Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 24, 2015
Open your Bibles to Matthew 1:18. Tonight we are concluding our December sermon series, titled “The Incarnation of Christ.” As I have said repeatedly, the purpose of this sermon series is to fix a problem in many of our hearts. This problem is perhaps summarized best by Jesus himself. In Matthew 15 Jesus says,
For those of you who have been with us over the last several weeks we have focused on attention on three things so far. 1) The birth of Jesus is the birth of God, 2) All of history exists because God desires to display his glorious grace through His Son, and 3) Christ humbly accepted this assignment from God because he loves His Father and He loves those who believe. Today, we will look at another angel and tackle the question of how is the birth of Jesus relevant our lives. Why should we care about the birth of some Jewish baby 2000 years ago? With that question in mind, turn to Matthew 1:18-25.
Shall Call His Name Jesus
The verse that I want us to focus on tonight is verse 21, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The name Jesus in Greek is “Iēsous” (ē-ā-sü's). Iēsous is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. Joshua means “Jehovah is salvation.” Therefore the name Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation.” It is important to remember that the name Jesus was not selected by Mary or Joseph, but was handpicked by God himself.
This means that God desired that every time someone referred to His incarnate Son, he wanted them to think about the phrase Jehovah is salvation. Why? Because this is why Jesus was born, to implement God's plan of salvation. Jesus says it about himself in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” This is the primary purpose of the incarnation.
Salvation from Sin
For people who have never been exposed to Jesus, this name, this statement that the primary purpose of Jesus is to save, should lead them to ask one question, save us from what?
Thankfully, the angel tells us in verse 21, “for he will save his people from their sins.” The essence of Christ incarnation is to save people from their sins, but what does this mean? First let us start with the question, what is sin? One way we can answer this is with 1 John 3:4.
In regards to these laws, every single person who has ever existed has broken these laws of God. God tells us explicitly that “no one is righteous, no not one.” In 1 John 1:8 it says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”
I am constantly amazed by how many people think they are good. You and I are not good. Jesus himself says that no one is good, except God. Every one of us on this planet is a sinner.
Why is this? Because we are born this way. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” You are a natural born sinner. It is not something you had to learn, it is your predisposed condition. Why? Because of the fall. When Adam disobeyed God in the beginning he plunged humanity into a state of sin. Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—“ Therefore, the Bible is abundantly clear. You, I, and all of humanity since time began have the problem of sin.
However, this may lead you to another question, what is so bad about sin? In fact, some of you in this room may enjoy your relationship with sin. Sin makes you feel good. You enjoy getting drunk, you enjoy cussing and using the Lord's name in vain, you enjoy lusting for people not your spouse, you enjoy counting your money and coveting the things of this world. You see no problem with sin.
And there is a perfectly logical reason for this. You see no problem with sin, because you cannot see. You are spiritually blind.
So what are you blind to? What are you not seeing? You are blind to the realities of God. You are blind that the God who is your creator is not casual about your rebellion against him. He is a Holy God. He is a just God. And He is not amused by your rejection of Him
This is bad news for us, for we have already established that we are sinners, that none of us our righteous. Does this mean we deserve Hell? Absolutely. Our sin against an infinitely Holy and Eternal God demands a punishment that fits the crime, anything less than Hell would be an injustice at the highest level.
So what are we to do? What hope do we have? It is this child who was born 2000 years ago. It is Jesus, Jehovah is Salvation. God, is a Holy and Just God. He hates sin. However, God is also merciful and loving. God provides a way in which we can be saved from our sins, and this way is His Son, Jesus. He is the only way. Being good will not save you, going to Church will not save you, being Catholic or Protestant will not save you, being a rich American will not save you. Only Jesus saves. This is why Jesus was born. As John the Baptist rightfully said, “Behold the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world.” Jesus is our only hope.
Save His People
So is that it? Is the gift of Jesus for all people? Is the fact that Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, crucified and resurrected from the dead mean that all of humanity will be saved? No, what does the angel say? Verse 21, “for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus does not save all people. Only His people. So who are his people? Jesus tells us.
If you have embraced Christ as your one and only hope, then Christmas should be a time of deep and heartfelt joy, for you were destined for God's wrath, but Christ has pulled you from the flames and secured you in his arms for all eternity.
