Ephesians 3:1-13 Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-magic tricks (penny, card) lose the awe and wonder when you know how they work

READ/PRAY

  1. The Mystery Revealed to Paul (1-5)

-This should start to feel like 1 long, continuous thought to you! Paul just keeps building on his previous sections/arguments here.

-For what reason? Because of the reality that both Jew and Gentile are now one in Christ. This section seems to be essentially a parenthesis, because take a quick peak at vs. 14, notice Paul starts the exact same way! However, something triggered Paul to remember to talk about some of the implications of what he had talked about in chpt. 2, namely that God has brought us from death into life if we put our faith in Him, then that is demonstrated in and through the local church where Jew and Gentile are now 1 body.

-We also learn something new about Paul’s current state of affairs: he’s a prisoner. Sometimes this “prisoner of Christ Jesus” can refer merely to the fact that we have no life on our own, but in this case, Paul is writing while he is imprisoned, and it is quite literally because of his calling to bring the gospel message to the Gentiles.

Acts 21:27-30 – in Jerusalem, notice the assuming that is going on! Because of God’s call on Paul’s life to preach that Jesus is the Christ, the long promised and awaited Messiah, this lead to Paul’s current imprisonment. The rest of the book of Acts recounts Paul’s various trips from being a prisoner and finally landing in Rome. Even the imprisonment isn’t enough to distract Paul or move him off his primary calling, he continues preaching the gospel everywhere he goes!

-By the time Paul writes this note to the church, it’s been a few years from when he visited, this also is one of the reasons many people believe this letter was meant to be distributed to a variety of churches. 

-But pay careful attention to what Paul is saying here, he’s given a stewardship. Paul didn’t make it up on his own, wasn’t trying to build a platform, he’s just a steward. This is another way Paul is describing God’s plan from eternity past, God knew that He would build His church, and Paul would be the messenger He would use, the steward to share the insights into this plan, which is what Paul says next:

-Mystery is the theme of this section, we’ll get to what he’s talking about in a minute, but first note that the mystery was revealed to Him. 

-When and how? Most likely referring to the Damascus Road encounter! Read a book this summer from a Pauline scholar that has tried to put together a biography about Paul’s life, taking what he’s learned and studied from a 1st century context, the evidence we have from the NT and put them together. His account of the Damascus Road was fascinating to me! 

-One of the common experiences to the Jewish scholars was meditating and asking God to speak again. God wasn’t meant to be silent, all these promises throughout the OT were going to be fulfilled somehow and someway! One of the passages they meditated over was Ezek. 1 where the prophet is given sight into the heavenly temple (which the earthly temple was meant to serve as a model of). Ezekiel’s description starts at the bottom, and slowly works its way up until he lands on someone seated on a throne, was “a likeness with human appearance.” Ezekiel is so overwhelmed by this glimpse that he falls on his face in worship! This passage served as a template for people like Paul to pray to similarly catch a glimpse of God’s throne. Imagine Paul, in his zeal for the one true God, is meditating and praying along the Damascus Road, when suddenly he catches a glimpse of the same things Ezekiel saw, the 4 living creatures, the wings, and as Paul’s eyes continue climbing, sitting in the throne is Jesus, the Nazarene, who asks Paul a simple question: why are you persecuting me? This was enough to change Paul’s zeal against the church to zeal for the church. Every good Jew would have been asking for a revelation to come, but God answered Paul’s prayer, and answered it in a way he hadn’t expected! And then God continues answering it all the way down through today in his Word (we’ll see that in vs. 5)

-I find it funny that Paul describes himself as “writing briefly” Some of his letters are brief, but not all of them! 

-Vs. 4 – these books that we read today were read in the early church gatherings, from front to back. By reading this together, and the Holy Spirit at work in us, Paul knows that is sufficient to understand what he means.

-But this is also gets to some of what we believe about the purpose of the Bible. I spent some time with some other pastors this past week and we spent some time talking about Isa. 55:10-11 “As the rain and snow come down from heaven…so shall my word be, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

-The Word of God is living and active, yet so many people I talk to forget that. I forget that! I was sharing this week that I want to get a sign that sits on my desk that says “let the Word do the work.” Friends, it’s so tempting to not look to God’s chosen means of revealing Himself to us, isn’t it?

-Remember, the way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us is through His Word. I’ve read some people say that conservative evangelicals (which is us) worship the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Scriptures, and I take offense at that! We recited it today, we believe in the Father, Son and HS, but what is God’s chosen means of revealing Himself to the world? Through His Word! I didn’t make this book up, no mere mortal could come up with the beauty of this story, or the way the gospel subversively fulfills every other competing way of trying to put the world together. I’ve been told to not limit God to His Word, and I don’t since God did, and He can’t and won’t contradict Himself!

-But this revelation is something that previous generations didn’t get to see. 

-Think of the “hall of faith” in Heb. 11. Noah, Abraham, Moses all these heroes of the faith didn’t get to see the reality of what they hoped for. Sometimes that’s a hard reality for me to believe, think of the things those guys saw. Noah saw humanity wiped out, water covering every mountain, rain coming for 40 days and 40 nights. Abraham saw his wife who was “well advanced in years” become pregnant because God promised it would happen. Moses was spared certain death from the Egyptians and walked across a dry ocean bed, he witnessed plagues strike the greatest nation on earth, and then got to talk to God on a mountain. And we’re in a more privileged position than any of them. Why? Because we live on this side of Jesus’ arrival. 

-I saw a friend recently post on FB that you can prove most of the events of Jesus’ life and the rest of the NT without using the Bible and just using other 1st century documents. Did you know that? There are historical reasons to believe in Jesus outside the NT, but what we have here has been proven time and time again to be true. And again, we’re not the first generation to see these things! Nor is Paul the only one God is revealing these truths to:

-God revealed it to “his holy apostles and prophets”

-Something similar to 2:20 last week, those specific offices in the early church that God used to begin the church. More on Scraps tomorrow

-“by the Spirit”

-The same Spirit alive in us today

  • The Mystery Is… (6-7)

-Paul is explicit! This mystery that he’s been talking about is…(drumroll please) Gentiles are now a part of God’s chosen family. 

-Those who were far off have been brought near, the promised Messiah came and changed everything.

-What is it Paul means when he talks about mystery? Many of the scholars make note of how frequently “mystery” is used throughout this book because in many of the other religions the “mystery” was some hidden secret that you could only achieve through their religion. 

-This chapter isn’t the first time using mystery in this book, 1:9 “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.”

-Mystery is the revealing of God’s eternal plan that previous generations longed to see, that God gave glimpses of throughout history, and knew just the right time to send His Son to earth. 

Gal. 4:4-5 “But when the fullness of time 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.”

-This mystery was promised all the way back to Father Abraham in Gen. 12:3 “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

-Paul specifically mentions 3 things that are now true about the Gentiles: fellow heirs, same body, partakers. In the Greek he uses the class preacher move: alliteration to make his point 

-No Jew would have expected this to happen. Fellow heirs? In the same body? Partakers of the same promise? All those things they’d been waiting for are now available to their sworn enemies? Blasphemy!

-Through the gospel. What is the gospel? The good news that Jesus is the second person of the Godhead, who lived the perfect life we couldn’t live, then died in our place and rose on the third day validating everything He said, therefore we should respond in faith and trust in Him and spend the rest of our lives becoming more and more obedient to how He commanded us to live. God, man, Christ, response. 

-Paul then goes on to share one of the ways we should respond to the truths of the gospel. The mystery revealed through the gospel is evidenced by ministry, service. The word translated in your Bibles as “minister” is where we get the word for “deacon” or one translation put “servant” there. There’s a lot of cultural baggage associated with that term today: is it another name for pastor? Don’t have time to dig too far, but let me just note that all of us are called to minister, or serve each other. When Christ saves us, He equips us with a gift for the good of our body, and if you’re not actively using your gift for the good of others, our body will be dysfunctional and unhealthy. But it’s not just for kicks and giggles, not to build yourself up, this is:

-Only because of God’s grace. Anyone who is now “in Christ” has been given grace as a free gift, grace that overwhelms like a flood in our lives, bringing us from death into life, transferring us from being far away from God to near to Him, and co-heirs with Him, seated in the heavenly places! 

-Don’t be afraid to use your gifts! Everyone has one, God wouldn’t call you here if you didn’t! Don’t be afraid to try new things to figure out where and how God has uniquely wired you to steward your gifts for the good of the body, the building up of the church, and the glory of God. One pastor said it this way:

-“The mystery demands ministry.” (Kent Hughes) If God has saved you, you have a job to do! You have a ministry/service to pursue, and none of us are off the hook! This is part of the reason I play music on Sunday mornings, I’m not above using my gifts for our body, and neither are you!

-The power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20)

  • The Mystery Made Visible (8-13)

-“very least” he says something similar in 1 Cor. 15:9 “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. and 1 Tim. 1:15 “he saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

-Is Paul just a pessimist? Like Eeyore who sits around moping all day? Unless we understand and meditate on the reality that we are sinners, we’ll never truly understand just how amazing God’s grace is! Unless you wake up everyday marveling and praising God that He could save someone like you, you’ll have a tendency to become self-righteous and look down on other people. God doesn’t let us get away with that kind of thinking! When we know and understand our place in relation to God it frees us to no longer worry about ourselves, but instead this is the starting point of faithful ministry/service to God and others.

-“Unsearchable riches”

-Friends, we’ll never be able to plumb the depths of what God has done for us in Christ. The Marianna trench, the deepest point on Earth can’t contain it, millions of galaxies can’t contain it. “If we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made. To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry.” We’ll have eternity to explore this idea, yet even eternity isn’t enough time for us to properly come to understand how God has worked this out! 

-Notice how this mystery is made visible today in vs 10

“It is through the old creation (the universe) that God reveals his glory to humans; it is through the new creation (the church) that he reveals his wisdom to angels.” (Stott, 124)

-This manifold wisdom is full of connotations. It means “many colored” think of a beautiful rug, flowers, or jewelry. It was also used in Gen. to describe Joseph’s “coat of many colors.” The church is meant to serve as a beautiful tapestry, weaving together people from every race, nation, tribe, and tongue together. What other community can accurately reflect this reality? People from different socio-economic backgrounds, different gifts, different interests, different ages, different vocations, but the same God. The church is God’s chosen means of demonstrating to the world (and the spiritual world) what this gospel message looks like. It means we have a huge burden to bear!

-I onetime heard a pastor/comedian share how he talks about his job on a place. He tells people he works for a global nonprofit that serves billions of people. His boss owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and provides everything he could ever need. The lady was amazed until the punchline: I’m a pastor. Now that we’re saved we need to use a different measuring stick than money and stuff. How effective are we at demonstrating the “manifold (many colored) wisdom of God”? 

-Eternal purpose – God has a plan. History is moving somewhere. Mark Twain “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Those rhymes, allusions point to a Creator with a plan.

-This plan is centered around a person, who created a new group of people that are to be gathered under Him as the head, that he called “the church”

– Stott: The church is central to history (11) The church is central to the gospel, The church is central to Christian living (13) So become a member!

-It is in the church that we have boldness and access with confidence. The church brings us together, affirms our faith, and allows us to serve each other.

-Paul’s call to service means he’s even willing to suffer on their behalf. Similar to today, being imprisoned was a disgrace, people would start to question his call. Yet the reason he’s suffering is for their sake. Do we suffer for our brothers and sisters? That’s what we’re called to! In fact, suffering is the only guarantee we have while we’re on this earth.

-Suffering reveals our hearts (Matt. 13:20-21 “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”)

-Comes with this side of heaven (John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”)

-The means by which we can comfort others (a ministry/service) (2 Cor. 1:3-6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.) 

-What looks like magic to the world is common for God. God has shown us His hand, he’s revealed this mystery to us, now it’s up to us to continue sharing the peek behind that curtain to others, and live it out in a way that shows it to be true!

Ephesians 2:11-22 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-What is your earliest memory? Memories are a fascinating thing, aren’t they? Some moments we can remember as clear as if we were there each time we bring it to mind, others are just completely gone until you find a picture or an old friend reminds you of a shared experience. Maybe like me, you’ve been carelessly walking through a mall when a smell hits you, and brings back a flood of memories! When I moved back here, the first time we took our kids to MOA when I caught a whif of Cinnabon! I hadn’t eaten or smelled that delicious concoction since I left MN, but it brought back all the times I’d gone there with friends growing up, and the worst part is now that I have the money to buy it, I know I shouldn’t!

-Memories are significant in all of our lives, there can be negative memories we have that get triggered regularly, or positive memories that get triggered by other things, almost like riding a bike! No matter how long it’s been, they can come back.

-God has also given us collective memories that we’re supposed to call to mind on a regular basis, this is why it’s so important for us to gather together on the Lord’s day, this is why something like NCC is so important: God has designed our minds to remember certain things. I’ve started describing the purpose of our gathering as: remember and remind. Remember who God is and what He’s done, and then intentionally remind each other to live in light of that truth.

READ/PRAY

  1. Remember What You Were (11-12)

-“Therefore” connects us back to last week. That was a whole 7 days ago, so what did we study last week? Before Christ, we were dead, but God, who is rich in mercy, brought us to life and prepared good works for all of us to walk in. Because of this new life that is given by God, Paul begins by encouraging the Gentile readers to look back.

-Need to talk about an issue that I hadn’t made much mention of before: the different ethnicities Paul addresses in Ephesus, and the ethnocentrism that has been a problem since the Fall. 

-It’s important to remember Paul’s history in regards to ethnicities: he was a Jew. And not just any Jew, Acts 22:3 summarizes his life: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” In Phil. 3 he refers to himself as blameless according to the law, he was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted anyone who was a follower of Jesus.

-Paul demonstrated the way the Jewish people had been trained to think: there was Jew, and then then there was everyone else. And unless you were a Jew you were useless. (you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much) One Jewish author actually wrote that Gentiles were created to keep the fires of hell burning. Just to be fair, everyone else also looked down on the Jews as weirdos, so it was a mutual hatred! 

-But the crazy thing about this new faith called “The Way” or “Christianity” is it was meant to transcend all ethnic and cultural boundaries, and transform everyone from the inside out. But how difficult is it to overcome historical tension that goes back generations? We struggle with tensions that go back a week! So how do you think people from different ethnic backgrounds (who had been taught to hate each other their whole lives) would feel when they walk into church on Sunday and sitting next to them is that person? How would they be able to sit together, much less actively love each other? It’s only through a radical, life altering transformation. Thankfully, as we saw last week, that transformation has taken place! Dead people can’t get along, if you’ve seen any zombie movie you’ve seen that! But now, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, these 2 diverse groups can begin to get along.

-“Remember” doesn’t Paul contradict this in Phil. 3:13?

-Remember last week: we are sinners by nature and by choice, all of us need to be saved from our sin, whether you’re trying to be the best person you can, or you’re stuck in a cycle of addiction and sin that you can’t escape. God’s grace and mercy are still for you. We all need to remember what Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:11, after running through a list of sins “and such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.” Even in our remembering, we recognize that we’re no longer that way! 

-“You Gentiles, in the flesh” flesh is repeated again.

-The differences are only skin deep. Circumcision was meant to be the sign of the covenant since the time of Father Abraham. Every law-abiding Jew was circumcised (even Paul). On the flip side, the Gentiles mocked the Jews for the practice of circumcision, so it was a contentious issue! But how effective is an external surgery at dealing with the problem of sin?

-This is a temptation for all of us! We all want to find something that will allow us to be measured righteous without having to die to ourselves. If only it was as easy as cleaning up our lives! It takes a death, and then daily dying again and again to our own made up standards so that we can actually follow Christ.

-Paul is not afraid here to call out what they’re adding to the faith when he says “by hands.” Remember, circumcision was the sign that someone was in right standing before God (righteous) but by using that phrase, he’s equating circumcision to idolatry. How would Jews feel about an accusation of idolatry? 

-We’re all tempted to do the same thing today: add external things to our faith on a regular basis, oftentimes without even realizing it! Music, clothes, schooling, books (Harry Potter), political party. We, as humans, are really good at creating ways that we’re supposed to follow God. Then we ostracize anyone who doesn’t agree with every detail of trappings we’ve added to the faith, which ironically enough is meant to be the marker of those who aren’t following after God.

