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.

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.

Psalm 14 – 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.

-Why do you believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world? Have you ever given thought to reasons or rationale for believing in Him, and believing that we have a rational faith that makes sense of the world and our lives? 

-Dr. Groothius in Seminary: “the defence of Christianity is objectively true, compellingly rational, and pertinent to the whole of life. I have dedicated my entire adult life to that defending that claim.”

-Because Christianity is defensible, it gives us a reason to have hope when the world around us is full of chaos.

-Hopelessness is seen all around us today, deaths of despair, upcoming generation despondent about climate change, wars taking place in Europe for the first time since WW2, friendship is on the decline

-When do you tend to feel hopeless about the world around us? When you feel that way, do you take your thoughts to God, or do you start to complain about how unfair life is and either ignore or blame God for your current state of affairs?

-When I feel that way, I need to go back and remind myself why things are this way, remind myself who God is, and ultimately speak the truth to myself!

READ/PRAY

  1. The Unbelief of the Fool (1-4)

-Not something you should run around referring to people as! Hebrew has a few words that we translate as fool, and all of them refer to something that is morally inferior, not intellectually inferior.

-Not saying this person is dumb, instead they’re refusing to acknowledge that there is a moral standard they aren’t matching up to, which the rest of the verse goes on to talk about

-However, there is a base level that true intellectual pursuit can’t be found apart from God. If the pursuit of intelligence is meant to lead to the discover of the truth, and the source of everything (including truth) is God Himself, how can someone legitimately pursue intelligence apart from God? While the Hebrew denotes moral inferiority, I don’t think this leaves out intellectual inferiority. But how can this be, when some of the “smartest” people in the world are avowed atheists?

-One of the things that has fascinated me in the past is the entire University system was initially conceived as centering around theology, which was referred to as the “queen of the sciences” Theology was the centering point around which everything else flowed, hence a uni (1) versity

-Paul picks up on and expands this idea in Rom 1:22-23

-Mere intellectual pursuit isn’t enough! It will point to, reveal, demonstrate God, but just pursuing more smarts is a pointless aim unless it finds it’s fulfilment in the worship of God, talked about this idea in the Spring when we looked at the image of God. We, as sinners, participate in the great exchange, where instead of worshipping the Creator God, we worship the creation, that is God’s definition of foolishness!

-Now, notice where the fool says this: in his heart, Lit. “No God”

-He has convinced himself (or herself), that’s where Romans says this is self-deception. In Ecclesiastes we’re reminded that God has placed eternity in our hearts, which is where humans have an innate desire for something more or bigger than themselves. 

-If you haven’t heard/read the statistics, the biggest growth in religion is “nones” (not nuns), but what’s fascinating is if you dig a little further into the research, something like 40% of the self-identified “nones” believe in the God of the Bible. So they’re refusing to identify with a specific religious identity, but they still believe in God. How have we gotten to the point of separating these 2 things out? I don’t get how you believe the God of the Bible, but you’re not a Christian.

-When I was in college, it was really cool to say “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” I get what you’re trying to say, but it’s more accurate to say it’s a religion AND a relationship! I heard a story onetime of a professor who has a sign that he brings to every class, on one side is the phrase “I don’t know” on the other side is the phrase “both/and”

-I even saw this week, Chris Pratt (Star Lord, Jurassic Park, Parks & Rec) clarified that he’s not a religious person because religion is all about oppression, but he is a Christian.

-Part of the challenge is you can’t learn these things the natural way we learn, just studying more or reading more or being taught more, the Bible says apart from a transformed heart, these things will continue to appear foolish to people.

1 Cor. 2:14 these things are spiritually discerned, AKA you can’t figure out who God is just by looking at the world He made. It points to Him, but it doesn’t contain Him, He is not constrained by or the same as His creation. 

-Then look at what this denial about God leads to: corruption and abominable deeds.

-A well-known picture of this is seen in the book many of you have heard about or read: the Lord of the flies. A group of young boys escape England during a war but the plane carrying them crashes on an uninhabited island where their attempts to govern themselves lead to death, destruction and chaos. That’s a great picture of what happens apart from God sovereignly guiding things – who cares what God says if I’m my own god? That’s where this next verse is so funny!

-The Lord looks down.

-How do you look at an ant? Sitting in our driveway, oh weird! Look at them all!

-One of the fascinating things throughout the Bible is how God responds to those who think of themselves as being something great. In Gen. 11:5, the Tower of Babel, they planned to build a tower so high it would reach to the heavens and make them gods: “The Lord came down”, Nebuchadnezzar in Dan. 4Psalm 2 the kings of the land make themselves great and God laughs!