Christmas is not about presents, lights, or food. Christmas is about salvation. Christmas is about the perfect love of God made manifest if the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 6, 2015
Today marks the 2nd Sunday of Advent. For those of you who are familiar with Advent, it is a tradition of the Church. By this I mean that it is not a Biblical ordinance, such as Baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Advent is a mere construction of man, so whether you celebrate Advent or not is not a sin issue.
Personally, I did not grow up in a Church that focused on Advent, and I do not believe my parents or Church were wrong in this approach. Having said those things, I do believe Advent like thinking is good for you, and good for our Church.
I say this because Advent is the intentional focus of the Incarnation of Christ. Beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, Advent encourages Christians to dwell upon the unsearchable riches of God’s Grace in the giving of his Son to the World for our eternal joy. Thinking about that reality is a good thing. Granted, this good news of great joy should not be limited to one month a year, it should be dwelt upon every day for all eternity, but let us be honest, we have a tendency to forget, and this is why I think Advent has its advantages. It helps us to remember.
Therefore, this advent, I want to encourage each of you to be intentional in dwelling upon the coming of Christ. I want you to lay aside things that interfere with your ability to see that Glory of God in the face of Jesus. Be intentional and read all four Gospels this month. Commit yourself to extended times of fasting and praying. Read an Advent devotional such as John Pipers, “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.” Men, this is a great time to launch family devotionals every night before your children go to bed. Let us not allow for another December pass by without standing in awe of Emmanuel.
With this in mind, for the next three Sundays and then concluding on Christmas Eve, my goal is to help set your minds and your hearts on Christ. I want to spend the next four weeks pointing you to the Universe shifting realty that God became a man. I want us to dwell upon the fullness of Christ, and the unfathomable love that was displayed in his humbling himself to become a man.
The Problem with Christmas
The title of this sermon series is the Incarnation of Christ. The word incarnation means to become flesh, to become human. Therefore the Incarnation of Christ is the act of Jesus becoming a man. One of the familiar verses that summarizes this reality is found in John 1:14.
This incarnation of the Word, which is the Son of God, aka, Jesus, is the essence of Christmas. This is what we are to be celebrating during the Christmas season, the Son of God becoming a man.
With this said, one of the biggest problems during the Christmas season is that we spend too much time focusing only on the Christ’s humanity. Our eyes go straight to the manger and we fixate on baby Jesus. We sing songs like Away in the Manger, which are great song, but can have the potential, if we are not careful, to cause us to focus only on the flesh of Christ.
Now some of you are now saying, wait a minute, didn’t you just tell us that the essence of Christmas is the incarnation, the becoming of the flesh, Jesus becoming a man. Yes, I did, but we must not forget that this was not any old baby. This was the Word becoming a baby.
When we celebrate Christmas with only a manger mentality, we undermine the awe of Christmas. We reduce the magnitude of what we are truly celebrating. In fact, when we do this, we easily can set aside Jesus, or replace Him. If Jesus is just a man, then Santa Clause can compete. If Jesus is just a man, then his birth is not any more special than Aristotle’s, Shakespeare’s, Abraham Lincoln’s, or Albert Einstein’s. If Jesus is just a man, then like so many people commonly say today, he is a good teacher and nothing more. So today, we are going to shine the light on who this Jesus was and is before he stepped into the world 2000 years ago.
“My Lord and My God”
As we begin, let me just say this, no legitimate scholar denies that Jesus from Nazareth existed. The historical “experts” who spend their lives studying this stuff, overwhelming agree that there really was a Jesus. This is not just the Christian historians, it is nearly all historians. So the question is never, if Jesus is real. He is real, no doubt, the whole world turns on this reality. The question is, is Jesus God.
We have already looked at John 1:14, let us step back and look at John 1:1.
There may not be a clearer declaration of the divinity of Jesus then John 1:1. The logic of the statement is rock solid. As we have stated the Word as used in John 1 is Jesus. So we can easily replace the Word with Jesus, “In the beginning was [Jesus], and [Jesus] was with God, and [Jesus] was God. 2[Jesus] was in the beginning with God.”
What is interesting about this statement is who is making it. The writer of the Gospel of John is the disciple John. John was one of the original twelve that walked with Jesus during his Earthly ministry. In fact, listen to what the Apostle John says in another letter he wrote, 1 John 1:1-4.
John was one of the few people who were able to be with Jesus while he walked on this planet in the flesh. He watched him sleep. He heard him chew. He smelled him. And after three years he concluded, He was God. John was not the only one. Listen to what Peter said in Matthew 16:15-16.
