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I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
Isn’t it funny the things that make us happy? It is amazing what a little warm weather, fresh air and sunshine produces in us Michiganders. Oh the praise we can heap upon the blazing sun for breaking up the bleak winter days! That is no surprise given that we were created to worship. However, we all know that summer does not last and the happiness found in it is fleeting. We will find ourselves perpetually in want if we seek our joy in anything but God. So then, what things can we stake our lives upon that will not fade away nor in the end leave us wanting more?
In Psalm 138, David points us to the two things God has made great in all the earth by setting them above all things in all creation, namely His name and His word. David can exalt in these two things along with the One True God because he has experienced the saving, redeeming grace of God in his life. We see this in two ways in this psalm. God’s word reveals His purposes. Throughout the Bible, we see a God who keeps His promises. When God speaks, we hear what He intends to do and the record of Scripture shows that these purposes are always fulfilled. Therefore, because our God not only makes great promises, but actually fulfills them, His Name is also exalted. He does not just make commitments, He keeps them. It is inextricably wrapped up in His character to do so. So we are brought to praise God with our whole heart (v. 1) because He is steadfast love, He is faithful and He will bring us safely through the circumstances of life! What kind of rejoicing does this produce in the lives of God’s people? The kind that not only praises God for His amazing greatness, but flaunts this greatness in the faces of the false gods of Our Time (v. 2).
But to spend our lives exalting and finding joy in these two things that will never leave us in want, we first need to remember. The pattern we find throughout this psalm is David calling to mind what God has done which leads him to praise who God is. Who is this God who has captured David’s affections? He is a God who first loved us (v. 2), who acts for His people (v. 3) and who dwells with His people (v. 6).
As the psalm ends, we are reminded to value God’s name and word above all things and orient our lives around them. The way to walk through the reality of human experience is to daily, and sometimes moment by moment, remind ourselves of the truth of God’s deliverance. We must recall to mind the rock solid reality of God’s commitment to His Word and Name, which promises His people more than we can possibly imagine. And isn’t it interesting that the psalmist closes not by reminding himself of this truth, but by humbly reminding God himself. So one way David gives us to press ourselves deep into the the promises of God is to set our hearts away from self-reliance and upon God’s name and word by reminding ourselves of His amazing grace, that it is He alone that saves, that He will save His people because He has promised to do so, and He will do so because He has exalted not His people above all things, but His name and His word. So God does not mind when we come desperate (v. 6): desperately seeking, desperately asking and even desperately reminding Him to not forsake the work of His hands for His name and glory (v. 8). So let us make this a month to remember and rejoice in God’s love & faithfulness.
resolved: student ministries went to Camp Barakel for winter retreat two weekends ago. On the drive north Friday evening, it started to snow and it didn’t stop until a foot of fresh snow had fallen. It was a wet, heavy snow that knocked out power across the northeast Lower Pennisula. The storm caused camp to lose power early Saturday morning and that, in turn, caused our winter retreat to be cut short because they could not heat the cabins in the near zero temperatures. But in all of the chaos of a Michigan blizzard and the changing retreat plans, I stepped outside the back of the East Side dining hall and was confronted with a beautiful sight. Green pines and tall brown oaks were totally white. It looked as if every tree and its branches were not real trees, but were made completely of snow. An iPhone camera just does not do it justice.
The chills that went up my back were not from the cold. It was a powerful reminder of the gospel-pointing beauty of God’s snow in Isaiah 1.18: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Because of the blood Jesus shed on the cross, the guilt of the sins of God’s people is effectively cleansed. But not only that, as Alec Motyer comments, “the Lord’s promise is not only to deal with the stain of sin but with the nature from which it springs.” That’s why the picture above was simply a gospel-pointing reminder. The trees were still there under all that snow… they were covered, but they were still trees. But if anyone is in Christ Jesus, they are a new creations (2 Corinthians 5.17). Jesus didn’t just cover our sins, He gave us new life in Him. Oh the powerful blood of our glorious Savior! As winter gives way to spring, may we remember the new life that springs forth in those who are in Christ. The cold grip in which death once held us is broken. Though our sins were like scarlet, they are white as snow.
“But God’s firm foundation stands . . .” 2 Timothy 2:19
The foundation upon which our faith rests is that “Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). The great facts on which genuine faith relies is, that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), that “for Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18), and that “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24).
In one word, the great pillar of the Christian’s hope is substitution. The vicarious sacrifice of Christ for the guilty, Christ being made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, Christ offering up a true and proper expiatory and substitutionary sacrifice in the room, place, and stead of as many as the Father gave him, who are known to God by name, and are recognized in their own hearts by their trusting in Jesus—this is the cardinal fact of the gospel. If this foundation were removed, what could we do? But it stands firm as the throne of God.
We know it, we rest on it, we rejoice in it, and our delight is to hold it, to meditate upon it, and to proclaim it while we desire to be actuated and moved by gratitude for it in every part of our life and conversation.