-Atheists act as if they’re the intellectual gods, they have arrived, have all the answers, and God both intellectually and literally has to look down, and what does he see?

-A lack of understanding, corruption, no one doing any good, not even one.

-It makes me think of another story in Genesis where Abraham is let in on a secret by the Lord to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah where his nephew Lot lived. 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10. This is literally why God sent Jesus, because there is no one who does good.

-That’s the argument Paul makes in Rom. 3:10-12. None of us are off the hook! We either deep down in our hearts believe there is no God, or we act as if there is no God and refuse to admit that we need Him. That’s where David will go on:

-No knowledge

-Claiming knowledge, they refuse to follow knowledge by not calling on the Maker of everything they study. Again, they are acting or assuming superiority to God, this is where atheism is so dangerous! 

-So how do you think God should respond?

  • God’s Response (5-7)

-Lit. “They feared a fear”

-Despite not acknowledging him, they live in fear, think of how difficult it would be to live without certainty, what reason or purpose would there be to live if there wasn’t an end goal to live for? As you talk to people and ask them how certain they are about their beliefs, if you keep pushing don’t get you to a low-level sense of fear about everything? How many of us can guarantee anything? 

-Guy from high school who said he’d just wait until he’s on his deathbed to hurry up and say a prayer and then be fine, but what if that’s not how he dies?

-Story from Spurgeon about atheist, ship going down, stabbed in town, writes about “religious experiences”

-If the fools are opposed to God, who does God side with? 2 words used to describe them here: righteous and poor. Those are the ones that God will be a refuge for

-Jesus says something similar in the beatitudes: Matt. 5:3 poor in Spirit will have the kingdom of heaven. This is the paradox of the way God has ordered the world. It doesn’t make sense to the natural mind, it contradicts the way our flesh thinks we should operate and behave. 

-Think of some of the other things Jesus said: first shall be last, whoever wants to be greatest must become the least, you’re blessed when you’re persecuted. Do any of those things sound like the way the world should work?

-If we want trust success and true flourishing, it means that we must acknowledge that God is God and we are not! It means we need to come to the end of ourselves, admit that we too often try to live as fools and instead become fools to the world.

-It is by being worldly foolish that God will serve as our refuge

-We don’t often need a refuge today, our world is at times far too safe! Everywhere we go we’re in a refuge: car, house, work. It wasn’t always like that, and any travel often meant you were dependent on someone else’s hospitality to act as a refuge for you. When we come to God as our refuge, we are completely safe, and nothing, not even the most formidable army in the world can fight against God. So we need to trust Him!

-That’s where David ends this prayer in vs. 7:

-Salvation

-Notice the certainty of this salvation, not if, when. Micah reminded us last week that we can and should turn to God in the midst of our struggles and pain because we know that God will restore our fortunes. It’s not if, it’s when! So if you are struggling, if you are hurting, bring it to God and trust that God will restore your fortunes. HOWEVER, it might not be on this side of heaven. God doesn’t guarantee us health and wealth here, but when we’re with Him, all those things that are broken are done.

-Spurgeon: “On earth are atheists many, in hell there is not any.”

-God has revealed himself in creation, but God most manifestly shows Himself in the cross. The real crux of apologetics has to answer: what do you do with Jesus?

-No serious historical scholar doubts that there was a Jesus who made some pretty big waves in the first century. The only question becomes, how do you respond to Jesus, and where do you find out more about Him?

  • Are You a Fool?

– Or maybe another way to ask this question is who views you as a fool, God or the world? Or perhaps even if you’re not a practicing atheist, are you a practical atheist, living and operating as if God doesn’t exist and you don’t need Him?

-I’ve been getting some interesting apologetic questions since I moved here, and wanted to just give you all a really brief introduction to some of these questions to help you begin to understand why we can and should believe in Christianity as reliable and defensible as the one true faith in the world. 2 parts: first the existence of God, second the existence and purpose of Jesus. 

-Doubt is the natural state, it’s completely normal to have doubts and questions about God, but don’t just stop there! Since God is the source of all truth, He stand up to your scrutiny, and believe it or not, there are answers to every question I’ve ever had, heard, been asked, or read about whether or not God is real and can exist. Church, we don’t need to view faith and science or faith and reason as opposed to each other! The creation points to God! We can learn about God from both science and faith! We need more Christians who take seriously the Bible and seriously their scientific pursuit! 

-Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology (171-172) summarizes the 4 primary arguments for the existence of God: cosmological, teleological, ontological, moral.

