursery, to share your Bible if they don’t have one, maybe you bring two Bibles – your big one and a tiny one in your purse or pocket); A mother who needs help with her child(ren); She’s here to hear and do God’s Word – so are her children. What is God doing there in her little family?
      3. If God is the one and only true God, then you must believe there is nothing more important in this week than gathering together with others who believe the same thing – who’ve come to hear a Word from Him. You’re an encouragement to them when you’re here – in the way you worship, when you sing robustly (I’m not saying sing so loud you disrupt others – this isn’t the place to show off your singing lessons – or your lack of them!) but when you pour yourself – body, mind and spirit – into worship, you encourage others. Your note taking encourages others. Using your Bible encourages other people.

2.   Pray for those who are sitting by you.

  1. This Body has been assembled by God. He has called us out of the world to gather together. It is important to him. Tony Payne, in his book How to Walk into Church writes: “We’re walking into a gathering that God himself has called together, as part of his majestic plan to save and gather his people around the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  2. The picture we see in this text is Men, Women, and others who are old enough to understand gathered to a place to hear God’s Word. We see leaders, gathered around the reading of God’s Word. We see teachers expounding on what has been read so that those gathered can get the sense of the reading. This is the Body at work.

 

16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. 17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. 18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.

 

 

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Mt 2.1-12; Lk 2.1-20

Title: Right on Time!

Text: Matthew 2.1-12; Luke 2.1-20

Introduction: Recording? We’re going to move freely between Matthew 2.1 & Luke 2.1… Go ahead and bookmark those passages as we begin.

Let’s gain some context here of the overall Christmas Sermon Series.

I’m breaking the series down like this:

  • Promised from the Beginning – His Story in Ancient History. Gen 3.1-24
  • Prepared Throughout History – His Story in the Old Testament. Matthew 1.1-17
  • Proclaimed Unexpectedly – His Story Announced. Matthew 1.18-25
  • Arrived at the Right TimeHis Story in our Time. Matthew 2.1-12

We began with the Fall and a promise made. Then, we continued through history as we looked at the lineage of Christ. Last week we looked at how he was proclaimed unexpectedly. God had been silent for hundreds of years and now – wah-lah, God announced the coming of his promised messiah through angels to Joseph – also to Mary and Zechariah. Now, the Baby has arrived and his timing is perfect!

So, let’s begin in Mt 2; if you’re wanting to follow along with me this morning, Here’s how I’ve outlined the following passage:

God’s Timing is Perfect

  1. God’s Timing is Problematic
  2. God’s Timing is Not Limited in Scope to accomplishing His Plan
  3. God’s Timing is Planned to ignite in you a desire for worship

Transition: Let’s begin with point #1…

Introduction: God’s timing is perfect in sending us the Messiah, the Promised One

exp.: rd v 1; In the days of Herod the King (in the time of Herod the King); Luke 2.1; in those days (at that time); Luke 2.6 the time came (lit.: day), vs. 11 (lit.: today); the time came; they came – they arrived;

ill.: during the day, today, back in my day. All in the family,

Boy the way Glen Miller played 
Songs that made the hit parade. 
Guys like us we had it made,
 
Those were the days.
 

And you knew who you were then, 
Girls were girls and men were men,
 
Mister we could use a man
 
Like Herbert Hoover again.
 

Didn’t need no welfare state, 
Everybody pulled his weight.
 
Gee our old LaSalle ran great.
 
Those were the days.

Xronos vs. Kairos vs. Hemera vs. Semeron

  1. Xronos: a period of time, a season – χρόνος (measured time, duration) to see time as either a flowing river which carries us away (chronos)- : chronometer
  2. Kairos: a point in time, as well as a period of time – καιρός (time of opportunity and fulfilment) – a quiet lake which we swim in (kairos) For the most part, they’re synonymous. One writer said: It’s really the difference between aminute and a  Chronos is about chronological time. Kairos is about the living experience within time. 
  3. Hemera: day, in the day of Herod (in the time of King Herod)
  4. Semeron: today, lit.: a contraction of the definite article and the word hemera. From what I gather from this word it is literally the day we are in or this day. We use the word,

Jesus used both words Kairos and Xronos when the disciples asked him just before he ascended to be with the Father if would restore the kingdom of Israel at that time (xronos). Jesus said: “It is not for you to know times (Xronos) or seasons (Kairos) that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

Transition: Both words are used in His Story. Christ was born in a moment of time. God knows the day, the hour, the minute, the place.