-Once again, please pay attention to what I’m NOT saying: not saying there aren’t things we should divide over, but we need to be careful what it is that we’re putting up as markers of true orthodoxy, and what is an application point from true theology. (more in that in tomorrow’s Sermon Scraps!)

“Separated, alienated, strangers, no hope, without God”

-These are the markers of someone who isn’t in God, not meant to be dividers of those who are in Christ. 

-No hope is an interesting thing to contemplate. Paul talks about this in 1 Thess. 4:13 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” One of the primary markers of Christians is that we are a hope filled people. The world may fall down around us, but we still have hope, not in ourselves, not in the world, but we have hope in God! This hope is based on what Paul goes on to talk about:

  • Remember What Jesus Does (13-18)

-BUT NOW- once again, Paul starts with the bad news before talking about the shift that come: “IN Christ Jesus” all the blessings that we have come about ONLY because we’re in Christ. Blessings, children, seated with Him, now the emphasis is on relational distance that has now been amended.

“Far off” vs. “brought near” 

-Muppets made the best illustration of this with Grover

-For those who are not in Christ, we’re eternally separated from God, a chasm that we cannot cross. Think of the first time you saw the ocean (assuming you’ve seen it) I remember feeling completely overwhelmed at the distance between me and the next chunk of land “if I get sucked out, I’m not getting back” That distance pails in comparison to the eternal gulf separating us from God. There’s no way to bridge that by our own efforts, it only comes about because Jesus bought us with his blood. We saw this in Eph. 1:7 “In him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”

-This idea of how we can be near to God is one of the major themes throughout Scripture. Talk with Micah – one way of putting the Bible together is the way we can be near God. Think of how Matthew structures his book, begins with Immanuel (God with us) last phrase of the great commission: behold I am with you always, to the end of the age. Genesis begins with God dwelling with His people, Revelation ends saying “The dwelling place of God is with man” this separation that we have today will no longer exist!

-He is our peace, because He is now alive in us (Gal. 2:20) Peace is the theme of this section, notice the end of vs. 15 repeats the peace idea, with 3 things this peace accomplishes: made us one, broken down the dividing wall, and abolishing the law of commandments.

-Made us one, beginning and end (14a16b). The things that we once used to divide are no longer allowed to divide those of us who are in Christ. Same as we saw at the beginning of this section, we’re no longer allowed to divide however we want, we need to divide where God divides: in Christ or not.

-Second: broken down the dividing wall. Some debate about what Paul means by this, as he goes on to talk about the means by which he has done this is “by abolishing the law of commandments” The law was what served as the distinction between the two groups, Jews obeyed, Gentiles didn’t! 

-But there was also a literal dividing wall in the temple where Gentiles were only allowed to a certain point before a sign would say “No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.” How do you think this would train the Jews to treat the Gentiles? But Paul goes even further:

-“abolishing the law of commandments” Abolishing has a wide range of interpretive options: “make powerless” “use up” “to be released from” one translation went with “nullify” When Jesus came, he came to fulfill the law. He obeyed everything God had commanded perfectly, because no one else could. One of the primary reasons God gave the law was to reveal how unable we are to achieve the level of holiness He expects. And then when Jesus came he double down: it’s no longer a matter of mere external obedience, now it’s internal obedience, so even your thought life is required to be holy. 

-And those standards are the same across ethnic lines:

-“One new man” 

-Think of all the genocidal fights that have happened throughout history, that try to create different people. As we read through the OT we see Israel against the Canaanites, NT Romans vs. Jews, Sunni vs Shiite, Germans vs Jews, Russians vs Ukrainians, blacks vs whites. The normal state of human affairs is conflict! Most of us have lived in this weird time of not much conflict, but that is not the norm. However, true and lasting peace, without hostility can only come about because of the cross.

-“preached peace”

-Same message to both! Both those who were/are “near” and “far” need the same message from God: peace is possible! But not through the ways humans want to pursue peace. It’s not through a complete turnover of society, it’s not about pursuing power, it only comes about by pursuing God. This idea is something Paul is picking up from:

Isa. 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.””

-Salvation creates a level playing field for all of us: same spirit, same Father, we’re now a family. Family doesn’t always get along, but you can’t escape them! 

-Think of your extended family! Every family I know has someone that’s the weird one/odd ball doesn’t really fit in with everyone else, but you can’t change the fact that the same blood flows in your veins, same for those “in Christ!”

-Scene from ‘Remember the Titans’ “Alice, are you blind? Don’t you see the family resemblance? That’s my brother.” There’s no longer any room for comparison, or belittling others, we’re now a part of the same family, which is where Paul goes next.

  • Remember What You Now Are (19-22)

-What you were, but no longer! Apart from Christ, we are strangers and aliens to God, then once we’re in Christ we move to being strangers and aliens to the world! We no longer have the same identity markers or judge using worldly standards, because God’s standards are radically different. Yet at the same time, we have some things to learn from this, because 

-How was Israel to treat a stranger and alien? Sabbath was commanded for everyone, including the alien. One note, not alien like outer space, alien as in not a citizen. Even Lev. And Deut. Talk regularly about how God’s people are to treat aliens and sojourners. For example, they’re commanded to not harvest their field all the way to the edge, they’re commanded to leave grapes that fall when you’re harvesting for the poor and the sojourner. Similarly for us today, how should we treat the stranger and the alien, those different from us?

-I was reminded this week of one of my favorite books: The Rise of Christianity because the author died over the summer. Stark was a sociologist, and in the book studied the early church through a sociological lens, concluding that the reason the early church spread was their care for the poor and marginalized. Friends, we should be known for those who care for everyone, but especially the poor and marginalized (poor materially, spiritually, emotionally). This has been the marker of the church since Jesus commissioned us! It’s no coincidence that so many hospitals used to be named after saints (until they all got bought out), because Christians took care seriously! Even the word “hospital” was taken from “hospitality” that Christians showed to aliens and strangers. 

-This is a high bar, but the best part is we don’t need to do it alone, nor are we the first generation to be wrestling with these ideas. Look what we’re built on. We aren’t the foundation! Christianity in the big scheme of human history, doesn’t depend on us, because even if we were wiped out today, God has people following Him faithfully across the globe.

-There is a tendency to get myopic and overly fixated on right here and now instead of remembering our past and the reasons for our hope. This forces us to ask the question: where are you building the foundation of your life on? Because if you’re in Christ, He’s the cornerstone, and literally nothing can shake that foundation, not even hell itself! 

-We also need to note that it is: “being joined together” it’s not done, and it won’t be until Christ comes back. That means that as long as we have breath in our lungs on this side of eternity, we need to continue pursuing peace with God, and preaching peace to those who are near and those who are far.

-By doing this, God’s people grow into a “holy temple”, AKA the place where God’s presence dwells. This is the craziest part of salvation! God is no longer mediated through a law or an intricate sacrificial system, He now lives in those of us who are believers. The reality that God’s dwelling place is with humans is already happening, but we are often completely oblivious to it. Why don’t we often believe enough to pray “your kingdom come and your will be done,” and instead try to pursue these things through purely human efforts? It will never work! Instead, we need to die to those worldly ways, submit ourselves to God’s work in us through His Spirit, and become one new people. 

-Friends: what do you remember? We remember who we were before God saved us, we need to remember what Jesus did and does, and finally remember and remind each other each week how God has transformed us and made us a new people.

Ephesians 2:1-10 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Which one do you prefer to hear first? 78% of people prefer to begin with the bad news. Studies has shown that starting with the bad news leaves people in a more positive mood than the reverse.

READ/PRAY

  1. You Were DEAD (1-3)

-Paul paints a stark picture here of our spiritual state. Our life before Christ was one of death. The problem was we didn’t even know it! We were able to walk, talk, carry on as if everything was completely fine, but spiritually we were dead.

-Scene in The Princess Bride where not as Miracle Max says in The Princess Bride “just mostly dead,” which according to him is “slightly alive. Unlike dear Westley, we were COMPLETELY dead. 

-I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought about that implication, but what can dead people do? Well, they can lay there, decompose, take up space. But can a dead person will themselves to life? No! 

-I know this is a morbid picture, but imagine going to a mortuary, you walk through to the back room where the bodies are. What would your response be to one of those bodies sitting upright and talking to you? I’m pretty sure that’s the plot of some scary movie that I will never see! 

-Before Christ, all of us are like those bodies in the back of the mortuary, we are spiritually dead. There’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love, there’s nothing we can do to bring ourselves back to life. And not only were we dead, but we were dead in something: trespasses and sins. We are dead in and because of our sins: completely separated from the only one who gives life. 

-I think there’s a tendency to miss this reality. We don’t understand the depths of our sin and separation from God, so we don’t view ourselves as spiritually dead. We’re often too busy comparing ourselves to others (our strengths vs their weaknesses) to contemplate that reality that apart from God we’re dead!

-“In which you once walked”

-Not only did those trespasses and sins keep us dead, but they also were the only way of life we knew how to follow. Before Christ opened our eyes to the reality of our sin “in sin” was the only way we could walk. 

-This word “walked” is a life encompassing word. It’s not just the action of walking, it’s the entire way of being. Before Christ, our only way of living and orientation was toward our trespasses and sins. 

-In other places, Paul describes it as being a slave to our sin. Similar to being spiritually dead, being a slave means you can only do that which your master demands and expects of you. It’s not a very freeing way of living. Paul also goes on to explicitly state who the masters of those who are spiritually dead are, he mentions 3 things: 

-worldly influences, Satan, and our flesh. Let’s look at those one at a time.

“Following the course of this world”

Paul here is referring to the ungodly trends and directions the world will try to move us. And for those who are dead in their sins, they aren’t even aware of it. 

It becomes as much a part of us as a fish is a part of the water. Just as the fish doesn’t even realize they’re wet, so those who are not in Christ don’t even realize the problems with the world, the culture, around them. And this is not just a modern-day problem, because Paul is writing this 2,000 years ago! But let’s think about the 2 predominant ways cultures can influence and lead people away from where they should be going. 

-During Paul’s time, and in other parts of the world today, the group always trumps the individual. For simplicity sake, let’s call this “The Eastern Way of Thinking.” A person’s sense of identity was completely wrapped up in their genealogy, their family, their history. Think of how Thor describes himself: Son of Odin. That carries weight to it! That also leads to a great sense of responsibility, because your actions reflect not only on you, but on your family. Now: there are some things that are good and can be applauded in this Eastern thought: 

we didn’t just appear out of nowhere, we do have a history, and that does shape and inform us today. 

-The problem with this thinking is dealt with extensively all over the NT – just because of your family history, you are not saved! So when you read in various places about Abraham being someone’s father, this is what they’re referring to. The course of the world for Paul and all those who were alive at this time is one of assurance by family ties. If you have a good family in the right bloodline, then you don’t need to worry.

-We have the opposite extreme in what I’ll call the “Western Way of Thinking.” The individual trumps the communal. Think about the Frank Sinatra song, “I did it MY WAY.” Our culture today places the emphasis pretty much exclusively on individual wants, needs, and desires. The way of thinking becomes “If I want to do it, by golly, I’m going to do it, and no one can stop me or get in my way!” This is also referred to as “expressive individualism.” 

This is where we have very loose abortion laws, no fault divorce, unconcern that anyone around us may be struggling, and only worry about me, myself, and I (Libertarianism isn’t the answer). No one else matters because I am an individual. 

-Just as the Eastern way of thinking has good things, so does the Western way of thinking. Yes, we are individuals. We all have unique gifts, strengths and weaknesses, just because our parents are gifted in an area doesn’t mean we’ll be gifted the same way. Individually, we all need to be saved. I think it’s helpful that many of us don’t look to our family heritage as a reason why I am a Christian. 

-The problem is when we take our individual identities into our community, which for us is the church. 

-A couple implications of this: 

-first, don’t waste your time comparing your gifts or strengths or weaknesses to someone else. News flash, they’re not you and you’re not them. God brought us both of you for a reason, to use your gifts for God’s glory, and strengthening and equipping the body, the church. 

-The second piece is the tendency to view the whole church only through your lens of interests. So if a specific ministry has significance to you, then it must be the most important thing in the whole church, right? Same as the previous idea, we have a wide assortment of ministries that combine together to make up this church. We also need to realize that some of these ministries are seasonal, depending on the people God has brought to our body at that time. “For everything there is a season” Eccles. 3:1. Just be aware of that, don’t be discouraged about it, don’t get too fixated on something that is meant to be a tool, instead fix your attention on the one who never changes!

-Both the Eastern and the Western way of thinking have strengths AND weaknesses. The Bible calls us to not completely follow either way, but follow God’s way, which is contrary “the course of the world.” 

-One author quipped “You can recognize ‘the ways of this world’ wherever sin seems acceptable and righteousness seems strange.” (Fruit of the Spirit) And who is behind this, attempting to orchestrate this negative “course of the world”? The devil. As Paul continues: 

“Following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sonsof disobedience.”

-Throughout the NT, the devil is referred to as: “the ruler of this world” “the ruler of the demons” “god of this world” Ephesians HEAVILY emphasizes the spiritual realm. But anytime we talk about the spiritual realm, we need to be careful because we don’t want to OVER emphasize it, or UNDER emphasize it:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” CS Lewis

-So we don’t overemphasize the devils work, nor do we want to underemphasize it, because there’s other things that are at work to lead us into sin.

-In Jewish thought at this time, the devil and his followers operated in “the air” the sphere between earth and heaven: spiritual realities happening around us all the time! And this influence is “now at work” 

-“Sons of disobedience” a way of referring to one’s character of life. Again, Thor son of Odin. Just do you get this: being called a son of disobedience is NOT a compliment. But think about the opposite as well, for those who are In Christ, we are now sons of God. Not demeaning to women, just talking about the way the world worked at the time, only male children received an inheritance from their fathers. Our primary allegiance and focus has completely changed!

-“Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.”

-This is the third and final way we were dead in our trespasses and sins. 

-For many of us, the devil doesn’t need to waste his time on us, because we’re too influenced by our fleshly passions. Our own wants, desires and needs no matter the cost. “Expressive individualism” found a prayer that would work in our cultural context today! 

-Nothing is left out, flesh, body and mind. Remember how Jesus said we can sin with our thoughts too? It’s not a matter of merely external obedience, it’s radical transformation. Paul has vice lists in a few of his writings, we’ll be looking at one of them in a few weeks in Eph. 5:3-14. But a summary is: the opposite of the fruit of the spirit. Those are the works of the flesh, the sins that we so easily give in to. 

-We’ve seen 3 different ways that influence us to remain dead: as one commentator stated “The world dominates from without, the flesh from within, and the devil from beyond.” (Kent Hughes, 65)

The implication of our being dead:

“Were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

-All of us were sinners by nature, and by choice as we’ve seen in the past couple verses. 

-By nature refers to our state at birth. Paul expounds more fully upon this idea in Romans 5, where he says “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (12) Our nature, our orientation, from birth is toward spiritual death in sin. 

By choice – we all have sinned (Rom. 3:23)

-We saw earlier “sons of disobedience” similar idea “children of wrath.” 

-An early church heresy that continues until today is this idea that we need to separate the God of love from the God of wrath. A popular pastor a few years ago said we need to “unhitch” the OT from the NT and only teach the New. As we’ll see in a minute, apart from God’s mercy and grace, we only have wrath. We don’t get to pick and choose the characteristics of God we like and throw out the rest. YES, he is love, AND he is holy, AND he is wrathful, AND he is kind and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. His wrath is his just condemnation against sin. This isn’t the way we tend to see wrath today, which is often unbridled and unhinged, no, this is the just consequences for enmity against a holy and righteous judge. 

-This is our original nature, before Christ we were only deserving of condemnation, of his wrath, that’s the bad news. But now we come to the best news ever. 

-Here’s the deal, God’s wrath MUST be dealt with. There MUST be a payment made, there HAS to be restitution. All of us are sinners by nature and by choice, and the penalty for that HAS TO be paid. So for those who are “In Christ,” it has been. The debt we could NEVER pay has been paid in full.

2 of the most important words in the Bible, the best news possible:

  1. BUT God (4-7)

-All of those negative things that make us deserving of God’s wrath find their answer, their resolution, their demise in God’s mercy, love, grace, and kindness. 

-“Mercy” is a term that is used throughout the OT, which is tied to the notion of his covenant faithfulness, or steadfast love (hesed).