Despite all of the rumors and conversation about Jesus being a prophet, a mere mortal, Peter, just like John concludes that Jesus is different. He is not just a prophet, he is not just a man. He is the Son of God.
Likewise, how can we forget the disciple Thomas. He is best known for his lack of faith after the resurrection. This is where he picked up the discouraging nickname of Doubting Thomas. He had been told that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but Thomas stated in John 20:25, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days after saying these words Jesus appears and he has Thomas touch his hands and his side and Thomas responds with the echoing words of “My Lord and my God.”
In addition to this, time would not allow us to go into all the miracles that displayed the divinity of Christ.
Make no mistake, those who knew ministered along side Jesus believed him to be God. In fact, these eye witnesses were so convinced that Jesus was God that they laid down their life defending this singular truth. Every single one of the first 12 disciples, except John, was killed because of their belief that Jesus was God.
But it does not end there. Let’s take a second and look at James and Jude. These two men were believed to be the half brothers of Jesus. After Mary gave birth to Jesus, she and Joseph had other Children. Matthew 13:55, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” James and Judas are counted as being the author of the book of James and the book of Jude, listen to what they say:
I would think it would be fair to say that these two men spent more time with the man Jesus Christ than any other men on the planet. Only Mary would have spent more time with Jesus then they would have, and what is their evaluation of him? He is the Lord of Glory, he is the Christ that leads to eternal life.
Once again, Church tradition teaches that both of these men, half brothers of Jesus were killed because of their belief that Jesus was more than a man. James, it is believed, was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and then beaten and Jude was crucified in Persia.
Then of course there is Paul. Paul whose original name was Saul hated the name of Jesus. He spent he days trying to figure out how to arrest so that the Christians could be fed to the lions, but everything changed on the road to Damascus, when he had a personal encounter with Christ. After that moment, he no longer saw Jesus just a man. Colossians 2:9 summarizes Paul's new found understanding of Jesus.
Like the others, Paul died standing on this truth. His head was cut off in Rome because he believed Jesus was more than a man. So was Jesus God? For those who knew him best, the evidence seemed to be overwhelming.
Before Abraham, I Am
But there is more. It wasn't just that the followers of Christ believed that Jesus was God. Jesus himself believed he was God. This is what is so inconsistent about the common misunderstanding of who Jesus is. Jesus leaves no wiggle room when it comes to who he is. As CS Lewis stated, you either have to believe he is the Lord, he is a liar, or he is a lunatic. Here is a sampling of a few of Jesus' comments about his identity.
For those who say Jesus was just a good teacher, or just a prophet, those people just don't get it. When I hear people compare Jesus to Ghandi or Muhammed, I want to shake them and ask, “Have you not read the Bible.” That statement is so inconsistent with who Jesus said he was. One of the main reasons they killed him was because he claimed to be God.
Jesus made it abundantly clear that he was not just a man. He told people to drink from him, eat him, that he was the truth and the life, that he had a first row seat when Satan fall from heaven. The claims of Jesus were outrageous. When you read the Gospels, there is not a more self-centered person than Jesus. Why? Because he had to be. Everything was created through Him and for Him. If Jesus wasn't self centered, then he would be sinning, for He is God, and the chief end of man is to glorify God.
Moses and the Prophets Testify
But we are not done. There is more. Not only did the disciples believe he was God, not only did his family believe he was God, not only did Paul believe he was God, not only did Jesus claim to be God, but the Old Testament testified he was God.
This is the most popular Christmas verse in all the Bible, and rightfully so, for it summarizes what we are celebrating. Isaiah wrote these Words 700 years before the actual historic event of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Isaiah predicted that everything would change when this child stepped onto the scene. And who was this child you ask? Isaiah tells us point blank, this child is none other than God himself.
The Creator of all things, becomes a creature. The author of the play writes himself into the story. The Potter covers himself with His clay. God takes on flesh, incarnate. He will be Emmanuel, God with us.
What kind of God does this? What kind of all powerful, all knowing, all sufficient being humbles himself to the point of a 8 lb baby whose life is handed over to a teen Mom and a blue collar worker? I will tell you. A God who is sovereign. A God who is both the just and the justifier. A God who uses the foolish things to shame the wise. A God who loves you enough to become you, so as to die for you, in order to save you.