Here is the point: there was a time in history – His Story, when God sent his son to be our Messiah. God had a plan from Genesis 3.15, when he promised Christ would come. That plan was laid out perfectly. God knew the season, the events, the circumstances. More than that, God orchestrated them all to bring his son into this sinful world. The Timing really was perfect. Gal 4.4: But when the fullness of time (χρόνος) had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Transition: with an understanding that God’s Timing is Perfect, Let’s look at how God’s perfect timing touched our world, it’s people and us…

I.     God’s timing is problematic for those opposing the Messiah, the Promise One (3-7)

exp.: God’s timing is inconvenient for anyone whose concern is more for themselves than it is for others. As Humans, we have too often misplaced our ‘Awe”; We have an ‘awe’ problem; We place it on creation, people, things, possessions, etc. etc. etc. In this passage, we see two such groups who were in an ‘awe’ problem: Awe of Self & Awe of Religion;

  1. Awe of Self: Herod

Herod, the Great:

  • His Rule: my understanding of his name having, the Great on it is because he was the eldest child of Antipater – procurator of Idumea as established by Caesar. Antipater gave his son responsibilities and watched his son be successful at each and every task. At the age of 25, Herod became governor of Galilee. Rome was impressed with his handling of stressful events, including Galilean bandits and a showdown with the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem. Herod proved his leadership skills and continued to impress Rome. When his father was assassinated, Herod fled to Rome, where he was made “King of the Jews” and returned to set up his reign. It wasn’t easy, for there was sitting in his place Antigonus II, the last of the Hasmonean rulers. Herod was told he would be king, but first had the assignment of displacing Antigonus, who had been placed as ruler by the Parthians, enemies of Rome.

As King, Herod was successful as a ruler and also, he was famous for his building endeavors. He built:

  • His Creativity:

a.  The port at Ceasarea – located on the Mediterranean coast of northern Israel. It was to be the harbor from which Herod and others would sail to and from Alexandria, Egypt, and Rome. It appears to me that this is where Paul would have set sail from in Acts 27.1.

b.  Herodium – located just south of Jerusalem. Josephus describes Herod’s massive fortress as a citadel created in memory of the great battles fought there. He adorned it with the most costly palaces, and erected very strong fortifications, and called it, from his own name Herodium.

c.  Masada – probably Herod’s most famous fortress, of which he built many. Most famous because it was the last to fall to Rome in 73 AD.

d.  The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem – don’t be too impressed. It was said of Herod that he built other temples to other foreign gods, too. He probably did this to help his relationship with the Jews. Although the rebuilding wouldn’t be complete for another 20 years after Christ died, the remodeling and rebuilding had been going on for some 46 years at the time of Jesus. John 2.18-20: 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”

  • His Paranoia: Herod saw success as a ruler and builder; however, he is probably most famous for his murderous ways. He had Antigonus killed to solidify his throne, as well as other members of the Hasmonean dynasty. He had members of his family put to death because he was suspicious of their motives. He always thought someone was trying to take his throne. He killed one of his 10 wives – Mariamme. What is so surprising is that she was his favorite. He was so protective of her that he ordered her killed if ever anything was to happen to him while traveling abroad. First, Herod killed Mariamme’s parents and then, when she continued to protest, he had her tried and executed. He later killed his two sons by her because he thought they were positioning themselves to take his throne. this idea had been planted by his oldest son, Antipater. Antipater experienced no advantage from their deaths because he, too, was killed by his father. I read two separate reports: one that reported just days before Herod himself died, he ordered his son to be executed. And the other that his son was to be executed at his death.

With this picture of Herod in mind – this picture of one so in Awe of himself, rd v 1-3 with me; rd v 1-3;

So, you can see why Herod was nervous about someone being born King of the Jews. He wanted all the glory – all of the awe. So desperate was he for the Awe of others that he ordered the execution of the Jewish elders who were being held in prison at his death. That way, Jerusalem would be filled with mourning at his death.

No wonder he was ‘stirred’ – troubled and all Jerusalem with him! He fought too hard to attain this place he held as King of the Jews. No wonder he will order the death of all boys two years and under down in v 16-18. He was threatened.

Transition: that’s what happens when we serve the god of self and do not surrender the throne of our heart to Christ. That’s what happens when we’re more in awe of ourselves than we are of Christ. But there’s a 2nd group who have a problem with this report.

  1. Awe of Religion: The Chief Priests & Scribes

What happens when we are awed by our religion and not our Savior? Awe of self and religion and anything not God blinds us to what is real. We see this happening to the Chief Priests and the Scribes.