-Lamentations 3:22-23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

-Mercy is God’s forgiveness to not hold us accountable for our actions. But it’s not just mercy, God is RICH in mercy! God has more mercy than he knows what to do with! God has enough mercy for every sin all of us have ever committed, or will commit. His mercy is more! PLUS grace!

-Notice as well, that his mercy is tied to his love. Mercy AND love. We get mercy because of God’s love. We saw that a couple weeks ago in Eph 1. In love God predestined us for all these gifts here!

-When did all this take place? When we were dead. So we saw in the first 3 verses the past tense verbs (were), that’s where we used to be. Before Christ we were… and even when we were in that state, God. Because we are now “In Christ” there are now 3 realities about us. Spiritually we have been brought from death to life, and because of that Paul explains it this way: 1 – made alive, 2 – raised up, 3 – seated in the heavenly places. All 3 are “With Christ” 

1 – “Made us alive together with Christ.”

-First things first, we’ve already established that there’s not much someone’s who dead can do. Which means that needs to change! So we’re first brought to life! 

-So often when we talk about becoming a Christian we approach it as an add-on. “I tried all these other things, and then I tried Christianity and I liked it best.” We’re reminded here that Christianity isn’t something we can add on to our lives, it’s a complete and radical shift FROM death INTO life. That means that EVERYTHING changes from that moment on. One author stated “Christianity is not about becoming a nicer person, nor is it about starting a new religious routine. It is about becoming a new person.” (Tony Merida, 48) 

-At the very center of these things that we are “In Christ” is the reminder that over all of this is God’s grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor, it’s the reminder that we couldn’t accomplish any of the things that God has done. It’s all because of him! Remember: what can a dead person do? Nothing! There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. It’s all grace, a free, undeserved gift. We’ll see this pop up again in the next section. God’s rich in mercy, and lavished his grace on us as his children. What else could we ever need?

2-“Raised us up with him.”

-After we’ve been brought to life, we are raised up with him. Because we are now “In Christ” we are with Christ in his resurrection. This term “raised” should remind us of Christ rising out of the grave. He has defeated sin and death so that we no longer need to be slaves to our flesh and passions. 

-Do you understand the implications of this? You don’t need to wallow in self-pity of misery anymore! Since you’re now in Christ, earth is literally the closest to hell you’ll ever be! 

-This idea of being “in him” can be hard to understand. A good way to think of it (albeit, on a MUCH less significant scale) is like the Olympics. 3 out of 4 years I don’t give a rip about swimming (more like 1 week every 4 years). But every time the Olympics come around, I become, or maybe became, obsessed with watching all the swimming events, largely because of a guy named Michael Phelps. Now: I am not a swimmer, I can barely make it from 1 side of the pool to the other, but Michael Phelps represents me and all of us at the Olympics, so we’re ALL pulling for him. We are all “in him.” As I mentioned, this is a far smaller scale because this doesn’t have eternal consequences. But just as we are all pulling for “our” athlete to win at the Olympics because he represents us, so are we brought together “In Christ” to participate in all that he accomplished. He did what we couldn’t so that we could celebrate with him. 

3-“And seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

-This is referring to Christ’s exultation. This is the final “In him” we’re made alive, raised up, and now seated WITH HIM, that is Christ. Spiritually we are seated with Christ in heaven, in our eternal home, where we will spend eternity with God. Just as Christ said on the cross “It is finished.” There’s nothing else we can do or need to do to change our position, spiritually. Christ has already accomplished it! 

-Once again, notice the tense of these verbs: PAST: MADE, RAISED, SEATED. It’s already happened! Yet we don’t experience that reality yet. This is where we have a tension. We live in this period between Christ’s comings, where we don’t yet see everything as it truly is. The war is over, but the battle wages on. This should make us long for the day when our spiritual reality matches our physical reality, but until that time we remain faithful. 

-Even studies/conversations about the end times are supposed to give us hope, not make us despondent. Here’s what EVERY person believes: Jesus is coming back! I once heard a pastor say “we’re not on the planning committee, we’re on the welcoming committee.” God didn’t tell us what would happen so that we would live in fear about whether or not we’re in the end times (spoiler alert, we are, and have been since Jesus ascended!), God told us what all of human history looks like from his perspective. Another spoiler alert, He wins! At the beginning of eternity He’s in the same spot He’s sitting now: on His throne. And guess who’s also sitting there with Him? Anyone in this room who’s “in Christ.” Nothing can change that.

-Now that we’ve seen the 3 spiritual realities because we are “In Christ” Paul continues on to the WHY question:

-“So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

-The reason we are in Christ is so that God’s grace can be made manifest in and through all of us, for eternity. 

-Did any of you ever play show-and-tell growing up? The premise was simple: you bring in something you like to show people, and then tell them about it. The crazy thing is what God does for show & tell is: look at us! WE are God’s demonstration of grace and kindness to the world. This is why God extended his mercy and love to us, so that we could be a witness to the watching world.

That means we actually have a job to do: tell others what God has done! Throughout the Bible, the gospel message is compared to a light. What do you do with a light? You use it to extinguish the darkness! Think of the old song you learned: “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine!” We DON’T hide it under a bushel, we let it shine! SO SHINE! Share with others what God has done in you and through you. Share your story of how God brought you from death into life, how his grace mercy and love transformed you and can transform anyone. On author stated it this way “No one is beyond the reach of God’s regenerating grace, and no one is beyond the need for God’s regenerating grace.” (Merida, 48)

This leads us to the final point:

  1. GRACE Through FAITH (8-10)

-Paul reminds us that all of these things that are true spiritually are true because of God’s grace. As we sing in the hymn Amazing Grace “’Twas grace that brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.” Everything we have is because of God’s riches of grace. 

-God’s grace is what allows us to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from our “death in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked”

-Paul then describes the means by which we are saved, which is a gift of God’s grace: faith. 

Faith is believing in God and trusting in him. Belief + trust. 

-Think of a tightrope walker. Now I am deathly afraid of heights so even saying that phrase makes me queasy. But let’s imagine we see a tightrope walker go back and forth over the Grand Canyon. (I would ask the question: what kind of fool does it multiple times, but anyway…) We’ll say he’s the best tightrope walker in the world. Now one of those times he’s going over the Grand Canyon he brings someone from one side to the other on his back, and then walks up to you and asks if you’d want to go over with him. Would you? My response would be a quick ABSOLUTELY NO! I believe he could bring me with him, but I don’t trust him to actually do it. It only takes one slip, or me messing something up and we’re done. The wonderful thing about faith in God is he CAN’T and WON’T let us go. We have every reason to both believe and trust him. 

-“And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

-And because it’s God doing it, we can trust completely. Once again, what can a dead person do? Nothing! But God can even resurrect the dead! We read of him doing that physically in the Gospels, but he also does it spiritually. We need the reminder that there’s nothing we can do to be saved: it’s all God’s work, it’s all God’s gift to us.

Ezek. 34 dry bones

-“not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

-Paul doubles down on the idea that we can’t save ourselves. There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Think about that. Nothing. 

-Jonathan Edwards said it this way, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” 

-This is freeing! It levels the playing field. If we added something to our salvation that made it possible we’d spend the rest of our lives comparing to those around us. But God doesn’t let us. Everything in salvation is a gift of God so that we can’t boast in anything except the cross: where we are all equal. None of us is any better than the other.

-Therfore, because it’s all a gift of grace, Paul can conclude:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

-This word “workmanship” is one that means a work of art (poema poem). The NLT translates it as “masterpiece.” We’re the pinnacle of everything he’s done. We’re the Sistine Chapel of everything God has made! Just as God, when he created humans said it was VERY good. Now that he has re-created us by grace, it is VERY good! For those “In Christ” there have been 2 creations: physical life, and spiritual life. 

-Remember what we saw earlier about works not adding anything to our salvation? Now we see the purpose of those works. 

-One of the big statements of the Reformation was “faith alone.” But the Reformers refined that and said, “It is faith alone that justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.” So while the works are not the root of salvation, they are the fruit

-God has good works that we are to do. We are to live lives that are holy and blameless as Paul says in Eph. 1. Our works cannot add anything to our salvation, but once we are saved, we now demonstrate that new life BY our good works. 

-This often feels like a tension, and is where many of us end up sliding into legalism. We MUST obey and do these good works. The problem is when we correlate these good works as something added to our salvation, that they somehow make us more righteous and holy before God. Don’t forget: spiritually we are ALREADY seated with Christ in the heavenly places. ALREADY. That’s not changing! But that future reality of us being positionally in Christ must also be manifest in our present reality. 

John Newton, author of Amazing Grace who experienced a radical transformation because of Christ: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be, yet by the grace of God I am what I am.” 

-Just to remind us that it is all God’s grace, Paul says the good works we’re called to do were prepared by God beforehand. Before what? As he says in Eph. 1:4, “before the foundation of the world.” God not only sovereignly orchestrates our salvation, but the demonstration of that salvation in our lives today. That demonstration is what Paul says we are to walk in. This brings this whole section to a close, as the bookend to the opening verses: We once walked in death, but God in his mercy saved us and brought us back to life. 

Ephesians 1:15-23 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-One of the jobs that has fallen to me simply because of my age since I was about 15 is the job of IT support. I’m part of that generation that grew up without a cell phone, so I remember the freedom and joy of not being available 24/7, but once those bad boys came out we were all in on them! I still remember the shift in my parents, we bought a computer in about 2002 and my mom made me wait until my dad was home to set it up. Basically from that point on, my dad wasn’t allowed to try to fix anything on the computer and I was called in as the expert! Because of the ability to work on computer stuff, it led to my first job out of college teaching new hire nurses how to use the charting software. The people coming in were from all sorts of backgrounds, especially in regards to computers. The teachers would swap stories about students, one came in grabbed a mouse and asked “What’s this?” Gonna be a long day! Through these conversations, you also learn to ask the 2 questions that solve approximately 90% of technology issues: did you turn it off and turn it back on? And Is it plugged in? I don’t know if you realize this, but technology requires some kind of power in order to work correctly, either a battery that recharges, or it just needs to stay plugged in 24/7. Doing THIS with a surge protector isn’t going to work! Just as a surge protector needs to be plugged in to an outlet to get power and work, we need to remain connected to God “In Christ” in order for us to work as we’re designed.

-Last week we saw Paul praise God for his sovereignty (power and authority) to bring everything to pass as He saw fit. This week we’ll see that Paul prays for that sovereignty (power and authority) to be made manifest in the lives of the Ephesians.

READ/PRAY

  1. Gratitude (15-16)

-Paul is continuing the idea that we studied last week. 

-Praise to God who, from eternity past, had planned to send Jesus to earth to provide salvation. That salvation is demonstrated by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Because of this, we are now “in Christ” therefore, Paul gives thanks.

-Just as last week was 1 long run-on sentence, so is this week!

-“Faith IN, love TOWARD”

-If we have faith in Jesus, it will manifest itself in love toward other believers. This isn’t optional! Bonhoeffer Life Together “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.” (30) In other words, this is already happening, but you get to decide if it is demonstrated in our body.

-This is one of the ways our culture today struggles to understand a common first century idea: none of us can exist in complete isolation, but that is especially true of anyone who is now “in Christ.” We saw this 2 years ago when we studied 1 Peter 2:10 “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.” God takes individuals and brings them into a family. Regardless of how healthy your biological family is, God has created and invited you into a new family that you can participate in – through faith.

-We saw this last week too, we are called individually, but we’re called into a new community. That idea will continue to develop further throughout this book, so keep it in mind!

-Jesus said something similar in John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So faith in the Jesus leads to and is evidenced by love toward other disciples of Jesus. You can’t be a disciple of Jesus and not love other believers. This is a good heart check for all of us to consider regularly! Is your faith being evidenced by your love, care, and concern for your brothers and sisters? Because the Ephesian church was demonstrating their love, Paul goes on to give thanks for them. 

-“Give thanks”

-Paul gives thanks in many of his letters, but this is the only one that contains both a note of praise and thanksgiving. I think this may be because of the long period of time Paul spent with them, as well as the close relationship he had. In Acts 20, it recounts the last encounter Paul would have with them, and it says of the elders of Ephesus “There was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again.”

-Paul has a lot of things he gives thanks for in his letters! Let’s look through them all and see what kind of themes emerge.

Rom. 1:8 “your faith is proclaimed.” This first assumes you have a faith worth proclaiming, but it also assumes you’re proclaiming your faith! Do you have a faith that is worth sharing with other people, or is it just a tack on?

1 Cor. 1:4 all of us who are now “In Christ” have God’s grace given to us in an overwhelming flood! Grace upon grace has been lavished upon us, as we saw last week! Do you give thanks to God for that grace?

Phil. 1:5 do you gives thanks for the ways we can be a part of a bigger movement in the EFCA, or for the variety of missionaries we support? This is why we’ve been bringing our missional partners in, it gives us specific things to pray for, and reminds us of the partnerships we do have! Go look at the wall!

Col. 1:4-5 almost the same as Eph. But then giving thanks for the gospel message! Do you give thanks for this word of truth that saves and sanctifies you and those around you? The gospel in and of itself is worth giving thanks for every single day you wake up!

2 Thess. 1:3 same as Eph, there is a theme here!

2 Tim. 1:4 this one stood out to me this week! We need each other! Because we’re embodied beings it’s not enough to just do church online, we need to be together to fill each other with joy. I know as people get sick, face surgeries, the isolation that comes from that isn’t healthy!

Philem. 4 same as Eph! Now, looking at that list, how do your prayers match up? Are you regularly giving thanks for these kinds of things that you see going on around you? What about giving thanks for other believers around the world? I think of Rom. 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Why is this so hard for us to do? We look at someone’s job promotion and complain that we keep getting passed over, we look at someone’s house and complain that ours is too small, we look at someone else’s kids and wish ours were better behaved. Ephesians is reminding that us that God is behind all of those things! God is going ahead of you, and then walking with you, no matter what else is going on in your life. The question is: is He enough for you, or are you going to continue looking to the world for your satisfaction and worth? Our standard is supposed to be Jesus, and when we look at that standard, all of us are off. Let’s see what specifically Paul goes on to ask in the lives of the Ephesians:

  • Paul’s Prayer (17-19)

-What does Paul pray for? 3 things: growth in knowledge, enlightened eyes of the heart, and understanding God’s great power. 

-First: “Growth in knowledge”

-The same spirit who serves as the seal of our redemption gives us wisdom and revelation. When we are saved, the Spirit begins working in our lives to reveal the truths of the Bible to us, and begin shaping and forming us into the image of Jesus. But this starts by growing in  wisdom and knowledge of Him! We require the Spirit to understand the things of God.

-I remember in college, a professor posed a question: can an unbeliever read and understand the Bible? At first glance it seems like an easy enough answer, right? Obviously, as long as the Bible is in a language you can read, there’s understanding that can come from it. But without your spiritual eyes opened, you’ll miss the way God has created the Bible to connect together and point to Him! We’ll get to that more clearly in the next section too.

-Carson “Do you feel you know God well enough? Surely no thoughtful Christian would want to answer such a question in the affirmative. Indeed, the more we get to know God, the more we want to know him better.” (172)

-Prince Caspian: Lucy is awoken to a someone calling her name As she is looking around for the source of the voice, she finds Aslan, and says to him, “Aslan, you’re bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. “Not because you are?” “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

-Are you growing in knowledge? Are you being intentional about continuing to study God through His Word in relationship with other believers who can help you grow in the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him? This growing in knowledge is supposed to be a communal project! This comes after the “love for all the saints.” Even study of the Bible is something that is great to do on your own, but it’s meant to be studied, and more importantly lived out and applied with others.

-“Enlighted eyes of the heart” We today talk of the heart as the center of our emotions. I had to explain to my kids last week how someone could be “in your heart” it’s a weird idea! In 1st century, this was more like the way we talk about our minds today. The heart was viewed as the very center of your being. Everything comes from the heart! 

-This is an implication of growing in the knowledge of Christ. We can’t have the eyes of our heart enlightened unless we’re growing in the knowledge of Him. But this also continues:

-“Know the hope to which he has called you” This idea, I think, runs completely contrary to the way our world is trying to force us to operate. As you look around the world, do any of you get the sense that there is hope? I’ve gotten into debates with a few people just this summer who argued that the world is just getting worse and worse. That’s a pessimistic look at the world, one without hope. Hope is used 4 times in Ephesians1:121:182:124:4.