This Christmas, let us not stop our gaze at the manger, but cast our eyes beyond and see the glory that Christ, Emmanuel, had prior to his arrival. Let us join the chorus of Angels and sing about his coming as glory in the highest.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 8, 2015
Today marks our second week in our sermon series on marriage. After last week, Tristan asked me if anyone had any negative comments about my sermon last Sunday, and I can honestly say no, but that doesn't mean that your weren't thinking them. I will admit, at times, I get somewhat passionate about God's Word. However, if you do find something I say disagreeable please come and talk with me about it. Don't just stop coming. My advice is that when you hear or read something in God's Word that you do not like, do not run from it, but lean into it, and allow God to lead you into all truth.
Today we are going to unpack the profound mystery of marriage. It is a mystery that I was not aware of until about five years ago, which is sad because I have now been married for eleven years. Perhaps this mystery had been taught to me when I was younger, but I didn’t have ears to hear.
Having said that, I want my hands to be clean as it relates to Cornerstone Church. I want everyone in this room to understand the ultimate, and specific reason as to why God created the institution of marriage. I want all of us to have our eyes on the purposes of God as it relates to marriage. I want us oriented with a proper trajectory so that our marriage reach the destination that God desires. However, before we read our text and unpack it, let us review.
Last week we examined the very first wedding ceremony as found in Genesis 2. This marriage was officiated by none other than God himself. In Genesis 2 we observed the foundation of marriage. We discovered that marriage is created by God, implemented by God, provided by God, and joined by God. No matter how you look at marriage, you can only reach one conclusion, it is Gods institution, not mans, not governments, not anyone else’s but Gods. God has complete and utter authority over this institution. Therefore, in order for us to have any hope of seeking answers in the mystery we call marriage, we must look in the Bible.
As we saw last week in Matthew 19, this is how Jesus approached questions on marriage. His preface to their marital questioning was, “Have you not read?” These words “have you not read” echo still today, and we, the Church, should pick up the baton and continue to pose the same question to ourselves, our family, our friends, our communities, and our government “Have you not read?” For the Word of God, the Bible, is the ultimate authority regarding all things, especially marriage.
Today, however, I want to ask the next logical question, “Why?” Why does an all-powerful, all knowing, perfectly Holy God, create such a mysterious thing as marriage? We can agree that God didn't have to do it this way. God could have chosen a variety of different ways that humanity exists, but he didn't. Our perfectly wise God, omniscient God, intentionally chose for a man and women to be joined in holy matrimony. Why?
Before we begin, I want to stress how important this question is of why is. Understanding the purpose of marriage determines whether your marriage flourishes or flounders. If you want you could exchange the word purpose for goal, and ask what is the goal of marriage? Keeping your eyes on the goal helps keep you pointed in the write direction. It helps you filter out things that either support the goal or interfere with the goal. It gives you a proper perspective in times of difficulty. It produces in you a motivation. Think of this question of why as our attempt to set a correct trajectory for your marriage. Too many of you have worldly coordinates plugged into your marriage, therefore instead of hitting the moon, you miss your mark and drift off into darkness. Understanding the purpose of your marriage is the key to satisfying your hearts longing that we unpacked briefly last week.
For the Glory of God
To answer the question of why let us start, once again with a foundation. If I were to ask you, why did God create the Universe, what would you say? Hopefully many of you, here at Cornerstone, would respond that God created the Universe for His Glory. We regularly cover this topic. The Chief purpose of all things is the Glory of God. How do we know this? Because God tells us this fact in His Word.
They question is do you see your marriage through this lens? Do you recognize that not only is marriage through God, but it is ultimately for God. Your marriage is for His glory. Let’s say that again, your marriage is for the glory of God. It is not for your glory. It is not for your spouses glory. It is not for your kids glory. It is not for this nations glory. Marriage is for God's glory.
So often we commit the sin of Romans 1:23 and we exchange the glory of God for the glory of man. When we do this, things start to fall apart. Why? Because the foundational rock the institution of marriage has been replaced by sand.
For the Glory of Jesus
Having said this, I think we can narrow the purpose of marriage down even more then the glory of God. Colossians 1:16 says this about Jesus.
Once again, is this how we think? When two people stand before God and are joined in Holy matrimony, are they ultimately doing it for Jesus? Do we live out our marriage for the purpose of Christ? Do we lay our marriage at the foot of the cross and say it is yours to do with it as you please?