Answer: People who are in awe of Religion and not the Savior are more worried about themselves, their position, and their money. Let’s get this straight: these guys missed their role as God’s servants. So ‘in to’ their religion are they, that they miss the reason for their king’s inquiry. Rd v 4; Here’s why they shouldn’t have missed this – Here are the facts:

  1. Herod doesn’t normally assemble them for their advice! He’s an Edomite and they’re not big fans of each other. Sure, he’s converted, but they don’t think he’s serious – and with good reason (remember the other temples to other gods?). He doesn’t ask them to assemble, he doesn’t meet with them, he never seeks their counsel!
  2. They understand this is the Messiah they’re being asked about. They have knowledge of this matter; Rd v 4; And they give an answer: the Christ, the Messiah, the promised one; rd v 5; . These guys have been praying and asking God to send Him. They’ve been watching and waiting for him to come; The opportunity arises and they miss it.
  3. Their apathy is evident in that they offer Herod a passage of Scripture, but no follow up. Rd v 5-6; it appears that no one follows them, no one even follows up on this inquiry. Why isn’t v 7; rd v 5-6 and add v 7, why do you ask? Does this have anything to do with the Magi who’ve come from the East?

app.: People who are in awe of Religion and not the Savior are more worried about themselves, their position, and their money. People who are in awe of Religion and not the Savior are more worried about their church, their ministry, their following and the financing it brings. This scares me when I think of end times. Are we so obtuse to the things of God that we’ll miss what’s in store because we’re in awe of ourselves and our religion?

Transition: God’s timing is Perfect in sending His Messiah. God’s timing is Problematic for those who oppose God’s Messiah, and 3rd,

II.    God’s timing is not limited in scope to accomplishing the work of His Plan.

exp.: God didn’t choose to bring the Messiah into the world because he finally found the right couple with the right relatives. God didn’t say, oh, now is the time because there is a star floating toward Jerusalem and the right magi are in the east watching. This was all planned! Everything is at his disposal! Rd v 7-8; We’ve seen this so far in our passage.

  1. He uses the heavens: A Star – he controls the heavens; every single object in the heavens, whether shining or not is at his disposal. In 7 BC, an astronomical phenomenon occurred when Jupiter and Saturn intersected. There is another astronomical phenomenon occurred in Chinese records around 4 BC. We don’t know what was seen, but we do know the Chinese recorded the sighting of an evanescent star. Those earthly records don’t necessarily mean either one was this Star. What we do know is that this star was used of God as a sign in the heavens.
  2. He uses Pagan Magi – this is a reminder that God controls foreign governments; men who have studied secular teachings, Philosophy, Astronomy, Science, Mathematics. A reminder to us is the Creation Story. 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 years…
  3. He uses The Jewish leadership
    1. Herod – the King Rome put over the Jews
    2. Chief Priests & Scribes
  4. He uses Angels (Messengers to Announce)
  5. He uses common people like shepherds, Joseph, a carpenter, Mary, a young girl, Zecharias, a priest, Elizabeth, a wife, Simeon, an old man, Anna, an old woman.

As to God’s Timing: there is no limit to what God might use to accomplish His purpose. Nothing is hid from Him and unavailable. Nothing. Fourth and finally,

III.   God’s timing is planned to ignite within us a Desire to Worship His Son and to sacrificially give him our lives.

exp.: rd v 9-12; I shared Galatians 4.4 with you earlier; Gal 4.4: But when the fullness of time (χρόνος) had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

There is another verse I love which demonstrates this idea of perfect timing: Romans 5.6: 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Transition: Yes, it was an unexpected announcement – the Messiah was coming into the world. But the timing, it was perfect. All of history had moved in this direction. Thanks to Alexander the Great and the Greeks something wonderful had happened:

  1. The entire world had one common language: Greek – what a great way to spread this good news.
  2. There were roads connecting the countries. One could literally walk to Rome or China or Africa.
  3. For the most part, there was one over-arching government. Rome ruled the known world. You didn’t need a passport to take these roads to these other countries.
  4. Because of the Diaspora, Jews lived all around this world – the basis for Christianity. It was just the right time to spread the Gospel. God had brought it all together under his plan – to save humanity.

Take-a-ways:

  1. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews. For those wondering, we do not worship the same God as the Muslims. We worship God in three persons. The 2nd person in that trinity is Christ, the Messiah, the Long Awaited Savior of the World. His position as God demands your surrender.
    1. Of your life – in service to him.
    2. Of your possessions – sacrificed for him.
    3. Those are easily shifted from him to self – to possession, to religion… When you surrender all of who you are and all of what you have to him, you’re gaining a Awe of God.
  2. God’s purpose in all of this is to make his Son known to you. There isn’t anything that isn’t available for his use. Every single thing in the world and even in the universe is at his disposal, to make his Son known to you and worshiped by you. God will move the heavens and the earth, He’ll move the people around you, even the animals if he so desires. – All for the purpose of making his son known to you!
  3. The coming of Christ is problematic to people who do not want to worship him and brings out opposition for those who do. So, I’m calling on you today to pick a side. If you’ve never surrendered your life to Christ, would you today?

 

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