-First we see that being hope filled people comes about only because we’re “in Christ” remember last week! Then we see that hope is connected to our call from God. Finally, we see what it looks like for people who have no hope, it’s descriptive of those who are separated from God. For those of us who are now “in Christ” which one should describe us? Once we’re saved, we suddenly have nothing to fear! And think of the guy who’s writing this letter: threatened to be killed “to live is Christ, to die is gain” shipwrecked, starved beaten “I have learned the secret to being content” This guy is so frustrating to his enemies! And so can we, if we, as we saw last week, keep our eyes on the right place instead of becoming bogged down and losing hope by looking at our immediate context. And the reality is we know the end of history. We should have complete hope in God! We need to have an eternal perspective, not a temporary one. Jesus has told us the purpose and direction everything is headed towards, which is meant to give us hope to persevere today. This means we need to ask the question: are you a hope-filled person? Are your prayers marked by hope, or by complaining about what’s going on in your life? And we realize this hope comes because of:

-“riches of his glorious inheritance” We need to know the hope, and this glorious inheritance. And the glorious inheritance is part of the reason we can have hope! We know what’s waiting for us! This comes about because of a couple things Paul talked about in the previous section. First is the reality of adoption. We were once enemies of God, but He has now brought us in, that leads to blessings being lavished on us, then it leads to an inheritance that is made manifest by the Spirit in us. But there’s another element to this inheritance, while we’ve been given every spiritual blessing from God, we are His glorious inheritance “IN the saints.” That doesn’t seem fair, which is exactly why we need the gospel! God’s plan from eternity past has been to give His people everything, by His losing everything. We’ve been given every blessing, He bore the penalty for our eternal rebellion. We rejoice in this reality because now, today, we have access to this glorious inheritance. It’s not only a future promise, it’s also a present reality. All the blessings Jesus had when He was on earth are available to us today. How often do we not ask? How often do we not trust? How often do we forget that we are now sons and daughters of the Most High God, with all the rights and privileges that come along with that? This is meant to be a reminder to us that all of this is only possible because of God’s supremacy (power and authority)

-God’s great power

-immeasurable greatness, power, great might, all toward those who believe.

-Remember, Ephesus was a center of magical/cultic religions. Had a giant temple to Artemis, as well as various inscriptions and incantations to other various gods. In Acts 19:19 “And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.” AKA 50,000 days of work. Today’s average worker in the US earns $216/day, meaning this would be $10.8 million. What’s fascinating to me is that people today are just as obsessed with other religious options. 

-A fascinating look at some of these changes is documented in a book called Strang Rites: New Religions for a Godless World. Not saying it’s something everyone should read, but it gives a fascinating look at what “religions” our world is following today, because whether people like to admit it or not, everyone believes in something. In this book, she traces what she dubs “remixed religion” where many people today will take bits and pieces from all sorts of places, throw them in a pot and claim that’s what they follow. “One of the biggest problems for secular culture [is that] you have to cobble together and make it yourself.” (31) Essentially, each person has become their own pastor/priest/god.

“These new institutional religions – each one, at its core, a religion of the self – risk creating an increasingly balkanized (divided) American culture: one in which our desire for personal authenticity and experiential fulfillment takes precedent over our willingness to build coherent ideological systems and functional, sustainable institutions. When we are all our own high priests, who is willing to kneel?” (34)

-Did you know that “there are more witches in the United States than Jehovah’s Witnesses” (117)? There are monthly witch subscription boxes you can buy, witch blogs and newsletters have continued to grow over the past decade, even Sephora, the makeup chain, in 2018 sold a “Starter Witch Kit” for only $42, then pulled it after a few weeks because they were accused of “cultural appropriation.”

-Church, this shouldn’t surprise us! There’s nothing new, the devil’s bag of tricks isn’t limitless, he’s just really good at repackaging and repurposing things. And when you have the hyper-individualism that is our cultural context, there’s no one to push for logical consistency or the ways these various beliefs compete with each other. We’ll see some more ways to pray for/about these ideas when we get to Eph. 6. But for now, Paul goes on to expound on the ways God’s power is made manifest through Christ. 

  • Power in Christ (20-23)

-This power was made manifest in 3 areas: resurrection, ascension, authority.

-First in the resurrection. Jesus’ death looked like the defeat of God’s plan, but then He didn’t stay dead, but rose from the grave 3 days later. Then he ascended into heaven to sit at God’s right hand, the most privileged place that is far above any other: power, dominion, rule, authority, or name. Essentially, anything that could be used to invoke good luck or charm. One 3rd century document listed the need to know a deities name to properly get your needs met.

-Next, Jesus ascended into heaven, signified by the reality that He now sits at God’s right hand. 

-Finally, this ascension means He has complete authority “ALL things are under his feet” so why should we be afraid? There is nothing that has been, is, or will be that could ever defeat Him. But notice how this authority is demonstrated today: the church.

-Brothers and sisters, we don’t need tarot cards, incantations, spells, or a starter witch kit, because we have each other, and together we demonstrate Jesus’ rule and reign over the whole world. We together contain the fullness of Jesus, we need the church to be the church. 

-You may have heard: I love Jesus but not the church. This isn’t to marginalize or minimize hurt by those who claim the name of Christ, the church is full of sinners, sinners are guaranteed to hurt you, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Until Christ returns, the church will continue to hurt people, fall short of what God has called us to be, yet by God’s grace still be used to demonstrate God’s rule and reign to the world. We need to live like we believe the hope of the gospel and the call God has placed in our lives. We need to daily be conformed into what God has called us to do and be, use these verses as a template for how to pray in light of God’s sovereignty. Church, we all the power we need to fight against the spiritual forces of darkness, and even to fight against the sin inside of us that would prevent us from loving our fellow believers. We can ask God to continue filling us, and letting his power be at work in us to be all that He has called us to be. 

-And do you know one of the ways we fight against the forces of darkness? We commit ourselves to the church. We unite ourselves to others who aren’t exactly like us, but are all striving to become more and more like Jesus. As I quoted from Bonhoeffer earlier, it’s already taking place around us, but you can now participate in that brotherhood. One of the ways Jesus told us to participate is through the act of communion. Just as the cross doesn’t make sense as the source of redemption, communion doesn’t make sense to the world! Early Christians were accused of being cannibals! Yet what we’ll ingest into our bodies is a visible reminder of the power available to us because of the broken body and shed blood of the Messiah. As Paul encourages in 1 Cor. 11 please examine yourselves before you take, think through the things Paul prayed for today and pray them to God in preparation for us celebrating together, and uniting ourselves together. If you are not yet a believer, please don’t take the elements, but instead let me encourage you to take up the cause of Christ, put your faith in Him so that you can have a new sense of hope in the gospel message.

Ephesians 1:1-15 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-If you didn’t know, I love to read, I have for years! I used to sneak books into my bed and stay up late just trying to get through as many books as I could. My favorite books when I was in elementary school were mysteries. Read every Hardy Boys, The Happy Hollisters, slowly moved my way up to reading all of the Sherlock Holmes books, and Father Brown by GK Chesterton (also a BBC series that was wonderful). I think part of the reason mysteries are always an enjoyable read is they provide clear explanations for events, and we like certainty! 

-Think about being a kid, the most frustrating thing to be told is “because I said so!” and we all swear we won’t say it to our kids, and then we have kids! We all want to know with certainty how things work. We invest in the stock market because we know it’s going to work. We go to our jobs because we know we’re going to be paid. But what about things you don’t completely understand? 

-Did you know we understand and have studied more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the ocean? We have found creatures thought to be extinct for millions of years in fishing expeditions. Even the new James Webb space telescope is revealing things that scientists are now being forced to change their thoughts about how the known world came into existence.

-We love certainty about things, but we worship a God that we can’t fully understand. Since we’ve been taught to figure out how everything works (including unsolvable mysteries) we tend to approach God the same way. We’re going to spend some time today plumbing the depths of God’s mysterious plan from all eternity past. And we’ll walk out of here reminded that when we come to something we can’t understand, it’s our cue to fall on our face and worship.

READ/PRAY

  1. Introduction (1-2)

-Start right out of the gate listing who wrote this letter.  Now there has been some debate in the past 2 centuries about whether or not Paul actually wrote it (some unique words compared to his other letters, and a quarter of it is nearly verbatim re-recorded in Colossians). I don’t find those arguments convincing (and neither should you!), because wouldn’t you use similar language on a regular basis, and at the same time, don’t you try to accommodate your message to the people you’re talking to? Not saying you change the truth, but you do use different language based on the group.

-Apostle. 1st century, limited to those who had seen the risen Christ. Literally refers to a messenger, in the NT generally refers to someone sent by God to spread the gospel message. Who is he an apostle/messenger of?

-Jesus Christ. The whole Bible is about God’s revelation through Christ Jesus, Paul in this letter explains the reality of Christ Jesus being the focus of our entire lives. Keep that theme in mind throughout the next 3 months through this book!

-“Will of God.” Paul didn’t come up with this call or commission from his own desire or gifting, this comes straight from God. This theme will also carry throughout the book, God’s will from eternity past has been to unity a people to Himself for His glory. God’s sovereignty (power and authority) over everything in creation is where Paul begins this letter and sets the stage for the implications of that in the rest of the letter.

-“Saints” or lit. “holy ones” Often when we read something like this we think of those who have been “sainted” by RCC, but throughout the NT anyone who is “In Christ” are saints! 

-“in Ephesus” At the time, 3rd biggest city in the Roman Empire, strategically placed as the intersection of 4 main roads, and a port city. This means it was incredibly wealthy and a center of commerce and influence in the rest of the world. A couple notes about it.

-Had a huge temple, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, to Artemis/Diana, was 4 times the size of the Parthenon! While Diana was the most prevalent, she wasn’t the only god worshipped. Lots of magic and cultic ideas pervaded Ephesus. Not dissimilar to a major city today! Think of a New York or Hong Kong.

-Also knows as the “mother of Asia” as Ephesus served as the entry point to the rest of the continent. Most scholars believe this was meant to serve as a circular letter, since Ephesus was the entry point, word would travel from there to the rest of Asia. 

-Typical Pauline greeting: grace (Greek) peace (Jewish).

  • Chosen by the Father (3-6)

-These verses (3-14) are the longest run-on sentence we’ve found in any ancient Greek literature. This means all these verses are connected together, for Paul there’s no distinction in how all 3 persons of the Godhead are involved in salvation. 

-“Blessed be.” This is a Jewish custom called berekah, Hebrew word for blessed be. In the first century, Jews had 18 different “blessed be’s” they would recite throughout the day.

-Notice the repetition here: blessed be God, blessed us, with spiritual blessings. We bless God, because He first blessed us with specific blessings. Even the worship and praise of God originates with Him. We can’t bless God unless He first blesses us, which has happened through Jesus. 

-And how many spiritual blessings? Every single one. I think we are at times tempted to view God like Scrooge from “A Christmas Story,” counting every penny and ensuring no one gets too much. Instead, the picture we’re seeing here is of a God who’s throwing out blessing like it’s running out of style! Or like Oprah, you get a blessing, you get a blessing, blessings for everyone! There is nothing held back, nothing kept in reserves, God is all in on his blessings. But where are these blessings? I look at my life and I don’t always feel like it’s overflowing with blessings, still sickness, people dying, wars.

-“Heavenly places” The first century readers would have understood there’s more to the world than we can see with our 2 eyes. There’s a greater reality taking place around us all the time that we are often oblivious to.

-Think of it like the radio waves. Everywhere we walk there are radio waves that are passing through us, but we can’t hear them. But if we got a radio and turned it on, then tuned it to a specific frequency we would be able to listen to music, talk radio, etc. Is that too dated of a reference now? Cell phones! 

-How do we tune to the right station, or make sure our cell phone is connected to the right network? Spiritually, we need to be “in Christ.” That theme is the connective tissue throughout this section. Paul repeats “In him/Christ” 11 times in these first 14 verses! “The ley for understanding this letter is recognizing that all believers have a new identity in Christ.” (ECNT, 79)

-When did this being “In Christ” begin? When God chose us “before the foundation of the world.”

-From eternity past, God had a perfect plan that included the salvation of His people. But notice as well that there is a point to this choosing: to be holy and blameless before Him. Do not get that order reversed! God didn’t choose us because we were holy and blameless, or because of anything we’d done that merited His favor, we were chosen only because of His grace. Then because of that grace we can now be holy and blameless before Him.

-This isn’t a new reality, this has been God’s plan literally forever. That’s why we seen glimpses of this even in the OT. Abraham wasn’t chosen because he was richer, smarter or better, the nation of Israel wasn’t chosen because of anything they did (in fact God said they were the smallest and weakest nation!) it’s only because of God’s love and mercy that anyone is chosen.

-Next, we see a word that has caused all sorts of discussions over the past 2 millennia: predestination! I’ve even been told from some people that predestination is unbiblical! Not sure what Bible they were reading, but it wasn’t this one! Predestination is a wonderfully biblical and comforting doctrine! But before you jump to any conclusions on this, let’s look at the what the Bible actually says about it. 

-First, what are last 2 words of vs. 4? “In love.” This predestination isn’t (as I’ve heard some people describe) God playing a cosmic game of duck, duck, grey duck where people are randomly condemned to hell for eternity. Instead, since God is love (1 John 4:8) everything He does is an act of love. We need to tremble with fear as we come into discissions about God because we need to admit we’ll never fully comprehend Him (if we could, He wouldn’t be a God worth worshipping). 

-AW Tozer Knowledge of the Holy If we get God wrong, we’ll be conforming our lives to the wrong standard and aiming in the completely wrong direction. 

-Additionally, because we’re not God, we have a “mystery” card to play! But don’t play it too soon, wrestle with everything God has said and revealed, but then when you come the point of mystery, fall on your face and worship Him because “his ways are not your ways, and His thoughts are not your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8-9)

-Predestination (προορίζω) lit. translated “to foreordain or predestine.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theologydefines it as ““God’s predetermination of persons to a specific end…an aspect of God’s rule over all that he created and sustains.” (693) It’s only used 6 times in the NT, let’s look at all of them to see what it means.

Acts 4:27-28

Prayer of the believers asking for boldness to continue preaching. Begins “Sovereign Lord…” quotes Psalm 2, then goes here. This tells us that even worldly events happen according to God’s predetermination.

Romans 8:28-30 The Golden Chain of salvation!

-In salvation, we are predestined individually, notice the purpose to which we are predestined (to be conformed, aka “In Christ”). Predestination is just 1 part of the chain that culminates in glorification. This passage tells us that salvation comes about because of God’s predetermination.

1 Cor 2:7

-Paul here is talking about Christ being the power and wisdom of God, which according to worldly standards is foolish. Here we see that salvation through the cross was God’s plan before history was written. The only other passage is Eph. 1 where it occurs twice.

What we see throughout Scripture is 2 things: 1 – God is completely sovereign, in control of everything that happens. 2 – humans are completely responsible for their actions. How does this work in God’s economy? Mystery! We must only go as far as the Bible explicitly speaks, and no further! 

-I think this is most evidenced in: Acts 13:48. Somehow and some way humans are responsible for their belief, and God is sovereignly orchestrating all things. Think of the end of Joseph’s story: Genesis 50 – You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

-All that to say, when we read “predestined” in our Bibles, it’s meant to comfort us. It’s supposed to be a pillow, not a sledge hammer. Since God is in control we can actually sleep at night! Not worry and fret about whether or not we’re “predestined.”

-Charles Spurgeon was asked how to reconcile God’s sovereignty and human’s responsibility, and he replied, “I never reconcile two friends.” Another pastor was asked about this “problem” and he replied, “That’s not my problem. That’s God’s problem. And for God, it’s not a problem.”

-Where does predestination lead? “To adoption as sons”

-Adoption is a beautiful reality throughout the Bible. It means we have all the rights and privileges of being in God’s family. Maybe you have friends who have adopted, they see a cute little baby who needs a home and brings them in. However, spiritual adoption isn’t quite like that, because God adopts us when we’re enemies who are opposed to Him. There’s nothing cute or lovely about us, we’re literally at war with Him, but in spite of that God still chooses us.