-1. Cosmological. Nothing exists by itself. Everything that exists is dependent on something else to be. If everything in the universe must have a cause, then the universe itself must have a cause. I remember learning about the big bang in middle school, and then joking that I believed in the big bang: God said it and bang there it was! But God could have used a “big bang” as His chosen means of creating the universe! I’ll leave it at that, if you want to talk further about that, or want more resources about that email me!

-2. Teleological this is taken from the Greek word “telos” which means purpose. Think of all the incredible ways we see the purpose around us. The moon creates tides and rhythms, our planet is the perfect distance away from the sun to provide life giving nutrients, the water cycles reproduces itself to give us what we need. The best example I’ve heard of this argument is like a watch (old school watch, not like my fancy new Apple Watch!) If you were to stumble across a watch would you be amazed at what the ocean created by the waves pounding against the sand, or would you think someone dropped their watch? Think of all the various components that make up our bodies, do you think it was a complete accident?

-3. Ontological this one gets to some of the intellectual discussions people like to have. Has been a philosophical conversation since the 11th Century. Asks the question: what is the greatest being that can possibly be imagined? Then, if you can come up with that being, to exist is greater than not existing, so intellectually you’re at God! If you want to dig further, again email me!

-4. Moral: why do we have things that are considered good and bad? Is it just cultural? Is is just upbringing? This argument says what justification can there be for there being morality in the world? Why is Mother Theresa lauded as an example to the world, while Adolf Hitler conjures up hatred and anger? 

-Liar, lunatic, Lord, legend.

CS Lewis on Jesus:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [that is, Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

-Maybe all these ideas came about after Jesus lived, and then became a legend like King Arthur. 

-More than I have time for, but this is where it’s worth to note all the historical evidence we have for the validity of the NT

Lewis again: “Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly. Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us, as is the life of anyone else who lived at that time, and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so. Apart from bits of the Platonic dialogues, there is no conversation that I know of in ancient literature like the Fourth Gospel. There is nothing, even in modern literature, until about a hundred years ago when the realistic novel came into existence.”

-We can believe that Christianity is objectively true, compellingly rational, and pertinent to the whole of life

-Study these things, but also share your story of what God has done in your life. Even if someone doesn’t believe the apologetic arguments, they can’t argue with a changed life, so refuse to live like an atheist and demonstrate that you believe in God, it will transform every aspect of your life

Psalm 12 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.

-Psalm vs. Psalms

-The expression of human emotion. Listened to a podcast this week: Luther called the Psalms “the little Bible” meaning if you prayed through the Psalms you would pray everything in Scripture Calvin “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.”

-The Psalms give us language and prayers to use in the midst of whatever is going on in our lives. God was intentional about including a book of songs that give us language to process every emotion in our lives.

-Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Scottish pastor died at 29, compiled what may be the most used Bible reading plan where you go through the OT once, NT and Psalms twice, viewed the Psalms as just as important as the NT!

-Similarly, Thomas Cranmer (anyone heard of him) wrote the Book of Common Prayer still in use today, he viewed the Psalms as so important, the church read through all of them every single month!

-Nice thing about the Psalms, can be read through every month! Pick which ever day it is, multiply by 5, read through the next 5 Psalms, you’ll get through them every month!

-The hard part is preaching them! Many of these Psalms sound VERY similar, and they can end up running together! Still God’s Word, still applicable to us, still beneficial for growth in godliness, and above all these things it’s the songbook Jesus grew up singing. It’s not a coincidence that on the cross, Jesus’ last words were quoting the Psalms. The Psalms have given voice to God’s people for centuries, so I think we can be benefitted by learning God’s way of processing emotions too!

-One note: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in God’s divinely inspired hymnal doesn’t contain musical notes. The emotions expressed in these songs can be adapted to any cultural context and any style of music. We don’t even know what the musical notes mean!

-Summary: share your burden, listen to what God says, remind yourself who God is

READ/PRAY (257) 

  1. Wicked Words (1-4)

-This Psalm feels very applicable for today! Doesn’t it feel like there’s no more godly people involved in the public square? 

-Some of that is natural, life is all about our interpretation of our experiences. My sister and I largely lived the same life, but we are radically different people and even interpret our growing up through VERY different lenses. Same thing with Cara and I, can sit through the same conversation and have 2 very different interpretations of what happened! (She’s right, I’m wrong)

-The description of what’s going on is most explicit in vs. 2.

-“Everyone utters lies to his neighbor”

-Breaking the 9th commandment, remember we looked at this 2 weeks ago with Gospel Rooted Growth: when we lie we act as if our external image is more important than someone else. But what about an entire community marked by lying? How would anyone ever trust another? 