In these days a direct attack is made upon the doctrine of the atonement. Men cannot bear substitution. They gnash their teeth at the thought of the Lamb of God bearing the sin of man.
But we, who know by experience the preciousness of this truth, will proclaim it in defiance of them confidently and unceasingly. We will neither dilute it nor change it, nor fritter it away in any shape or fashion. It shall still be Christ, a positive substitute, bearing human guilt and suffering in the stead of men. We cannot, dare not, give it up, for it is our life, and despite every controversy we feel that “God’s firm foundation stands.”
~ Charles Spurgeon
(HT: The Resurgence)
“Having made Jesus your all, you shall find all in Jesus.”
Through the Gospel, you begin to find that the more you put your energy into knowing and loving Jesus, the more satisfying He becomes and the more the things of this world taste like the death they are. Colossians 2.9-10 says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” We are filled in Christ! All your heart desires, all you think you want to find in this life, everything you hope the things of this world like your possessions, your looks, your friends, your family, your job, your achievements, you accolades… everything you hope to find satisfaction in is already yours in Christ. It’s already yours!! Praise be to the amazing grace of God who made us “alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:13-15).
“True faith takes its character and quality from its object and not from itself. Faith gets a man out of himself and into Christ. Its strength therefore depends on the character of Christ. Even those of us who have weak faith have the same strong Christ as others!”
~ Sinclair Ferguson, The Christian Life
“Affliction can sometimes prove a blessing to a person’s soul… There is nothing that shows our ignorance more than impatience under troubles. We forget that every cross is a message from God and intended to do us good in the end. Trials are intended to make us think, to wean us from the world, to send us to the Bible, to drive us to our knees. Health is a good thing, but sickness is far better if it drives us to God. Anything, anything is better than living in carelessness and dying in sin.”
~ JC Ryle
“‘Come unto me,’ he says, ‘and I will give you.’ You say, ‘Lord, I cannot give you anything.’ He does not want anything. Come to Jesus, and he says, ‘I will give you.’ Not what you give to God, but what he gives to you, will be your salvation. ‘I will give you‘ — that is the gospel in four words.
Will you come and have it? It lies open before you.”
~ C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), I:175. Italics original
(HT: Ray Ortlund)
“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’”
Seeking God is one of the main priorities of the church. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). John Piper, in a sermon on Psalm 40, says, “We seek to behold his beauty, to be with him, to meditate on him. This is our central business in the church—to see the beauty of God. To get our heads into the heavens. To know him for who he is. He is the main reality—not buildings, not Christians, not missions, not heaven. God himself is what we seek.”
But this seeking isn’t complete, it seems, until we proclaim His greatness. In verses 9-10, David tells how he did not hide or conceal what God has done for him. He told the people about God’s faithfulness, steadfast love and salvation. In verse 16, the seeking in the first half is concluded in the second half with proclamation, namely continually saying, “Great is the Lord!” Piper says, “He is supreme and his supremacy is your passion.” Part of having a passion for His supremacy is proclaiming it!
So the church’s mission to our neighbors and the nations in which we tell them who God is, what He has done and that salvation is found in Him alone through Jesus Christ flows out of the church’s pursuing God. A passion for evangelism does not simply flow out of a burden for the lost. It flows out of a heart that seeks God, a heart that rejoices and is glad in God (Psalm 40:16a). When we go hard after God and pursue our joy in Christ alone, God is glorified. When God grants joy and gladness in Him through our seeking, we find that our seeking and loving and worshiping of God is not separate from our proclamation of Him. Piper says:
“Our passion for God is our persuasion for the nations… our joy in God is both our worship and our evangelism.”
Bono, the frontman of U2, wrote an introduction to a book containing a selection of Psalms. It isn’t extraordinarily eye-opening, nor extraordinarily helpful either. However, there is one section that brought me to worship. In speaking of a song U2 wrote called “40″, he says:
“Psalm 40 is interesting in that it suggests a time when… love will replace the very strict law of Moses (i.e. fulfill them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the Scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me; now it is a great source of comfort.”
Now, this isn’t the time to begin debating whether Bono is saved or not. Only God, and maybe Bono, know that. We need to hear that last line. We need to see what gets a person to that point. From shock to awestruck wonder. From incredulity to joy. From elder brother to the younger. It comes from a true experience of grace. You know how he can go from shock to comfort if you have come to taste and see God’s grace. I don’t know about you, but I am praising God this morning for Jesus Christ. He fulfilled so that huslters, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries just like me can be adopted as God’s children rather than bear just and holy wrath as His enemies. I get forgiveness because Christ bore the penalty for my sin in his body. He paid it all, once for all, and I get grace and mercy and love. He is not known to me only as God, the Most High, He is also God, my Father, because of Jesus. Easter 2010 has passed, but the joy and comfort that God has justified sinners in Christ alone, not based on anything they have done or ever will do, is simply amazing. The fact that the Bible is full of filthy sinners is not a shock. That God killed his only Son for their sin instead of them is.