-Sons doesn’t mean women are left out. But we need to understand the context this is written in. In the 1st century women weren’t included in a family inheritance. I’m not saying that’s right, that was just what happened! Throughout the NT, when adoption or an inheritance comes up it will say something like this “as sons” which would have been revolutionary, since it included men and women! In God’s family, we’re all considered “sons” or worthy or receiving the family inheritance.

-And all of this is done according to “His will” and leads to his glory. Certainly more that could be said, but we’ve got more to cover! In the next section Paul shows us how we saved.

  • Redeemed by the Son (7-12)

-“In Him” again, we have redemption. 

-Comes “through His blood”, leads to “forgiveness,” comes about because of “the riches of his grace.” 

-This redemption is meant to remind the readers of the redemption that God had done for his people historically. Just as God had redeemed his people from slavery in Egypt, today God has redeemed his people from the slavery to sin. But redemption only comes about if we are “In Christ” if his blood has covered us and paid the penalty for our sin. This is known as grace, which has been:

-“lavished upon us.” (8) Once again, God isn’t stingy! We see this in John 1 through God we receive “grace upon grace” God starts with grace and ends with grace, everything we have is a gift of God’s grace to us.

-This grace is how God has revealed to us the “mystery of his will.” 

-Magic and the occult was a big part of the Ephesian culture. Trying to understand the mysteries of the gods, how to appease them, how to use them to get what you wanted and need from them when you needed it, never quite knowing if you were in the right place or doing the right thing. Yet when you’re “in Christ” you’re now a part of that mystery, which is no longer a mystery! God’s mysterious plan has already taken place! That’s part of the joy of living on this side of the cross! We can look back and see how it is that God accomplished his eternal plan by sending His one and only Son to bear the penalty for the sins of the world, and “unite all things in Him.” That is to have Jesus be the ultimate King over any other supposed ruler or king that people were tempted to worship.

-Notice that there is nothing left out from His rule: heaven and earth. Another reminder that what we taste, see, smell isn’t all there is.

-“In Him” we also have an inheritance! All of us, sons and daughters, because we’re in Christ no one is left out of this blessing, this grace upon grace where God gives us everything He has created.

-Again, there’s the predestination that serves to remind us that God is in control, so we don’t need to be afraid. To God, nothing is a mystery! And finally, we see the aim of Jesus’ redemption: “to the praise of His glory.” We are saved to bring honor and glory to God. Everything in salvation is meant to lead us to respond to God with praise, or blessing. We see this throughout the Psalms (including the one we read as the call to worship), “Bless the Lord”

-I titled this message “Trinitarian worship” We’ve seen that we should bless God the Father because He chose us before anything was created, He accomplished this choosing through the Son’s redemption, and we know this is guaranteed to happen because we have been sealed by the Spirit.

  • Sealed by the Sprit (13-14)

-Are you starting to see the theme I mentioned earlier? “In him.” WHEN you heard…and believed. The exact moment when you respond to the truth of the gospel message and believe “in him,” you are given the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead living in you.

-Because God now lives within us “in Christ,” Jesus even said during His earthly ministry that it was better for Him to leave so that we could have the Spirit in us. In salvation, the Spirit serves as the “seal” or “guarantee” During the NT, a seal was used to make ownership. Animals would be “sealed” (think of brand on some cattle you may have seen today) It served as an identification, so if someone else tried to come take it they wouldn’t be able to! The Holy Spirit in us identifies us as God’s chosen ones.

-This seal serves as the starting point, the taste, of everything that will be fully realized when Jesus finally comes back. We haven’t yet completely acquired everything God has promised, we see glimpses of it, but it’s not quite there yet. John Stott compares this to a down payment on a house. You scrimp and save for years to get that down payment, which then serves as the guarantee that you’re invested, but it’s also the first payment of the loan. Similarly, the Holy Spirit serves as the down payment of our future inheritance.

-“to the praise of His glory.” All of life is meant to be lived as worship to God. Plumbing the depths of God’s eternal plan is worthless unless it leads to greater appreciation and worship of God, who predetermined from eternity past to choose in, redeem us, and seal us by His Spirit. Yet that doesn’t leave us off the hook for the choices we make. Every person has a choice to make: when will you bow the knee to Christ as the Savior and King of the universe? Will it be before you die, when that means you’ll be sealed by the Spirit and be adopted into God’s family, or will it be after you die when it will be too late, and you’ll be separated from God forever? 

-In Christ:

-Each of us must make the decision about whether or not we will be in Christ. Don’t let this opportunity pass by you! Realize that God’s mysterious plan has been revealed, and you can be a part of it! You don’t have to know the mystery, you have the trust in the God to whom nothing is a mystery.

Psalm 20 – Sermon Manuscript

-Both my parents grew up on a farm. There are a lot of things about it that sounded very enjoyable! Tons of room to run around, animals that are bigger than you to play with, farm equipment to drive around. I always liked going to the farm, they let me start driving as soon as I could reach the pedals! My dad’s side had 5 boys, so you can imagine that house. Interestingly enough, 4 of them have ended up in some kind of education role (the oldest still works on the family farm!). House of 5 boys who like to read & study. The older I get (and the older my dad & uncles get) the more stories get leaked out when they get together! 

-The youngest brother in particular had a bad habit during seeding of bringing books into the combine to not be so bored. As grandpa would drive around their acreage he would make comments about where each of the boys had gotten too invested in their book, or even note whole fields where books were being read! Do you know how he could tell? The plow lines weren’t straight! What was supposed to be a straight-lined field was covered with zig-zags. Each time my grandpa would apparently gently remind them to fix their eyes on a particular point in the horizon then never drift away from that spot, ensuring straight lines every time. But as boys are prone to do, there are far too many other things to focus on! A bird flying by, a rock in the pasture, contemplating when lunch is because they’re always hungry, or if it’s the Strand family the book you snuck onto the combine with you. 

-As Christians, we are all tempted to act like a Strand boy and be distracted by so many distractions around us instead of keeping our eyes focused and fixed on Jesus. Psalm 20 is a great reminder for us to be reminded to keep our eyes fixed on the right place so that our lives are marked by straight lines.

READ/PRAY

  1. God, Hear Our Prayers (1-5)

-A number of the Psalms we’ve studied together this summer as “royal Psalms” in that they are for/about/centered around the king. This one connects specifically to preparation for a battle.

-We miss some things as we don’t have a king, and are proud of it! I’ve been listening to the biographies of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams recently and was first of all struck with the differences in their approaches to life (Hamilton wasn’t a believer at least until the later end of his life, Adams was a committed believer), but secondly was struck by the strong debates related to whether positions of power should be passed down through generations, or whether it be merit based (if you didn’t know, merit based won out). 

-So since we don’t have a king, one thing we need to note is the king is meant to serve as the representative for the entire people. Our president is kind of similar to that, but not quite to the same extent. In the OT the king’s success determined the fate of the entire nation. Not too much of a stretch to say the nation was literally identified by the king, we can too easily dismiss identification with the president, even seen bumper stickers that say “don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for him”

-A second piece we need to be aware of as we read a royal Psalm is the king is meant to serve as the best, most accurate representation of God on earth. Remember last week we saw one of the first things a king of Israel was supposed to do was write out God’s law himself, then read and meditate on it throughout his life, allowing the king to keep his eyes on the right path and not end up with zig zags in his life! But because the king served as God’s representative, wars weren’t as we often see today for land or resources, wars were meant to reflect spiritual realities, so if a nation won in battle, it signified the superior strength of their God. 

-This is why the people would join together to pray for the protection and preservation of their king as they would prepare for battle. That’s why this Psalm begins by asking God to answer when the king faces trouble.

-“God of Jacob” shorthand for “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” connects all the way back to Gen. 22:17. (Abraham after the sacrifice of Isaac)

-This is another reminder, as we’ve seen before, to know the story you’re caught up in! David didn’t appear out of nowhere, there’s a history that he’s a part of. Whether you believe it or not, history has an ending point, but that also means there’s a purpose and a reason behind it. If we don’t know and understand the history and our place in it, we’ll miss where we’re aiming at. 

-“sanctuary/Zion” (2) similar to the shorthand above, refers to the place where God’s glory or manifest presences dwells. Same thing for us today praying “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Is he ONLY in heaven? Absolutely not! But it reminds us that He is not just like us.

-honor or accept the various offerings of the king. 2 different offerings mentioned in this verse (different Hebrew words to refer to different kinds of offerings)

-This isn’t (as I’ve heard far too many people say) putting God in your favor by offering, or tithing, or sacrificing something. These offerings refer to restoring the relationship between God and the king. 

-For example, the “burnt offering” refers to an atonement offering, as seen in Lev. 1. This specific offering is meant to deal with the sins the king has committed. There is nothing we can do to put God in our debt, yet as I talk to people there’s a tendency to treat God that way. “if I give this to God, he has to bless me back.” I even heard this from a pastor in town here! That’s not how God works!

-I liked the way one commentary put it: “it is the inward reality of right relationship that Yahweh remembers rather than the abundance of sacrifices offered. Rather than taking this to mean that God remembers how we make sacrifices (of time, money, suffering, etc.), this passage is talking about fulfilling our covenantal responsibilities of relationship to God. Have we acknowledged our sin and turned from it? Are we experiencing and celebrating a renewed and restored relationship with God? God “remembers” us when we are on the way of faithful loyalty to him and when we daily seek him with body, mind, soul, and spirit.”

Selah: instrumental to stop and reflect on what was just sung. I’ll leave the Psalm on the screen for you to reflect on it, think about your relationship with God.

-“heart’s desire” does this mean the king get everything he wants?

-Think about 1 instance in David’s life: when he first looked down at Bathsheba, was God’s answer to allow her to be David’s wife? Doesn’t this just confirm what I talked about in the last verse, if we make all these offerings, then God will give us the desires of your heart? Think of Cinderella “a dream is a wish your heart makes” or the song I danced to growing up “listen to your heart, when it’s calling to you.” So God is in heaven as our fairy godmother to make our dreams come true?

NIVAC: “this is a wake-up call to bring our hearts into alignment with the will and purposes of God.” Or this is a way of ensure our eyes are on the right place instead of being distracted by all the things around us.

-Notice what takes place right before this, acceptable sacrifices, not to place God in your debt, but working to align the king’s hearts with God. It’s only after being obedient to God that he’ll have the proper desires to ask for.

-This is the proper way to pray! ACTS, the Lord’s Prayer all reorient our hearts and minds before we get to asking.

5: do we actually celebrate that we have been saved? We should be a joyful people! Even celebrating communion like we did last week is meant to be a joyful experience because we’re no longer dead in our sin.

-As I was growing up I had no clue that Christianity was meant to lead to joy! Not sure where I missed it, but it always felt like being a Christian meant there was no fun, just joy sucking rules to follow. Yet when Jesus came, he was accused of partying too much! We shouldn’t be partying too much, but there should be a level of joy and celebration at the daily victory we have in Christ!

  • The Response of the King (6)

-Notice the change in pronouns here. We go from “you/your” to “I”

-God sometimes calls the equipped, but He always equips the called.

-There is no question or doubt “I know this truth!” this is one of the reasons it’s so important to continue meeting together, we sometimes need each other to believe the realities of the gospel.

-Tami at last week’s music practice warned the team: be careful where you look when we sing this song! It’s a hard one when you know what’s going on in people’s lives! But think of how encouraging it is to see someone struggling with a cancer seeing someone else struggling with cancer and singing their heart out because God is still working in them!

-David wrote this 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, we now have the privilege of seeing the fulfillment of this promise. God’s salvation is done, accomplished, finished, now there’s nothing that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

  • The Response of the People (7-9)

-Literally: “some in chariots, some in horses, but we invoke the name of the one true God” What are you looking to as your ultimate source of identity, comfort, and strength?

Deut. 17:14-20 Last week we saw the need to write down the law, this week I want you to look at another command: not acquire too many horses, aka find comfort in your nation, your tribe, your people. Since God created us, he knows our tendencies to look to anything else as the source of our confidence instead of Him, which is why we have vs. 7 in this Psalm. Specifically, what this is referring to the ancient near east is putting your ultimate confidence in geo-political power. The chariots/horses were the best weapon of the day, whoever had the most would most likely win in a battle. Has anything changed since?

-I say this with some trepidation, knowing that it may step on some people’s toes, but why is it that so many people today are looking to Politics as their primary source of identity? Why is everything that’s said filtered through a partisan lens instead of filtering it through a Jesus lens? We see this every 4 years from both sides! (actually seeing it pretty much daily now) Unless our candidate is elected into office our country is going to descend into anarchy, or if our candidate isn’t in office our country is falling apart and it’s OBVIOUSLY the fault of the policies of the other side. Unless this vote passes through the House our world is going to fall apart. It’s using fear and scare tactics to manipulate people, and the sad part is that it works! So then in response to the fear from one side, the other side doubles down on the opposite position and leaves no room for nuance. I wonder if today this verse would be more applicable if it said “some trust in the donkey, and some in the elephant.” 

-Neither party is completely aligned with every Christian virtue, which makes it hard to know how to vote. The problem in our culture today is because everything is viewed through a partisan political lens far too many assumptions are made about what someone truly thinks or believes. Instead of asking for clarification or trying to understand where someone is coming from, conclusions and assumptions are made about whether someone is “in” or “out” and then we decide if we’ll continue associating with them or not. This is the mark of following the ways of the world, not the ways of our Lord, and this cuts through both sides of the political aisle.

-This doesn’t mean we therefore throw up our hands and disengage (as tempting as that might be!), instead I think we need to work hard to find a better way forward together, and it MUST start in the church. 

-This is why I have said and will say in the future, leave your politics at the door when you come in here. What I mean by that (and what I should probably change what I say to) is leave your PARTISAN politics at the door, because there are political truths that must be shared in here: Jesus is Lord is a political statement, because it’s saying no one else has the ultimate answers or authority. The Bible makes it clear that every person who is in authority (kings, rulers, presidents, governors) is in there by God’s good plan and design, even ones you don’t like or agree with.

-I have read of, and even talked to, some pastors who have shared Bible verses over the past few years and then either been labeled a woke Marxist or a racist, and I know they were neither of those things! Why is it that sharing something like “blessed are the peacemakers” or “turn the other cheek” or “a gentle answer turns away wrath” are labeled “woke” today? If you didn’t know, I just quoted Matt. 5:9Matt 5:39, and Prov. 15:1. I’ve been called some of those things since I got here! When everything is filtered through a partisan political lens there’s no room for nuance, subtly, or trying to understand someone else’s point of view. Yet that’s exactly what we as Christians are called to do.

-I’m not sure how this happened (I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it) but there has even been Christians I know who have said it’s time to move on from gentleness and start fighting fire with fire. 

-I need all of you to pay attention to this: demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit isn’t optional for anyone who is “In Christ.” Look at these 2 lists Paul gives us in Galatians 5: one of them is led by the Spirit, and one of them is not.

-Maybe politics isn’t important to you at all! You’re probably much more sane than many of the people you’re rubbing shoulder with! However, these 2 lists I think can serve as a litmus test of where you have idols in your heart that God is revealing to you. In what areas of your life are you marked by the flesh instead of the Spirit? When are you prone to respond with sexual immorality, etc. instead of love, etc. In God’s kindness, He is provided a way for you to see where you’re looking to comfort in the world instead of Him. Areas in your life where you’ve taken your eyes off the right place and turned them to worldly things.

-Vs. 8 doubles down on this idea: Those who trust in anything other than God collapse and fall.

-We’ve seen this all summer! Where is the foundation of your life, in rock or sand? Do you have enough foundation built to endure the difficulties of life, or are you building on a foundation from this world that will ensure destruction? 

-Do you want to have God answer your prayers? Entrust yourself to God. Do you want to have a flourishing life? Entrust yourself to God. Do you want to have the strength to endure under trials? Entrust yourself to God. Do you want to be a strong person who isn’t worried by the changing world around us? Entrust yourself to God. 

-The last verse is repeated in the NT. 1 Tim. 2:1-2 also commanded to pray this in the NT. Do you pray for “kings and all who are in high positions”? Once again, not just for the candidates whose policies you agree with, but for “all people.” 

-Similarly to many other Psalms, all this is pointing us to the ultimate and perfect king: Jesus. Today we can use this prayer when we remember that we are in a battle, not against flesh and blood, which means we can’t use the world’s weapons to fight!