-Do you really think EVERYONE has turned into a liar? Using hyperbole to make a point, but I’m guessing at times it feels that way, doesn’t it? Have you ever felt like you’re the only person around you who’s trying to faithfully follow after God?

-Not just lying (as if that weren’t enough!), flattering lips and double heart.

-Flattering lips is buttering up unnecessarily, a corollary of lying. Keeps speaking super highly, yet you know they just keep digging themselves into a bigger hole because there’s no way you’re as great as they’re making you out to be.

-And finally, double heart. Lit. “they speak with a heart and a heart.” Talking out of both sides of their mouth.

-I think the best example of this is in politics. People only listen enough to condemn and villainize their opponents. I remember listening to a comedian onetime who picked up this idea, smear campaign against an opponent accused him of wanting to legalize shooting against children. The guy gets up and says “I was thinking of situations where a child gets a hold of a weapon and we need to do anything to prevent worse problems” The other guy responds “he wants to kill children!” WHAT?

-And it’s worse when the news sources get a hold of it! Look at these headlines referring to the same story (don’t read anything beyond the difference of opinions into this, not making a political statement right now, just showing competing interpretations). One of them is true, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know which one it is.

-At times, doesn’t it feel like our entire world is just crazy, and there’s only a few sane people left? 

-The Bible actually has a wonderful example of this idea of feeling all alone in the stand for what is right and good and true: Elijah in 1 Kings 19:10

-The story of Elijah is, I think fascinating, but what’s most fascinating about this instance is he’s coming off one of the biggest and most successful stories in his life. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah challenges 850 false prophets to a showdown on Mt. Carmel to determine who the true God was. After spending the day dancing and begging, nothing happens to Baal’s offering. Elijah prays a simple prayer and Yahweh’s offering is consumed by fire. Instead of living on cloud 9, Elijah runs away and hides from Jezebel, the king’s wife. And out of that hiding comes this passage where God asks why Elijah is hiding. 

-Do you think Elijah is really the only one in the whole country who hasn’t followed Baal? Absolutely not! Does that negate the way Elijah feels? Absolutely not! I can guarantee, if you remain faithful in your pursuit of the Lord, there will be times and seasons where you will feel completely alone in that pursuit! But don’t forget, you’re not! 

-I had a season in high school where I felt this way! God really captured my heart between my Jr/Sr years and it started to feel like high school was just a waste of time. I complained to my dad about it, and he took me to the 1 Kings passage and said “even when it feels like it, you’re never alone.” Once again, this is why we need to meet together like we are today! If you’re feeling alone, please reach out to someone sitting nearby you, and remember, you’re not alone!

-But it’s also important to note, what is your response when you start to feel like you’re all alone, the only one who’s following after God with all your heart? 

-Do you tend to withdraw, run away to cave and sulk? Do you tend to act like the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings and grumble and complain about how difficult your life is and how nobody knows the trouble you’ve seen? Let’s look back at vs. 1 to see what our response SHOULD be.

-“Save, O Lord” When you feel isolated, alone, don’t forget that even if that were true, God is still with you. One of the first promises my parents taught me as I was growing up was in Deut 31:6 “He will never leave you or forsake you.” Do you believe that? And not only was that true in the OT, it’s doubly true now that God literally lives IN you! We are invited to bring our requests, cares, and concerns to God! We saw this back when we studied 1 Peter 5:7 “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” When you feel all alone, bring it to the Lord. 

-The way this verse starts demonstrates to us that David has the right orientation toward God. He knows this true, he trusts that God will take care of Him, so instead of grumbling and complaining, he cries out to God! 

-Look at what David asks God to do. This is a request for God to enact judgment, there are numerous Psalms that are called “imprecatory Psalms,” asking God to curse or bring evil upon someone. 

-Note here, David is essentially asking God to prevent the evil from continuing to spread. It’s “an eye for an eye” so he’s not going way beyond what the people are committing. It’s also interesting that these are God’s Words in the Bible, how do we process them, especially in light of Jesus’ new commands to bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute us. How are we supposed to process these ideas? Much bigger than I can fully devote time to, briefly: be slow to adopt them, but what other words would we have in times of mass genocide like we’ve seen a few times in the past century? How do we process the atrocities of places like the concentration camps of the Third Reich? Or the shooting of little children in school? Or the attempts to kill the entire Uighur population in China right now? Or the straight land grab currently taking place in Ukraine? You ask for God to save the person, but don’t you also say: do whatever it takes to stop these evils! Honestly, I really wish I could be a pacifist, and at times I think it does a better job with Jesus’ ethics, but then I think back to the Russian gulags, or the German concentration camps, and then I pray for God to enact perfect, lasting justice. This is also something we pray for (or should pray for) more often than we realize. Every time we pray the Lord’s prayer we are praying imprecatory things, when we ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done we are asking for him to bring about perfect, lasting justice, to vanquish His enemies and correct the sinful ways of people. 