My guess is that the answer is no. You do not view your marriage through the lens that it exists for Jesus Christ. Instead we approach marriage as if it is ultimately a gift for us. We are like little children that scream, “MINE!” We have bought into the lie that marriage is for the preeminent purpose to make us comfortable, or wealthy, or sexually satisfied. And when it fails to produce those things we think it is broken. This is the wrong way to view marriage, because ultimately your marriage is for Christ, not you. Using it to be your ultimate source of happiness will fail every time. Marriage is not a candy machine that exists for your passions and pleasures, it is an God ordained Union for the glory of His Son.
For the Pinnacle of God’s Glorious Grace
But once again, I think we can get even more specific then this. Yes, marriage is for the Glory of God, and yes, marriage is for Christ, but there is something more profound going on in the creation and implementation of marriage by God. Turn to Ephesians 5:22-33.
First, let us recognize what Paul is quoting. Paul is quoting the same text that Jesus quoted in Matthew 19. He is quoting Genesis 2:24. When Paul is attempting to teach on marriage and to unpack its purpose, he goes straight to God’s Word as the ultimate authority and foundation to the conversation. So once again we need to recognize that the two main people in the Bible who teach on marriage, Jesus and Paul, both see the Bible as the light upon the path when seeking answers about marriage.
The next thing we must see if this wonderful nugget of truth hidden in verse 32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” What is Paul saying? He is saying that this unity of husband and wife is a reference, or pointer, to the union that takes place between Christ the Church, those he died for and rescued from Hell. Verse 32 is saying the ultimate and specific reason why God created the institution of marriage was for it to be a living display of the Gospel.
When we think about this, this makes complete sense. In Genesis 1:27 we are told that man and woman are created by God in the image of God. Then in Genesis 2 He takes these two image bearer and joins them in marriage so as to image, or display, the most important truth in the Universe, the Gospel. God desires this image of the Gospel to cover the earth just like his image bearers. So once again we understand why marriage is a universal and cross cultural longing in humanities heart. Therefore, the primary and specific purpose of your marriage is to image forth the love between Christ and his Church. Ephesians 5 is not the only place you see evidence of this mystery. The bible regularly speaks of Jesus and His Church as the bridegroom and the bride.
And, once again, this makes sense. If as we already said, God created marriage for his glory, and he also created marriage for His Son, then it makes sense that marriage would point to the pinnacle of that glory of Christ which is the laying down of the Bridegrooms life for His Bride. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the apex of the Glory of God and marriage is its image.
The Overwhelming Implications
The realization that your marriage and every marriage is a shadow of the of the glory of God in the Gospel should have a monumental effect in your life. If the purpose of your marriage is to point to the Gospel it should change how you talk to your spouse, eat with your spouse, live with your spouse, and love your spouse. It should change everything about your relationship.
This is one of the greatest problems that marriages have. Couples have the wrong purpose for marriage in mind. They believe the purpose of marriage is the American Dream. They believe the purpose of marriage is economic freedom. They believe the purpose of marriage is sexual satisfaction. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This is why your marriage is failing. You are trying to make marriage do something that is not its ultimate purpose. It is like trying to train an eagle to swim. Eagles are not made to swim, they are made to soar.
But this is what is beautiful, when you lay aside your idolatrous purposes and allow God to be the Lord of your marriage, out of your Gospel driven marriage will flow joy, contentment, peace, intimacy, love, and a thousand other Spirit given fruits. God will give you a taste of the Garden of Eden before the fall. The question, as always, is will you trust God? Will you trust God enough to reorient your marriage to be all about reflecting the Glory of God in the Gospel of Christ?
Next week we will begin to unpack the specific ramifications for embracing this Gospel centered purpose of your marriage, but until then, let us pray that God would push this mysterious truth deep into our hearts and deep into our marriages. Let us pray that God would make the Gospel the rudder of our union with our spouse. Pray that starting today every decision will be filtered through this glorious reality that our marriages are designed to point the World to the glory of God in the person of Christ in the manifest love of ransoming his bride.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 9, 2015
Open your Bibles to Psalm 5. Today we are continuing our journey through the Book of Psalms. Before we begin unpacking our text, let me say something that I have said before, but it is good to remind ourselves of these things. The Bible is God's Word. It was written by God through the instrument of the hands of man. Because the Bible is God's Word, and God does not lie, the Bible is inerrant and infallible, or to say it another way, the Bible is true, and incapable of being untrue.
Many Christians would say Amen to the statement that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, at least until they read certain passages; for there are many text that may run afoul of humanities pre-formed, and wrong ideas of who God is and what are His purposes.