-Don’t lower yourself to slander, dissensions, or divisions. That’s how the world will try to tempt us to fight! Instead we fight by demonstrating: love, joy, peace, etc. And who demonstrated those traits perfectly? Jesus! Therefore, as we saw at the beginning of this, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Don’t be distracted by the things of this world, don’t let your eyes wander away from Him. It’s only by faithfully keeping your eyes on Him that the lines of our lives will be straight.

Bene: (Heb. 12:1-2)

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Psalm 18 – Sermon Manuscript

-I think a fascinating thing to study is music, especially church music. Why were songs written the way they were, what was the inspiration for the words, who wrote them? One theme in songs (and you can trace it in the Bible as well) is God being our rock! We sang the refrain from one song about that this morning “On Christ the solid rock I stand” but that’s not the one! One of the most well-known songs in church history is “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.” Written by Augustus Toplady in 1776, the song was inspired by one of his travels. He got caught in a heavy storm and found shelter in the cleft of a rock, inspiring Him to pen the now well-known words to the hymn: “rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” This song deals with the exact same themes we’ll be looking at in Psalm 18 today.

-The 4th longest Psalm in the book, if you need to sit down at some point, please do.

READ/PRAY

  1. I Love You Lord (1-3)

-Repeated almost word for word in 2 Samuel 22, which comes right before “the last words of David” in 2 Sam. 23. This tells us it was toward the end of David’s life as he looks back and reflects on God’s protection and preservation throughout his life.

-I have noticed that as people get older there tends to be some sentimentality and almost looking back over life with rose tinted glasses. As we read through this Psalm there will be some of those moments! But there’s also ways in which the Holy Spirit used these words to point to great David’s greater Son!

-David doesn’t begin where I would think he should begin, with thanksgiving. If the point is to be grateful to God for his protection, wouldn’t the right instinct be to give thanks? Instead, he says “I love you, O Lord.”

-I think this tells us just how much we need to be reminded of the gospel message: that Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live and died the death we deserved to die so that we could not be declared righteous instead of sinful. And how often do we then stop in response at thanks, instead of moving to the next step of love? Giving thanks is right, and we should, but we can’t just stay there, because it’s meant to lead us to that next step of being in a close relationship with God.

-Think of how you receive a compliment, don’t you at first just feel awkward? I feel awkward when people say “great sermon pastor” “thanks?” We often don’t know how to respond. When we read that God saved us, that He loves us, that He wants to spend time with you, do you actually believe that, and respond by engaging with Him as He has called us to do, or do you just feel awkward? This first phrase, I think, should be a bigger focus in our lives than we tend to make it! You can love and enjoy a relationship with God, He invites you to!

-We have seen throughout these 10 Psalms this summer a lot of rocky themes. God is a rock, a fortress, a protection. All of these are meant to serve as a reminder that God will protect and preserve His people. Don’t be afraid, don’t be alarmed, entrust yourself to our good God. Therefore, we call on Him and He will save us, which is what David elaborates on in this next section:

  • God’s Power in Salvation (4-19)

-There were numerous occasions where David was on the verge of death! Saul wanted him dead, the Philistines wanted him dead, his son tried to usurp his throne, even God one time threatened him because of a sin he committed! It’s a tough job to be the king! I highly doubt any of us have ever faced the same kinds of imminent threat David faced on a daily basis! 

-The chapter after this song in 2 Sam recounts “David’s mighty men” All these crazy guys who fought for/with David, basically the Navy Seals of Israel. I remember reading that chapter in high school after the movie 300 came out, and I thought “When is someone going to make a movie like that on the life of David?” He was crazy! Yet even all these mighty men aren’t enough to save David from death. Whether we realize it or not, all of us are 1 step, 1 phone call, one missed heartbeat away from your life completely changing. Nothing is guaranteed! But look at vs. 6: the thing that is guaranteed is God will respond when we cry out to Him! We’ve seen this idea repeatedly over the summer too, He will hear us! And look how God responds here:

-This language is what is called a “theophany” a visible manifestation of God. A couple notes on these:

-First, I think we tend to forget about God in the midst of the world continuing to move. We have a tendency to act (as we saw in Psalm 14) as atheists, that God isn’t still actively involved in our day to day lives, even in the weather! We see earthquakes as merely tectonic plates shifting, we see rain as the descent of evaporated water, wind as the effect of high and low pressure systems. Yet who is the one who created and continues to sustain them? God!

-Second, and more immediate to this text, but we don’t have any examples of David seeing any of these things take place! As far as we know from David’s life in the Bible, he never saw God shake a mountain, or hailstorms and coals of fire come from him, or turning over the seas in his pursuit of His enemies. But there are places in Scripture where these events do happen!

-Think of when Moses recorded the 10 commandments, after 40 days on the mountain with God. The people were told to stay away from the mountain, to not touch it because if they did they would die! There was a cloud, they saw fire. The earth would have reeled and rocked! Or when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by hail and coals of fire. Or when God’s people walked across the dry ground to escape from the pursuing Egyptians as they walked across the Red Sea.

-David wasn’t alive in any of these stories, but He knew them! His job as the King was to be so immersed in God’s Word that it felt like His story. In Deut. 17 we see the king’s primary job to be knowing, reading, and studying God’s Word, because the king is meant to serve as the example to the rest of kingdom of what a faithful follower of God looks like. He is to submit his whole life to God’s Word.

-This also shows that David is aligning himself with God’s people throughout history. Just as God protected and provided for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, just as God protected and provided for Moses, God protected and provided for David! And that is also true for us today! We read, study and immerse ourselves in God’s Word so that we can readily call to mind these stories of how God has protected and provided for His people throughout history, and will continue to do the same thing into the future.

-The last thing David mentions is the individual preservation the Lord provided Him (19). David was nothing by Himself, but God supported Him. David was in a tight spot, surrounded by many enemies and certain death, but God brought him to “a broad place” because God delighted in David. There’s that same idea! We have meant to have a delightful relationship with God, He loves you, that’s why He saved you!

  • How We Can Be Saved (20-29)

-Then David turns to another section that feels off with both this Psalm and the rest of the Bible! Notice all the personal pronouns in vss. 20-24: my righteousness, my hands, I have kept, all his rules before me, I did not put away, I was blameless, I kept myself, my righteousness, cleanness of my hands. Is David suddenly slipping into his latent narcissistic tendencies?

-This is where we need to keep this Psalm in the context of the whole book! If you flip over to Psalm 51it feels like a completely different person: “have mercy on me! Wash me from my iniquity, my sin is ever before me.” It’s almost like David was a real person experiencing real, human emotions through every stage of his life, and then recorded them (with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) for followers of God throughout the rest of human history. 

-We also need to read this in context with the next section, don’t just lift up 1 verse here, then run to a conclusion based on that 1 verse.

-David is demonstrating how God (generally) deals with people.

-One of the things I’ve started sharing with people who want to talk about exceptions to rules is: there are always exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions don’t make good rules! So you start talking about how smoking kills, and then someone says “I know someone who smoked a pack a day until they died of old age at 88.” Good for them! I still wouldn’t recommend anyone pick up smoking! As a general rule of life: if you are obedient to how God commands us to live and operate, you are more likely to live a long life. That’s true throughout all of human history! Always exceptions to the rule (Job specifically comes to mind, as does Jesus, but that’s again a later conversation!)

-There was even a Jewish tradition that said this was true even as Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years. Remember how God miraculously provided manna and quail for them? “The Jewish tradition was that the manna tasted according to each man’s mouth; certainly God shows himself to each individual according to his character.” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David) AKA you reap what you sow! Do you want God to be merciful to you? Live a merciful life! Do you want God to be loving to you? Live a loving life! 

-One last note about this section that I don’t want you to miss: you can never out-sin the grace of God. As David is looking back over his life, he can say he has been righteous and obedient to God’s rules and statutes, but we know he wasn’t always faithful! God has cast our sin as far as the east it from the west (eternal) but that doesn’t mean we just continue in sin. That means in our fight against sin, we don’t give up, we keep going, and we keep trusting ourselves to our merciful God. There is nothing you can do that will separate you from God’s love, for those of you who have been saved! (we’ll get to that in Ephesians this Fall!)

-David begins applying these truths to his life, then applies them more broadly in vs. 25-29 before going back to recount the ways God provides for His people in their salvation.

  • God’s Provision in Salvation (30-45)

-Start to see some repetition here, but please note that repetition isn’t always bad! In the 2nd section David recounted God’s marvelous power in salvation, which leads to the means by which God has provided for His people through salvation.

-Remember, this is what David was pointing to in the previous section! Where does our righteousness come from? It’s not inherent in us! Where does the strength to endure under suffering come from? Not from us! Our righteousness is an alien righteousness, foreign to us coming only from God, made possible by and through Him.

-This section begins with David reminding us that there is no one like God. His way is the only way, thus it is perfect. His word always is proven true, as David just demonstrated by recounting how God worked in human history, and finally he reminds everyone that God is a shield (35), protecting His people if they “take refuge” (30) or place their faith in Him. You may then ask, what does that look like?

-A long list of things here! I think it can be broken up into 2 areas: God sustains David with everything he needs, and then through God, David’s enemies are defeated. First the provision: Notice that God’s equipping with strength is what leads to a blameless way. Brother or sister, now that we have died, and are raised in a new life with Christ we have the strength to say no to sin! We have the God-given ability to put to death the sinful tendencies we have in our lives. He will make us as fast as a deer, and give us the insight to see the world for what it really is. He gives us the tools and weapons we need to fight spiritually (again, we’ll look at that in more detail this Fall!). 

-We also have “a wide place for my steps.” (36) Think of how tricky it is to walk on a balance beam. We took our kids to an open gym this past Spring, and Ellie tried her hand at walking all the way across the balance beam. Look at the focus and determination to get across! If it were 4’ wide, how much easier would it be? By obeying God, fighting with His strength in us, walking through life is like walking through a wide-open field, no tripping or stumbling through it, it becomes easy.

-The second focus is the defeat of David’s enemies. God went before David even in the defeat of His enemies (ties into the wide place for his steps). As David was writing this his livelihood literally depended on his defeating his enemies! If his enemies won, he was out of a job (and most likely out of a life!). Yet as he looks back over his life, he’s seen God’s provision to never let him be completely defeated.  

-That gets us back to where David begins, and an appropriate ending place after recounting all the ways God has provided for David in his salvation:

  • Praise to God (46-50)

-The right and proper response to God working in your life is to praise and worship Him. Which means our whole lives should be responding to the reality that God has saved us! This is why it’s so important to me that we have a call to worship every time we gather, it helps us to remember and reorient our thinking to what God has done, and then our proper response is to join together in praising Him!

-“The Lord lives” He will never die, He will never get tired, He will never stop loving and being a kind and caring Father. Therefore we will bless and exalt Him. Just as David said at the beginning, he says at the end that God is our rock. 

-Anytime you see God described as a rock, think of one of the parables Jesus told: of the man who built his house on the rock. If God is our rock, the place we’re building the foundation of our life upon, then nothing will shake us. The storms can come, the creek can rise, the wind can blow, but the house of our life will stand firm. 

-Then we’re finally at the last verse! Whew! Lots to cover in this Psalm! This last verse confirms for us something that I’ve been alluding to throughout this whole message: this Psalm points us ultimately to great David’s greater son: Jesus.

-In order to understand how we see Jesus throughout a section like this, we need to understand a theological concept known as typology. Since all of history is a story of God working, He sovereignly ordained from the dawn of creation how the story would be written. Therefore, He used people in history to point to the greatest reality ever: that God would dwell with His people forever. We see throughout the Gospels how Jesus fulfilled the promises to his people. We see in Rom. 5 that where Adam failed, Jesus was victorious. We see in Moses a glimpse of the perfect prophet to come who would speak perfectly on behalf of his people. We see in David the glimpse of the perfect king who would come to rule forever. This is where I’ve repeatedly said we need to read the entire Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ. The whole thing is about Him! 

-It is because of Jesus that David can say “the Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness.” Look back at vs. 20-24. Who is the only person to live who fulfilled this description? And then look at vs. 25-29, and to whom was this rule not true? Jesus! Despite being merciful was given wrath, despite being blameless was blamed, despite being pure was made sin, despite being perfectly straight was given torture.

-And now, because of Christ, these descriptions can be true of us today! Jesus has saved us from our enemies! Sin, Satan, and death no longer have any power over us. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have the weapons and strength we need to fight against any temptation we would face to deny or give up on faithfully following God with our whole lives. None of this is because of anything we’ve done or can do, but because of what God has done in us.

-Therefore, we can join together in remembering and celebrating this reality in the Lord’s Supper. Each time we celebrate this, we are commanded to remember our salvation. The body that was broken for us, the blood that was shed for us, the connection back to the Passover where God has worked in human history to bring about His perfect plan. Each time we take and eat we are joining with God’s people starting all the way back in Eden to say “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” We are joining with God’s people to say no to sin, and yes to Christ, to praise God for the salvation freely given to all who receive Him. 

-I was reminded recently of Psalm 116:13 in connection to communion where the author states “I will life up the cup of my salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” Just as we saw in Psalm 18 that David praises God for his salvation, we too need to praise God for our salvation. 

Psalm 19 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-As we begin today’s message, I need everyone in here to pretend that they’re kids again, we’re going to play some games with our imaginations.

-First: I want you to think about your favorite place in the world that you’ve ever been to. Could be a cabin in the woods, a beach you visited, Lebanon hills, the mountains, Disney World.

-Now I want you to think about your favorite dessert, the best you’ve ever had. Over summer my mind often goes to a perfectly browned marshmallow (don’t you dare burn them!) with either Reese’s or Hershey’s on graham crackers! Maybe you love a good piece of pie, a piece of cake, a scoop of ice cream. Personally, I’m a sucker for crème brulee. Cara and I spent our honeymoon on the Big Island of Hawaii and I had the best crème brulee I’ve ever had! I’ve been looking everywhere I can to try to find a piece of that crème brulee, but none have yet come close to replicating it!

-Isn’t some of what makes your favorite place in the world and your favorite dessert the rarity of it? If I ate that crème brulee everyday accompanying every meal I would eventually grow tired of it. Or if you lived in your favorite place in the world, mine is Colorado. Got to live there for 5 years, and much to my dismay, there were some days that I forgot to look at the mountains. 

-So often we miss or neglect to enjoy the things that are right around us that were given for our joy. All these little things are supposed to be gifts from God that point us to Him! Today’s Psalm is a reminder that God’s fingerprints are all around us, if we take the time to stop and notice, to pay careful attention to how He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.

READ/PRAY. How do you find Psalm 19? Why do we stand? Neh. 8:5Luke 4:16

  1. Creation – General Revelation (1-6)

-This Psalm begins looking at one way God reveals Himself to us: through the created order. There are 2 primary ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to His creation: the rest of creation, and His Word. Theologians refer to these as general and special revelation. General being something everyone can see, special being a unique separate revelation. General revelation/creation points to Him as the Creator, but a knowledge of God as the Creator doesn’t save someone, which is why He also gave us a special revelation: His Word, and ultimately His Word made flesh: Jesus. We’ll get to the special revelation in a bit, the first section is an extended meditation on creation.

-The heavens and the sky are serving a purpose. Skies bring forth rain, seasons, sustaining of life. But looking up at the skies, do you ever feel small? Every time you walk outside and look up you’re staring at a place where you could most likely fly in a straight line and hit nothing for lightyears.

-You can see another example of this if you ever walk into an old historic cathedral. Those buildings are awe-inspiring (intentionally so!) what do people do the instant they walk into a building like that? Silence, look up. This is meant to communicate the bigness of God (transcendence)

-Heard one pastor say no one walks up to the edge of the Grand Canyon and brags how smart they are. If you saw someone do that, wouldn’t you look at them like they’re crazy? Dude, you’re missing something amazing if you’d get over yourself!

-Now look at the verbs connected to the skies and the heavens: declare and proclaim. Has anyone ever heard the sky talking? We know this isn’t literal! But they do declare and proclaim some truth: the glory of God, and the work of his hands. There’s a couple reasons for this speaking.

-The first, as we’ve seen, is to remind us of the bigness of God. He is so far beyond anything we could ever figure out on our own!