-Yet another reason I’m a Christian: it gives voice to the evils in the world. It doesn’t skirt around them, doesn’t try to minimize them, doesn’t bury its head in the sand and pretend they don’t exist, it faces it head on and gives language to process through it. More to come as we come across more imprecatory Psalms! 

-But I also want to approach this idea from a personal perspective. I think of the old hymn “Come Thou Fount” where we sing “prone to wander, Lord I feel it prone to leave the God I love.” What do we do when we’re the one that need our flattering lips and boastful tongues cut off? What do we do when we come face to face with our sinful tendencies?

Matt. 18:7-9. We tend to read this and jump to hyperbole, but don’t just jump there too quickly, I think Jesus has a real point here. 

-Jake’s snake story.

-We tend to treat our sin as a little pet that we can keep in its’ container and pull it out to play with it every once in a while, but by doing that we’re only playing with our certain doom. That’s where Jesus says it’s better for you to cut off limbs to ensure your holiness than play with your sin and die.

-Smooth talker: can sell a cup of water to someone drowning, sell an umbrella to someone in the Sahara during the dry season. This is someone who’s so confident in their ability to talk their way out of any situation that they’re confident they’ll never truly be found out. Intentionally deceiving others and being disobedient to God. 

-All that, and we’re only 4 verses in! But don’t worry, there’s only 4 more verses!

-This first section we saw to bring your requests to God, let Him know when you’re feeling alone and struggling.

  • Holy Words (5-8)
    • God’s Words (5-6)

-God responds, but what is it exactly that God is responding to? 

-to the poor and the needy One of the theological issues Jeramy and I discussed this past Spring was the burden of being wealthy. Most of the time we’re not even aware of the spiritual weight having money is to us. That’s why Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24). That was a joke to make a point. How well would a camel fit through a needle? 

-Similarly, I read an article this week titled “True religion” The title is taken from James 1:27. The article said that unless your discipleship leads you to take better care of “orphans and widows” then you’re not growing as a disciple.

-Another situation I think fleshes this out: Jesus’ first public sermon (and description of His ministry) in (Luke 4:18-19). God cares about the marginalized in the world, it is when the marginalized are mistreated and abused that God responds. It should cause us to ask: do I care about the marginalized that I see around me? Who are the marginalized? Anyone that has a need (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, materially)

-This also gets us back to the imprecatory Psalms: we, today, are meant to be a visible demonstration of God’s lasting justice, that is care for the poor and oppressed looking for ways to care for them like God would care for them. 

-Look at what God will do, He won’t remove them from the situation, but will bring safety. God doesn’t promise us a carefree life, God promises to be with us the midst of whatever situations come our way.

-Compare the description of God’s words to the liar. Pure vs. impure. There is no double speak, no mocking, no flattering, no boasting, just pure honest words. What God says is true. Think about that, because God doesn’t change, the things He said here 3,000 years ago are just as true today as they were back then. They are more pure than the most refined precious metals in the world. 

-So for us, how do we treat/view God’s Word? Do you view it as pure? Do you meditate on it, soak in it, saturate our lives with it, or is it a nice treat on the side? Do you treat it as the main course or the dessert (eat sparingly). Jesus tells a story of how we should treat His Words: a man find a jewel in a field, sells everything to buy the field and gets the priceless jewel. Do we honor God’s Word as more valuable than a priceless gem/heirloom? 

-We need to be in God’s word to listen to what God says

  • Our Words (7-8)

-How does David respond to God’s promise to respond to the call of the poor and needy? 

-He extrapolates on the promises of God. God will keep the people He has promised to, nothing will be able to stand against Him and His ways. 

-Even if (unlike Elijah) you were literally the only child of God left on the earth, God would continue guarding and protecting you. 

-At the beginning of this Psalm, it seemed like the worldly generation would inevitably win, there’s no one godly left, but God will still protect and preserve, despite the evil walking right next to you.

-Keep to the straight and narrow, keep to faithfully following God’s Word, since the wicked prowl beside, but as long as we are being faithful and obedient to His ways, we continue taking one step forward as we seek to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth just like it is in heaven.

-Preach to yourself: who is God, what is He like?

-So what do we do when we feel like we’re completely alone in the world? Share your burden, listen to what God says, remind yourself who God is