With this in mind we must recognize what the Bible is. It is the infallible and inerrant Word of God that has been given to us, so that we understand who God is what His purpose are. The reason God has given us this book of is to reveal truth about Him and His purposes. So when we read passages in the Bible that we don't like, the problem is not with the Bible, it is with our sinful hearts. We are the ones who must submit to what the Bible says, and not make God submit to us. This is the reason for infallible scripture, to correct our fallible minds.
With this in mind, let us read God's Word with the foundation that it is true, and then ask God to humble our hearts to receive his revelation, and then, and only then will we be able to benefit from the sanctifying Word of our Father.
As we can see, Psalm 5 is another Psalm written by King David. Up to this point we have focused on David being God's anointed King of Israel and we have also discussed the sinfulness of David, and its consequences. One thing we haven't talked about is the one thing that is commonly mentioned about David and it is found in 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22.
In today’s passage we see David praying in the morning. Verse 3 says, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” This sacrifice of David is a sacrifice of prayer. In fact, the Hebrew root word behind “I prepare a sacrifice for you” is the word “arak” which is most commonly used to describe laying out wood for a sacrifice. In fact this same root word is used in Genesis 22:9 when Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, “When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order (arak) and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.”
So in the case of David, we see a ritual of morning worship, whereby David lays out His prayers before the Lord in anticipation of communion with him. This picture of morning communion with the Lord through prayer is not one exclusive to David. I love this quote by Martin Luther, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” And it doesn’t stop with Luther, listen to how Jesus began his day, one that was filled with more stress that we could ever imagine.
And when you do pray, do not make it only about the routine, so that it is robotic, whereby you go through the motions. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Your prayers must come from your heart. They must be authentic, just like David’s. He described his prayer life as one of groanings and cryings.
For me, I find it helpful to picture my children when they come to me with problems. My little Ezra is so precious. She has a heart just like her mother, which I cherish. She will come to me in the midst of her pain and she will be an absolute mess. She buries her face into my chest and just sobs, and I can’t understand a word she says, but my heart breaks for her. Why? Because she is really in pain. And her authentic crying has the capacity to move me into action to care and nurture her, and to give her the love she longs for.
And we likewise, must approach our God in prayer with this type of child like faith. Authentic. Raw. Humble. Dependent. And then when we do, we must likewise by like David and watch for the hand of our Father to move across the tumultuous waves of our lives.
Who are You Praying To?
However, the question rises, do we see God in the same way David sees God? When we pray, do we have the same vision of God as David? My guess is that we do not. My guess is that many of us have created in our mind, not the true understanding of God, but instead a comfortable understanding of God. We have in effect turned the Potter into the clay and molded him to our likings, to our sinful hearts. When we pray we are in effect praying to an idol, not the God who is.
Why would we do this? The simple answer is that we are fallen creatures. Sin has blinded us to the ultimate reality of the Universe, that being, who is God. We cannot see him for who he truly is. However, because we are created in his image, we have a knowledge that he is there, but we suppress the ultimate truth of His glory. It is as if we are in a dark room and we can sense a presence, we know that Someone is there, but we just can't make out who it is.
So if this is true, and it is, how are we to have a true understanding of this God, who we know is there, but cannot see? The answer to this question is revelation. The only way by which we know who we cannot see is by Him revealing himself to us. Once again, imagine yourself in a dark room, and you sense that presence of Someone, so you call out, “Who is there?”. Then out of the darkness you here a response,”I AM, here.” You then say, “Who are you?” The Person then begins to reveal to you, who he is. The only reason you are able to know the person who has been with you in that dark room the entire time is because that Person has chosen to reveal himself to us.
So how does God do this for us? Simple. The revelation of God is the Word of God. This is why the Bible exists. The Word of God is light shining out into the darkness of your life revealing to us who God is. The more you spend in God's Word, the more you will see of God.
John Calvin in his famous work, The institutes of Christian Religion said this about the Word of God, “For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.”
So to get back to our original question, how is it possible that we would have a wrong understanding of who God is, the answer is simple, we fail to put on our glasses so that we can see Him who stands before us.
The God in whom David cried out to is described in verse 4-6, “or you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. 5The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. 6You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”
Is this the God you love? Is this the God you worship? Is this the God you pray to? A God who hates all evildoers? A God abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man? When you approach the Sovereign God of the Universe do you recognize that he does not delight in your wickedness, and cannot dwell with and form of evil? I fear for most of us this God never crosses our mind. Instead when we pray to God, we see God as a funny old grandpa that sees the sin of this earth of silly, funny, inconsequential, or no biggy. Let us be clear, this is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is zealous for righteousness.