-The second reason is a reminder that the creation is not God. The weather is one of the few places today humans are still reminded that we’re not God! We’ve sent people to space, we’ve learned much about sicknesses and disease, we’ve mapped the entire human genome, but we have yet to prevent rain, turn the tides, or even prevent a tiny little coronavirus from circling the planet! Everything that exists was created by God, yet is not god. That’s a vital distinction for us to remember! When David was writing this, most other cultures nearby worshipped the creation, they would have a sun god, a moon god, star gods. This is David saying none of those created things are meant to be worshipped!

-This declaration and proclamation that the heavens and skies are doing occur day after day and night after night. This tells us the purpose of all creation: to point to the Creator God. But let’s ask that question again: have you ever heard the sky talk? Vs. 3 says that exact same thing!

-CSB: “There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard.” However, it almost feels like David is VERY forgetful, because look at vs. 4

-Despite the reality that creation doesn’t speak audibly, nothing can stop them from continually pointing to the creator, screaming out the reality of God! I can’t remember where I heard this (I’ve tried looking it up since) so it was probably Spurgeon that said it! But some well-known preacher one time said: a dog worships God by acting like a dog. Barking, wagging his tail, chasing his tail. Similarly with the skies, they worship God by acting within their nature: the sun worships by continually burning, the Earth worships by continually spinning, the moon worships by reflecting the sun. They can’t help but continually worship and praise their Creator. So David talks about the sun continually worshipping:

-In the sky, we see the sun rising and the sun setting day after day after day. Remember we saw in Psalm 15that David questioned who could sojourn in God’s holy tent referring to the dwelling place of God. Similarly here, God has created the space for the sun to live and move, and in the sun’s obedience to worshipping and living as God has commanded him (her?), the sun never runs out of energy.

-David compares the sun to a bridegroom running out on his wedding day. I don’t know about anyone else when they got married, but I couldn’t wait for that day! I even woke up super early for Cara and I to get a cup of coffee together and chat about the day before we got busy with the rest of our preparation!

-The other comparison is like an Olympic athlete who shoots off their starting blocks and chases down the gold medal. I care about running about once every 4 years (which coincidentally coincides with the Olympics!). Let me clarify, I like watching the 100m race, the one that’s over in 10 sec. I remember watching Usain Bolt back in 2016 glance over and smile at a camera DURING THE RACE! How frustrating would it be to race against that guy? Do you think he has joy when he’s running? Or maybe you’ve seen the classic movie “Chariots of Fire” based on the life of Eric Liddell. When talking to his sister about pursuing his dream of running in the Olympics, Eric says “God made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.” Because the sun was made to shine into the darkness of the galaxy, it continues burning with exuberance, like Usain Bolt or Eric Liddell running with joy!

-Lastly, notice the expanse of the sun: it covers everything we can see, and shines even into the darkness so nothing and no one can be hidden from it. This is here to remind us that God sees everything, nothing can be hidden from his sight, which is what David will go on to say in the next section:

  • The Word – Special Revelation (7-9)

-What does general revelation refer to? Right, creation. Now David turns to special revelation, and what makes it special is that it explicitly tells everything we need to know about God. In this section, David seems to be stuck in a rut. He keeps repeating the same phrasing throughout this section. So I figured I would break it down a little bit like a math problem.

-Notice all the ways David describes God’s Word: law, testimony, precepts, commandment, rules (fear is slightly different). 

-If you’re anything like me, when I was growing up, anytime people started talking about the Bible as laws, commandments, rules my eyes started glossing over and I thought suddenly everything turned into adult time. Rules sucked the joy out of life and were meant to be broken. Why would God stoop to making all these rules if he knew we had not chance of keeping them? But just you wait before you go assuming these are rules that are meant to be broken!

-Have you ever read a fantasy book, about a far-off land where things are different than what you see around you? Maybe Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia or one of my new favorites The Wingfeather Saga. Whether you like to admit it or not, even those places have certain rules that everyone is supposed to follow. Generally, the story gets good because the main character refuses to follow an unjust law, but that just tells us there are some laws that are right and should be followed! And who is the one who wrote all these laws? God is! The thing is, God wants us to grow in satisfaction and enjoyment of what He has given to us, so even His laws and rules are in place to help us enjoy everything He made.

-Let’s look at the effects of God’s Word in our lives. 

-First, it revives the soul. If you’ve ever done any kind of manual labor, there come points where you would do anything to be revived! My first “grown up” job was out of high school where I did painting and remodeling to help pay for college. I’ll be honest, my favorite days were the days when it rained! It meant I got to sleep in and have a day off! I’m currently doing some work on the floors of the main level of our house, and my back and legs would LOVE to have some way of being revived every day! Spending time in God’s Word allows your innermost being to be revived, giving life back to you.

-Next it’s good for making wise the simple. Paul says the same thing in 1 Cor. 1:20-21 “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” True, everlasting wisdom is found in God, not in the way the world likes to measure wisdom (things like ACT scores, GPA, always a number)

-Then it rejoices the heart. It brings joy that won’t every fade, despite what’s going on in your life. Even when you’re sick, even when your friends betray you, you can still have joy. One of the songs I learned when I was growing up: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where?”

-Then it enlightens the eyes, which connects to God’s commandments being radiant, thus it brings light to the eyes. If you’re like me, you don’t like being in dark places. If you want to ensure that you can have lights to understand what’s taking place in your life, look to God’s Word! I don’t even like going down into my basement without a light on, imagine trying to live your whole life in the darkness, how easy would it be to get around? God’s Word gives us a light so we can see everything going on around us!

-Finally we see how it affects us, fearing God the means by which we endure forever. God hasn’t left us in doubt about how we should live, He’s told us everything we need! So we need to respond in fear, reverence and awe.

-The last reminder: true and righteous. In a world where the standard seems to be changing from day to day, God never changes, and His standards have been the exact same since the world was created!

  • Our Response to God’s Revelation (10-14)

-David writes similar thoughts to this Psalm in Psalm 8, but in that case asks the question: “what is man that you are mindful of him?” Then recounts how God created everything, but the pinnacle of the creation is humans who are given dominion over the creation. Unlike the previous Psalm, this time David has just finished the second revelation of God: His Word. So what is the proper response to God’s two revelations?

-First is we should want them more than anything else in the world. The older I get, the more security seems to be talked about more often. In my 20s I didn’t care about a life insurance policy, but TBH I also felt like I was invincible! Boundless energy, more time than I knew what to do with, and then I hit 30 and everything changed (and I’ve heard 40 is even worse!) But all the security in the world, the best 401K, the paid off house can’t change the fact that the mortality rate still sits right at 100%. So where are you placing your security? Because even your 401K has an expiration date! God’s Word lasts forever.

-Kids, how many of you like eating dessert? One piece of advice for you, because nothing in life is guaranteed, it’s best to start eating dessert, and then get on to the rest of the meal! My son loves dessert, I feel like he asks for dessert after every meal we have at home. Did you know that David says that spending time in God’s Word is even yummier than eating your favorite dessert? It’s true! And just like dessert, it makes you want to keep eating more and more, the more you spend time in God’s Word the more you’ll want to keep spending more and more time in it!

-By listening and obeying God’s Word it helps us know which rules we’re supposed to follow and which ones we’re not supposed to follow, and it also means that by obeying God’s rules we will win the race of life we’re running, we’ll have “great reward.” (11)

-I’m not sure where this idea that “everyone’s a winner” came in, because when you do that everyone is still keeping score and knows who won! It’s the same thing with God’s law – He’s told us what we’re supposed to do, how we’re supposed to live, and if you faithfully follow after Him you will have a great reward!

-The text then takes a bit of a weird turn after this, David realizes He can’t obey all God’s rules. He can’t discern all the ways He continues to sin, no one can! One translation translates vs. 12 as “Who perceives his unintentional sin?” (CSB). 

-Many of us worry about the sins we commit (which David talks about in vs. 13) but we very rarely think of the sins we don’t commit, but God cares about both! Maybe you didn’t help your brother or sister when they fell down, maybe you didn’t share your snack with a friend who forgot theirs. The sins of things we forget to do could probably go on forever, but how often do we think about them? David here is reminding us to confess the sins that we’ve done, and the sin we’ve committed by leaving things undone. My goodness, who could ever measure up? This is why we need Jesus to come in our place, to allow us to actually desire the right things, to do the right things, to obey the right things.

-David ends in the same place he began, but we need to pay careful attention to understand how. Remember he began this Psalm talking about how the heavens declare God’s glory, we see in vs. 14 that we’re supposed to do the same! 

-In the Gospels, a similar story is told: during the triumphal entry, the Pharisees were upset that people were praising God because of Jesus Luke 19:40 “If these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Here’s the crazy thing, THEY ARE! The stones, like the rest of creation, can’t help but cry out in praise to God!

-Just like the heavens declare the glory of God, God made us to declare His glory with our entire lives. 2 ways we do that: 

-Every time we see creation doing what it’s supposed to do we glorify the God who made that creation. Marvel when you see a tree waving in the wind, give thanks when you’re out mowing your lawn cultivating your little section of the garden God created, praise God because the sun allows you to see the beauty of the world around you, give thanks when you see the colors of the setting or rising sun.

-The second way is to be savoring God’s Word. Treat it like you would your favorite dessert or favorite place. Soak and saturate yourself in it! To remind you to savor God’s Word I got honey packets for you all to pick up on your way out (parents be careful to not let your kids spill!) 

Psalm 17 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Answering someone’s question when they’re on a phone call, “Bluetooth or crazy person?” Trying to get your kids to listen to you, finish talking and then ask them what you said “I don’t know”

-Do you assume God is the same way? Aloof, distant, needing to constantly be reminded? You finish praying and God says “What?” 

-I remember growing up hearing the phrase “praying to the ceiling” I initially thought they meant that helped you find the right direction to pray to God! Then I realized it meant the prayers stopped at the ceiling. Maybe you’ve felt that way before, that God doesn’t care, isn’t listening, that your prayers are just as effective as praying to the ceiling.

Psalm 17 shows us we don’t need to worry about any of that. When we cry out, the Lord not only hears us, but He will answer us!

  1. The Righteous One (1-5)

-“just cause” can also be translated as righteousness, so think of this as David telling God to listen to a righteous person. God should pay attention to everything David says because he is a righteous person. 

-Doesn’t that seem a bit presumptive of David? If you’ve ever heard David’s story, he had a lot of highs (defeating Goliath and the Philistines, dancing in front of the ark of the covenant) to lots of lows (killing a man to steal his wife, children stealing his throne). Do you really think when God looked at David he’d see a righteous person? How could David be described as “a man after God’s own heart”? 

-Based on the couple of things I just mentioned, would anyone want to invite David to come hang out with you for a bit? He’s a wife stealer, be careful! Pretty sure, no matter your background, you haven’t been as crazy as David! Keep that in mind as we continue going through this first section.

-“David would not have been a man after God’s own heart if he had not been a man of prayer. He was a master in the sacred art of supplication.” Spurgeon

-“Cry,” reaction when you’re hanging out with other parents and you hear a child start crying. Nice thing is they tend to take turns! God, being a perfectly heavenly father doesn’t turn off the baby monitor, doesn’t look the other way, he comes close when we cry out to Him.

-“lips free from deceit” “My mouth will not transgress (3)

-Can you say that to the Lord? Remember, you lie to yourself more than anyone else, God knows everything, do you actually mean what you’re saying? Think through some of the things you may pray for:

-Help my church to grow so more people can hear the gospel (bigger platform) Help me to do well at my job so I can move up in the company (more power) Help me to do well at my job so I can make more money and bless more people (more stuff) Help my kids to be “good Christian kids” (better appearances) You can’t trick God, He knows what’s in your heart. Be honest! Share why you’re praying for those things, but then expect God to work in your heart!

-Vindication: David is so sure he’ll be proven right that he invites vindication! Would you be willing to ask this of God? Being so confident that you have nothing to hide that you ask for vindication from the throne room of heaven.

-Tried/tested my heart: inspected. Think of growing up when your parents asked you to clean your room, wouldn’t it be followed (at some point) by an inspection? Moving out of an apartment, they come check the blinds!

-Would you stand up to the Lord’s scrutiny? Think of one of the early Marvel movies, the first Captain America. Steve Rogers is desperate to sign up for the Army, but he doesn’t quite measure up. Too scrawny, too asthmatic. That doesn’t happen with God! Despite all of us being like Steve Rogers and not measuring up, we have someone else who brings us in. We’ll get there…

-Visited by night. 

-When you feel the most alone and isolated, God is there with you. Maybe you’ve had one of those nights where you just can’t sleep, I have! Remember that whole not being a morning person thing? It’s because my mind often starts up right when I’d like to go to bed. Do you ever use those times at night to pray, share your heart with God? Maybe He’s trying to be there with & for you.

-One thing to say something, another thing to back it up. David lives “by the word of your (God’s) lips” Contrast this to “the works of man” and “the ways of the violent”

-Sin always leads to violence, separation of relationship finds its’ fulfillment in harm because our self has become the center of our world, anyone who doesn’t view us that way is in the way

-Do you live this way? Are you trying to live “by the works of man” or are you trying to live by “the word of God’s lips.” This is why it’s so important for us to be centered on God’s Word when we gather together every week! Otherwise we’re tempted to forget what God’s Word says, or even worse start to interpret God’s word according to “the works of man” 

-While I was in seminary one of the things I heard from numerous professors is how they’re continually lowering the requirements for entrance into seminary because so few people actually know the Bible – even those who claim they’re called to ministry! I was a part of a cohort of men who all thought they were called to be lead pastors of a church, and one of them on our first day shared that he’d never read the Bible through.

-“your paths” walking with God, how often do we “slip” and “fall” into sin? Or maybe not even slip and fall, you run headlong into it! And the crazy thing about it is sin seems so enticing in the moment, doesn’t it? 

-It seems so much easier to “get even” than to turn the other cheek. It seems so much easier to condemn in your heart than to truly forgive someone. It feels so much better (in the moment) to indulge just a little more than you should. Yet that isn’t the way God has called and commanded us to live.

-David knows that God will find him righteous. He can look at his talk, his walk, his thoughts, nothing will condemn him. Therefore, he can go on to ask:

  • Salvation Comes from God (6-14)

While the first part of this prayer is David’s uprightness, in this second part, David reminds himself who God is, and what that means for those who are not right.

  1. Preservation (6-9)

-God will always answer your prayers. Do you believe that? It requires living as David has just spent 5 verses describing, but then God will answer your prayers. 

-God answers your prayers the way you would pray them if you knew everything God knows. But did you also know the way you live will affect how God answers your prayers?

1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Does that seem weird to you? Husbands: the way you treat your wife has a direct connection to your prayers. Not said to guilt you, but to ensure your wife is treated well! You have a big call and job to pursue, at least if you want the Lord to hear your prayers, otherwise you are praying to the ceiling! Similarly in James:

James 5:16 “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” This takes place in the context of suffering and confession of sin. Once again, there are prerequisites to God hearing and answering our prayers. This is where confession in prayer is always so important.

-“Steadfast love” chesed covenant faithfulness, promise keeping God. One of the most important words in the whole OT. We’ll spend eternity mining the depths of this reality: God always holds Himself to His Word, and will never abandon his promise to love His people. That’s how we know it’s always worthwhile to reach out to God.

-“It is the most powerful form of prayer just to set our case before God, just to lay bare all our sorrow and all our needs and then say ‘Lord, there it is.’” -C. H. Spurgeon. When I read that I posted in on FB and had someone I grew up with post a link (with no comment) to an article on the scientific study of whether prayer works. As we saw a couple weeks ago, this is practical atheism, that’s what we practice when we don’t actually believe that God will answer our prayers, which in many cases leads to prayerlessness. 

-Refuge – remember from last week the prayer for God to preserve, protect David

-At this point, David calls to mind events in Israel’s history. Moments that God protected and preserved them. 

-First “adversaries at your right hand” across the Red Sea when they escaped Pharoah’s army Ex. 15. God saved His people back then, He can save his people today!

-Second, one of the last recordings from Moses, shortly before he died in Deut. 32 God is described as caring for His people as “the apple of his eye” and as an eagle caring for their young.

-You need to find ways to remember how God has protected and preserved you historically. Write them down, find some kind of trinket, but remember. And then share! Part of the way God will remind us is through others who can remind us of ways God has provided in the past. And by sharing you can hear how God has provided for other people, giving you continued confidence He’ll provide for you.

-Remember, David is asking this as his enemy is creeping up on him. Vs. says his enemies surround him, so when he’s facing death, he takes time to remind himself what God is like, and how He has protected His people in the past.

-This is where it’s important to grow in theology, understanding who God is. Saw a provocative book titled this week “10 Things God Can’t Do, That Will Help You Sleep at Night.” 

-One characteristic I’ve been meditating on recently is the immutability of God, God does not/cannot change. Don’t we often think of that as a negative characteristic? You see the commercials: “My husband still doesn’t put his socks in the hamper, and we’ve been married 30 years!” But what about someone who is so perfect, that ANY change would be negative? Because God doesn’t change, you can trust that the world will keep spinning, that the sun will continue to shine, that there will be oxygen that you can breathe into your lungs. This reality, this theological truth, is meant to bring us peace in the midst of our changing circumstances. This is why we can trust in Him, look back to Him, remind ourselves who He is when we struggle.

-Notice that all of this comes before David actually starts to talk about his enemies. He’s begun by pleading his innocence, his righteousness before God, he recounts truths about God both who God is, and the way God has historically provided for His people, and then he gets to the wicked. 

  • The Wicked (10-12)

-Where David was righteous, faithfully following the path God has designed for him, the wicked aren’t even close to how God has commanded people to live.

-Internally, their hearts have become calloused. This is a weird Hebrew phrase “they closed up their fat” Apparently an old idiom, my son this week started learning about idioms! Cara’s parents were in town, her dad made a joke asking “where do you find an elephant? In the room!” As in there’s the elephant in the room. It went right over my poor son’s head. As someone who is not a native English speaker, how would you understand “an elephant in the room”? You’d start looking for an elephant! For us, “they closed up their fat” would be similarly hard to interpret, so some translations have their hearts have become calloused, ESV: They close their hearts.

-Remember as well how much David had emphasized his clean conscience in regards to his lips: lips free from deceit, mouth will not transgress. Yet the wicked “speak arrogantly.” We’ve seen this in other Psalms this summer: Ps. 15 talked about the person who lives with God speaks truth, Ps. 14 talked about the fool who says in his heart no God. Speaking arrogantly has no place in God’s kingdom!

-These wicked people have surrounded David, and leave him no room to continue walking on God’s path, and their intent is to throw them down.

-To paint a better picture, David compares them to a lion. I couldn’t help but think of The Lion King with this imagery: young Simba being taught by Mufasa how to sneak up on Zazu during his morning report.

  • God’s Deliverance (13-14)

-David then asks for God to deal with them. Look at the verbs: arise, confront, subdue, deliver. God has the ability to completely destroy them. Ultimately, we know that will happen when Christ returns, but sometimes he’ll even do it on this side of eternity! However, don’t place your hope in that!

-Look at the last 2 words of vs. 14b “this life” What makes Christians unique is our hope isn’t in this life.

-David even goes on to describe all the material blessings the wicked receive: treasures, lots of children who all receive a large inheritance. It often feels like the world is unfair like this. The godly get the scraps and the wicked ones are blessed.

-Our whole lives this will be the temptation, to look for satisfaction from worldly things. Money, cars, houses, the right clothes, the right haircut, the right body type. Yet there’s always something more!

-Not inherently bad! Jesus warned repeatedly to not be consumed by wealth, but at the same time He was sponsored by wealthy people who supported His ministry! But these people are using their wealth to put their hope in Jesus: “where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:21)

  • My Satisfaction is the Lord (15)

-David concludes where he began, talking about his ultimate hope being in God.

-Remember, “Just cause” in vs. 1, David uses the exact same Hebrew word here that is translated as “righteousness” Intentionally referring back to what he’d said before. He has proven himself, and because of that He can behold God.

-2 ways to take the second half: either in the resurrection, or literally the next morning! “Likeness”: literally form. Some translate as “reveal yourself to me” others “presence” David is assured God will deliver Him, no need to worry!

-Do you believe God will answer your prayers like this, or does reading something like this tend to stress you out because you feel like your prayers stop at the ceiling?

-David begins noting his innocence, he has nothing to confess, nothing to worry about, no secret sins to expose. Then he moves to praise God and remind himself of how God has saved his people in the past, he asks the Lord for deliverance from his enemy, and then trusts that God will answer him.

-For us: we’ve seen over the past few Psalms how we’re not inherently righteous! We have no good in ourselves apart from God at work in us.

-But Jesus is the perfectly righteous one. Look at how Heb. 5:7 describes Him. “He was heard.” And we even have accounts in the Gospels of Jesus praying for us (John 17:20). Since Jesus Himself, who is definitely heard when He prayed, we can continue praying in the Spirit, through the sacrifice of the Son, to the Father.

-And now (Rom. 8:34), because of the way Jesus made through his death on the cross, He intercedes, prays, on our behalf and invites us to pray to God boldly, with thanksgiving because of the access we have. Our Father invites us in, not because of anything we’ve done or haven’t done, but because when He looks at us He sees Jesus in us, sanctifying and purifying us, making us “righteous ones”

Psalm 15 – Sermon Manuscript

-Series on the Psalms, Psalm 15 serves as the antithesis to Psalm 14. Last week we saw the fool who denies God exists either by what they believe or how they live. This week we’re going to be looking at what a superhero looks like!

-Who is your favorite superhero? Micah, Elizabeth, Cara and I saw the new Thor this weekend and enjoyed seeing the next installment of Marvel movies! But even if you don’t like superheroes, you have to admit they have a cultural influence right now! I remember the first time I saw X-Men at a sleepover, got blown away seeing blades come out of Wolverine’s hands. Or when the first Spider-Man came out in 2002, and then seeing Iron Man in 2008. These heroes, normal looking people who are asked to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, wrestling with emotions, friends, high school, being outcasts, yet staying true to their morals (even when they have misguided or broken morals). 

-We’re not the first generation to be obsessed with this! The Epic of Gilgamesh (2000 BC), The Greek pantheon of gods, Roman pantheon of gods. We love hearing stories of people who look like us, but are so much better than us.

-This Psalm shows us God’s measurement of a superhero, it can be summarized by the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

READ/PRAY

  1. 2 Questions (1)

-One of the most fascinating things I learned during Seminary is how the Lord accommodated Himself to His people.

-Even the fact that God speaks words to us is His accommodating us. Onetime heard a theologian say that any talk to us is like baby talk to God (how I talk to Lucy)  

-Ancient tabernacle is built similarly to other ANE religions. Notice: similarly. Some huge differences and distinctions too that demonstrate why God is different than the other gods people worship

-Other religions would begin by asking the penitent pilgrim a question about why they should be given access to the god they’re seeking, often it’s done by a certain ritual, specific actions done in just the right way

-Isn’t that an interesting marker of man-made religions? In order to gain access or approval from the supreme being, one must clean themselves up, or do specific actions, or say specific phrases. But how can one ever know if they’ve done it correctly? Mormons have to order their entire life around this pursuit, spend a year on mission in order to be right. Roman Catholics have to go to confession, say hail marys, be baptized a specific way. Muslims have to pray a VERY specific direction, otherwise it’s blasphemy. 

-Martin Luther climbing the Scala Sancta in 1510, 28 marble steps that Jesus climbed on his way to Pontius Pilate, repeated the ‘Our Father’ at each step, got to the top and still wasn’t sure if it was sufficient.

-Maybe you’ve done something similar: you snap at your wife so you find some way to self-flagellate yourself by skipping a meal or getting up extra early to read your Bible for the next week. You’re short with your kids so you vow to spend more time with them doing their favorite activity for the next 3 days. There’s an innate desire to be proven adequate, to measure up, isn’t there?

-Some scholars think these opening questions were meant to serve as a call to worship, an entrance point to the tabernacle.

-Verbs here: sojourn, dwell refer to temporary lodging. Not permanent. Referring to some relationship with God, but not something that would be eternal (yet!)

-God’s manifest presence in the OT was situational and locational. This is why the Israelites built the whole tabernacle system – their tents were gathered around the tabernacle, God was literally the centering point around which their entire lives existed. We could learn something from that today! Do we, do YOU operate you’re whole life with God as the centering point, or do you try to keep him on the periphery? 

-Because the reality is: God’s manifest presence today has no constraints! There is literally no place where we can’t worship God (I realize that’s a double negative) There are no longer constraints on where we’re supposed to worship God. God’s intent from the dawn of creation was to have the whole world full of people imaging (representing) Him to the rest of creation, worshipping Him completely and fully. 

-I was listening to a podcast this week that got into a discussion on why they don’t like referring to this room as a “sanctuary” that I thought was fascinating! Throughout the Bible, the sanctuary refers to the place where God’s manifest presence dwells. Now that’s in each of us, it’s not supposed to be contained by a building. I had a similar issue at the church I previously served, when I got there it was called “the worship center.” In John 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well that that day the worship of God was no longer constrained by a place. Now, I get the desire to create sacred spaces, mark this as different, but what we need to remember is what’s different about this is the fact that we’re all together. Young, old, tall, short, people from every nation, tribe and tongue gathered here together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, remembering what He did on our behalf. That can happen in this room, outside, in a hut in the jungle, in a cathedral, in a house, anywhere in the world! Now we have a permanent tent, and we can permanently dwell in God’s holy hill!

-When David wrote this, God’s people would go to Jerusalem 3 times a year, Passover, Firstfruits, Booths where they were encouraged to examine themselves and as they grew closer to the holy hill, Jerusalem. We don’t have to wait to get somewhere to come before God with prayer or confession, we can do it anywhere in the world.

  • The Answer (2-5)

-As David moves to the answer to these questions, what you should notice is how dissimilar this would have been to any other religion.

-Are any of these descriptions religious rituals? Doesn’t it seem to be more descriptive of a moral, upright person than someone who follows every piece of religious observance?

-List is not exhaustive (similar to the “gifts” lists in the NT), look at a couple other places: Psalm 24Isaiah 33

-Psalm 24: clean hands and a pure heart, religious observances! Imaging God.

Isaiah 33: MUCH more religious rules: righteously (in right, good, perfect standing before God), then goes on to the application, or someone who is morally upright. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Similar to what we see in Psalm 15!

  1. Character (2a)

-Walks blamelessly: refers to the whole orientation of someone’s life. The way they operate is: whole, sound, complete. Connects to shalom, everything in this person’s life is properly ordered. No one can find any fault.

-Right: other translations translate this as righteous, which then connects to justice. Everything done is morally true and pure, brings about shalom or lasting justice. 

-We’re reading a new kid’s Bible with our kids at night, last night we read a story from Amos 5:24 “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Preached through Amos last Spring, was struck by these phrases again. God’s people are meant to let justice roll down like waters. Some of the rain we got this week – drenched the ground, water pouring out of your gutters, that’s how we’re supposed to cover the earth with lasting justice. And righteousness will have NO end! And this is who can boldly come before God.

  • Speech (2b-3a)

-Remember last week, the description of the fool who says in his heart there is no god, contrasted to that is this person who speaks only truth in his heart. Can you imagine someone like that? No deception whatsoever, not even to himself! One of my favorite preachers loves saying “no one lies to you more than yourself” and it’s true! 

-I am NOT a morning person! So if you ever ask to meet me early in the morning and I do, know that I love you and am sacrificing greatly to be there. But I have tried to become a morning person my entire adult life: go to bed early, set 5 alarms, I have lost track of the number of alarms I’ve slept through, but each night I still promise myself that I’m going to become a morning person. Hopefully someday! But the point remains, I still lie to myself more than anyone else in the world (and so do you!) We are far less rational than we would like to admit, and far more driven by our deepest emotions and desires.

-Jesus in Matt. 12:34 “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” The Bible has a lot to say about the words we use. 

-Who can tame their tongue? 

James 3: like an inferno, rudder, horse bit

-Do you want to see what’s really in someone’s heart, look how they talk. 

-Best analogy I heard of this, if I am walking around with a cup of coffee and someone bumps into me, what’s going to come out? Hopefully coffee! If something else comes out, we’re in trouble! When someone “bumps” into you, what comes out of your mouth? Anger? Bitterness? Love?

  • Conduct (3b-5)

-Does no evil to neighbor

-Do those who live closest to you view you through an encouraging light? Talking to my neighbor behind the fence shortly after we moved in about who the good vs. bad neighbors are. Eye opening!

-Reproach against his friend. Lit. “he does not lift up an insult against one who is near to him.”

-The wicked (saw last week!) don’t even care about God, much less their friends and neighbors. 

-Gossiping/slandering hurts the cause of Christ in your life. DO NOT gossip! 

-Friend who wrote the book ‘Resisting Gossip’, anytime someone makes a comment about his book, he gets all serious and says “what have you heard, give me the scoop!” Gossip tears down someone who is made in the very image of God, which is why Jesus told us in Matt. 18 how we’re supposed to go about confronting someone who has wronged us. Follow that! It’s in the Bible for a reason!

-Vile person

-Just as the Lord looked down literally and metaphorically, so the righteous one looks down on the vile

-Fears the Lord

-Doesn’t try puff themselves up (1 Cor. 8:1), humbly supports and encourages those who are obeying the Lord, will fight for them

-read this week a commentary on this Psalm that said this text also refers to the unborn, which I thought was timely! Do we care for the most marginalized, those who have yet to even enter our world.

-Swear to own hurt

-The righteous one follows through on what he says. Doesn’t speak out of turn, but when they do speak, they will follow through everything they say. 

Hook (1991) “my word is my bond”

-Jesus in Matt. 5:33-37 “Let what you say be simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’” If you’re a righteous person that’s all that would be needed. You should be trustworthy!

-Handling of money

-Does not charge interest. Is all interest bad? 

Deut. 23:20 “You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest.” 

-Are you ridiculously generous? Some people are given a gift at making money or being successful in their vocation, pursue those things! Use your gifts! And then be a righteous person with them! You’re going to spend that money very differently than the world would!

-No bribe, care for the marginalized (just like the Lord last week toward the poor)

-Never be moved

-Building a house upon the solid foundation of God 

-Matt. 7:24-27 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who build his house in the rock”

  • Can This Be Done?

-As we were going through all these characteristics of the righteous one, did anyone come to mind who exemplifies these things? 

-I was out right away! I don’t live blamelessly, I don’t even always speak truth in my heart! I’m prone to deception, to lying to myself and others, to harboring bitterness. I haven’t perfectly perfected the use of my tongue yet, I wish I had! And I haven’t met anyone yet who would claim to perfectly embody this list?

  1. No!

-Remember last week’s message: there is no one who does good. 

-Pure religiosity will never fully achieve this. That’s why Jesus says “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees” Matt. 5:20. These were the people who tithed off their salt and pepper! They were SO CAREFUL with their possessions that every little piece was accounted for and given it’s proper due to the Lord.

-Maybe you’ve tried to do that! You think if you just buckle down and get to work you’ll be able to reach this perfect level that God has placed. 

Rom. 3:20 “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” 

-We’re not under the law anymore! Someone came to earth who walked blamelessly, who spoke not a careless word, who only loved and cared for his neighbors and friends, who looked down on the religiosity of the day but with care and compassion toward the disenfranchised, and did not love money but instead gave freely to all. 1 Peter 2:22 “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.”

-Even focus on the last line of vs. 4: Jesus came because God made a commitment to the human race, a covenant with Adam, then Abraham that He would provide a way for them to be made whole again. The Bible is the repeated story of God swearing to His own hurt, bearing the brunt of His people’s sins, yet not backing down.

  • But Yes!

Psalm 5:7 “but I through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness.”

-If you have chosen to say no to the ways of this world, and have instead said yes to Jesus, you now have the privilege and responsibility of starting to live like someone who is described in this Psalm. But you can’t do it by yourself! You need to become more and more dependent on Jesus working in you. If you don’t live this way, you will be cut off. Jesus talks about this in John 15

John 15:10 we can now obey and live righteous lives because we are abiding, rooted, planted, growing in God. Notice the word IF. Obedience and love are not 2 disconnected ideas, if you want God’s love to be manifest in your life, then obey! If you want to be someone who lives out these descriptions, give up trying to do it in your own strength and power, and remember that it is Christ working in you to bring about His perfect plan. This is how God says we can live forever with Him. That is the kind of superhero God is, and calls us to pursue being.