The God of the Bible pays out the wage of death for sin, no matter how small that sin is. The God of the Bible is one who killed thousands if not millions of people during the flood for one reason, “
The God of the Bibles is the one who designed and created a little place that we know of as Hell. This place is described as eternal torment, utter darkness, a place that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And this place exists for one reason only, to be the final destination for angles and people who have sinned against God and stand condemned before him. Let us be clear, Hell was not created to hold sin. It is a place created to hold sinners.
This type of talk makes us feel uncomfortable. We don't like to see God this way, but this is the way David saw God in the morning as he laid his troubles before Him. As he approached God in the morning, the focus of David was on the Holiness of God. It was as if David when walking into the presence of God was like Moses walking up Mount Sinai with its lightning, thunder, clouds, smoke and trumpet calls. It was as if David when approaching God was like Isaiah, in Isaiah 6 when he saw God high and lifted up with Seraphim worshiping him so powerfully that it shook the foundations of the Temple. Who when being in the presence of this awesome God cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). It was as if David was like Peter in Luke 5:8 that upon seeing the Glory of Christ, “ fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” It was as if David was like Paul who in Romans 7:24 who cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
In my opinion, we, myself included, have a small and distorted view of God and his passion for his Holiness. God is totally serious about his glory. He will not be mocked. If you continue to chose to rebel against the righteous God he does not just hate the sin and love the sinner. He hates the evildoer, and He will not hesitate to send any of us to Hell.
Jonathan Edwards, a man who I will never hold a candle to, but I grow to love more and more as I read his works wrote a famous sermon that is credited to sparking the Great awakening. It is entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. In that sermon he says this: “The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready to string and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.”
This is the God in whom David prayed to. But thankfully for David, and for us, that is only one side of the coin of who God is. For if it was, David, and I, and all of you would have a very painful eternity.
God of Steadfast Love
For God is not just a God who hates evildoers, he is also a God who has steadfast love.
This is how David starts his morning in prayer, dwelling upon the Holiness of God and the abundance of his steadfast love. To say it another way, David begins each morning praying the Gospel to the God of the Gospel. With this understanding, you can start to see how David was a man after God's own heart, not that he was perfect, but that understood that the only means by which he had any chance with a Holy God was to seek refuge behind the shield of God's love.
So what was the effect of this type of mourning prayer? Verse 11, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy,” How many times have we seen this? Over and over and over again, God continues to reveal to us that joy springs from the fountain of Jesus Christ. As we stated last week, we spend our days seeking joy in empty things, let us instead have hearts like David and start our morning in prayer dwelling upon the steadfast love of our Lord in the face of Jesus Christ.
This week I heard a quote form John Piper who said some thing to the effect of understanding our depravity is crucial for our joy because every day that we don't wake up in Hell is a good day. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 26, 2015
Open your Bibles to Psalm 3. This is our third Sunday walking through the book of Psalms. For those who are visiting, we are currently in a series entitled “A Summer of Psalms.” Up to this point we have covered Psalm 1 and 2, and today we are going to unpack Psalm 3. With that said, let us read our text, pray, and then examine the Word of God together.
Background of David and Absalom
The circumstances of surrounding David and Absalom are found in 2 Samuel. Perhaps the first place we should begin is by recognizing that King David was a great King, but he was also a great sinner. It appears that the main struggle for David was sexual immorality. Many of us are most likely familiar with his adultery with Bathsheba, but unfortunately this was just the tip of the iceberg. It is not entirely clear how many wives and concubines David had. In 2 Samuel 5:13 it merely says, “And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David.”
One of these wives was named Maakah. She was a daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur. From this marriage came David’s third son, Absalom. Also from this marriage came a daughter named Tamar. Now stay with me, David’s first son was Amnon. Amnon came from David’s marriage with Ahimoam of Jezreel. This is where the sexual immorality of David starts to have its generational effect. In 2 Samuel 13 we are told that Amnon, David's first son, lusted after his half-sister, Tamar. His lust was so great that he tricked her into believing that he was sick and when he had her all to himself he forced himself on her. 2 Samuel 13:14 says, “being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.” So like his father, David, he was not able to control his sinful urges. Immediately after Amnon lay with her, his lust turned to hate. Verse 15 says, “Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her.”
A short time later, Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, found out what Amnon had done, and he hated him for it. His hate against Amnon burned in his heart for two years until, the sin that was crouching at his door overcame him, and eventually Absalom seized an opportunity and ordered his servants to kill Amnon. So as Cain killed Abel, we see Absaolom kill Amnon. The murder of his brother caused Absalom to flea to his Grandfather’s home, Talmai King of Geshur, and he remained there for three years.
Eventually Absalom returned to Jerusalem, not to seek forgiveness, but to instead seek the throne of his father, David. This may be a good time to talk about Absalom’s appearance. We are told in 2 Samuel 14 that Absalom was extremely handsome.
Because the majority of Israel seem to have sided with Absalom, David was forced to flee Israel with the remnant of those who were faithful to him. This journey out of Jerusalem was of great sorrow.
Foes and Faith
Out of this difficult circumstances the Holy Spirit inspired David to write Psalm 3, and hopefully this context gives more weight to the first two versus that we see in Psalm 3:
Most likely we have not experienced the depth of David's circumstance, but I am guessing almost all of us have had trials that have allowed seeds of doubt to be planted. Perhaps it is a cheating spouse, perhaps cancer, perhaps financial struggles, perhaps a broken home. In the midst of our difficulties, we start to focus on the mountain that stands before us and it begins to block out our sight of God. Each day it feels like fiery arrows are being shot one after another at us, and we begin to wonder if God has forgotten about us, or even if there is a God. The battleground goes from being waged in our circumstances to being waged in our hearts, and the fight becomes ultimately a fight of faith. This is what was happening with David, as those around him spoke lies into his life.
One thing we can rest assured, you are not alone, for this is the life of a Christian. To be a follower of Christ does not mean that we are immune to diseases, free from financial burdens, or that everyone likes you. The preaching of Joel Osteen, and the health and wealth prosperity Gospel is a false teaching. When you read the Bible, this is abundantly clear. When you are God's chosen, like David was, life becomes harder. Prior to salvation the world loved you, for you were one of them. However, the minute you turned from the world and followed Christ, the current of this sinful world started to work against you. You started to swim upstream. On top of this, you know have enemies.
Cry Aloud to Yahweh
We are to do exactly what David did. Verse 4, “I cried aloud to the Lord.” The Hebrew word for the LORD when in all caps is the word Yahweh. This word comes from Moses's interaction with God at the burning bush when God declares himself to be the “I Am.” Yahweh who has no beginning and new end. Yahweh who is so great that he cannot be defined except by his own essence. Yahweh who created the heavens and the earth. Yahweh who flooded the world. Yahweh who struck down the Egyptians. Yahweh who we learned in Psalm 2 anointed David as King over Israel. In the midst of David's weeping on his walk to the Mount of Olives, he took his eyes off the circumstances and placed them on the Sovereign Lord.
I cannot help but see the similarity that exists between these events in Psalm 3 and Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of his arrest. Just think about the parallels. Christ is the rightful heir to the throne, however Satan, a creature, created through Christ had rebelled, seeking the throne for himself. Eventually the opportunity arrived and Satan entered in Judas, who then betrayed Jesus. Judas then leaves to amass a small army of foes to arrest Jesus, and what does Jesus do?
In the midst of their circumstances, what did David and Jesus do? They prayed. In the difficulty of the moment they sought the strength that was from above, and Yahweh who lives in Heaven, on his holy Hill, heard their cry and answered. He had not forgotten about them. He had not turned his back. He answered their prayer, but how.
How did God answer? Did he reign down fire from Heaven? Did he reduce the number of foes? Did he allow the cup to pass? Did he change their circumstances? No. For David, God shielded him and sustained him.
The Fight of Faith
We have an enemy that is crouching at our door. When trials and tribulations come, as they always do, the battle over our heart begins. And this the is real battle. Satan desires to sift you and cause you to shrivel underneath your circumstances and drop your head and doubt the power and strength of God. Satan wants to destroy your peace, cause sleepless nights, and steal your joy. And when he does, we are not called to just weep, but to fight. We must fight the fight of faith, and this fight takes place first and foremost on our knees. We must utilize that armor that God has provided and cry out to him for a larger shield of faith so as to protect us from Satan's fiery arrows. Do not be a victim of your circumstances, but instead be victorious through the Grace of God.