Open your Bibles to Psalm 4. Today we are continuing our summer journey through some of the Psalms. Today we are examining another Psalm written by King David. We have a lot of ground to cover, so lets get right to work by reading our text, praying, and then turn our ears towards God.
I thought the best way to approach this Psalm was to start with the problem that seems to be expressed. I believe the main problem is located in verse 2.
The Hebrew word for vain in Psalm 4 and Psalm 2 is “riq” which means empty, no purpose, worthless, vanity. Having said that, David takes it upon himself to define what he means by these vain words and calls them flat out lies.
For David, these vain, empty, worthless, lying words are causing for him distress and even anger. The reason there is so much strife in David’s heart over these lies is because people are tripping over themselves for this vain words and are actually seeking after these lies. People are pursuing and buying into the deception and worthlessness of what is being said. To use a phrase that I use way too much, the people of Israel are thirsty for and drinking the Kool-Aid.
Exactly what these vain, empty, lying words are, we are not sure. David does not tell us specifically, but we can get a sense of what it may pertain to by looking at verse 5.
Unfortunately, this problem of trusting in vain, empty, lying words was nothing new for Israel. This was the core of their problem since the beginning of their nation. From the moment they were freed from the slavery of Egypt, the people of Israel were easily persuaded to put their trust in something other than God, their Deliverer The people of Israel would begin to complain or give their opinion as to what Israel should do and these grumblings would spread like wildfire throughout the camp. At one point they bought into the lie that it would be better to be slaves in Egypt than to be God’s chosen people.
The pursuit of vanity was an ongoing problem for the nation of Israel. They were constantly chasing after things that were outside of God’s will. In my daily walk through the Bible this week I was in 1 Samuel 12 and I read these closing remarks by the prophet Samuel at the moment of transition from Judges to Kings. This is what Samuel warned the people about in 1 Samuel 12:21-22.
The Problem of Vanity Today
However, we should be fair, and recognize that we are no better. In fact, we may be worse. We are a people who frequently seek after vanity, who believe the lies, who turn aside after empty things. Things like spiritualism, humanism, materialism, and even nationalism. With each one of these “isms” comes a promise of peace, enlightenment, success, satisfaction.
Some of you in this room may say, “That is not me. I don't struggle with any of those isms.” However, I would bet that many of you are falling pray to some of these things without even realizing it. Many of this “isms” masquerade as angels of light, and each one of those “isms”, manifest themselves in hundreds if not thousands of different ways. For example, spiritualism: you may think that peace comes from yoga, simplicity, or being in nature. For humanism, you may believe happiness is success, wealth, comfort, or academic achievement. For materialism, you see shopping as an escape, or you spend most of your times dreaming about your retirement. For nationalism, you think the answers to America's problem lie in the right political party and you spend you nights watching fox news.
For each one of these “isms” there is a false belief that the pursuit of these things will satisfy us. But if there is one thing that history has proven to us, each one of these things is fleeting and none of them deliver. Buying into these things is the equivalent of buying snake oil. The sad thing is however, that instead of waking up from our drunkenness with the things of this world, we instead order another round, and buy into the next trendy thing, once again hoping that it will quench or soul’s thirst.
Vanity of Vanities
As I traced this idea of vanity through the Bible this week, I found it interesting how frequent I found it. I mentioned to you that Samuel spoke of it upon the transition to the first King or Israel, Sal. Then David speaks of it in Psalm 4. But it does not end there, for King Solomon took the idea of vanity to a whole new level. This is how he opened the book he wrote, Ecclesiastes:
Why did God allow Solomon to live like he did with no hindrance to his lustful desires? To show us that unlimited money, stuff, intelligence and sex does not produce in us happiness. Our hearts were wired for something better. So what is that something better? Turn with me to Revelation 3:17. These are the words of Jesus.
Jesus tells us plainly that trusting in the things of this world is foolish; for the true reality of who we are is that we are wretched, and nothing in this world is designed to remove our wretchedness, or satisfy our deepest needs. The answer is not found in the world, but found in the one who upholds the Word, Jesus Christ. At the core of who we are is our sinfulness. As David said in verse 1, our righteousness does not come from our 401k, it comes from God. We are called to reject, or repent, the vanity of materialism, and enter into communion with Jesus Christ, for this alone has eternal value for our lives.
Set Apart for God
For David this communion with Christ can be found in verse 3. It is found in those who the Lord has set apart for himself. The godly. It is those who through Christ, God has transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, and Kingdom that we long to live in.
Those who are in set apart, or holy, before the Lord are those who have been given salve for their eyes and they see the reality of the meaninglessness of the things of this world, and see the lasting treasure that is Christ, and cry out to Him. Thereby turning, and placing our trust in Him.
These are people like Disciples John and James who upon being called to follow Jesus we are told in Matthew 4:21 “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” And Matthew who upon being called to follow Jesus left his tax booth. And Peter who stated, in Luke 18, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.“ And Paul who upon his conversion on the Damascus road realized that all of his life he was pursuing futility and states in Philippians 1:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him.”
Each one of these followers of Jesus placed their trust in Jesus. They trusted in who he was, what he did, and what he promised. They were freed from the emptiness of this world, and saw through the lies of Satan and chose the only path that their hearts truly yearned for.
Set Apart for Joy
These men no longer sought the vanity of this world, but instead the renounced all that they had and followed Jesus. They were called out of the world, and set apart for God. Was this easy? No. There is a cost to following Jesus. Jesus describes it as picking up your cross daily. He describes it as dyeing to self, and laying down your life. The Christian life is a life of sacrifice. Each day you are called to throw off more and more weight and sin that clings to you. This was true for the disciples, and this is also true for you. Some would then say than what good is it to follow Christ. Look at verses 6 and 7.
We must see thee lies of the world for what they are…lies. We must not buy the snake oil of Satan when comes selling the vanity of this world. We must recognize the reality that the things of this earth will soon pass away, but our Kingdom in Heaven is a lasting one. We must see the foolishness of building bigger barns to store our unprecedented wealth, and instead use what God has given us to store up treasures in Heaven.
We must rid ourselves of these weights and seize the treasure that is Christ is eternal. It is only Christ that will give us peace. Understanding that we are made to find satisfaction in God alone. Until you have the eyes to see this you will continue to be deceived by the lies of Satan and the things of this world. You will wake up day after day after day unsatisfied, empty, without purpose, without meaning, without joy.
Let us not be Israel, who did not heed the warning of Moses, Samuel, and David, and who eventually found themselves enslaved once again. Let us trust in God, and live the life of freedom as his children.
Preached at Riverview Park in Cascade, IA on July 19, 2015.
Open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. This week the kids have been learning about the Gospel. In light of that, I will be preaching about the Gospel. To do this, I will be using 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. So let us read our text, I will pray that God would give us understanding, and then we will get to work.
I have titled my message, “The Open Statement of the Truth.” I get this title from verse 2. Paul is speaking about his ministry of sharing the Gospel to unbelievers and he says in verse 2, “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
For those who don’t know who Paul is, he was the chosen instrument of God to take the message of Jesus Christ to the world. He was the first person to take the Gospel to the continent of Europe. Paul was a Church planter, and Paul’s church growth strategy was to simply proclaim the truth of the Gospel. He goes from place to place and openly declares Jesus Christ as Lord.
As he says in verse 1, he does not participate in disgraceful or underhanded ways, he does not use cunning to trick people into believing, and he does NOT mess around with the Word of God. He simply preaches the Gospel.
Why would Paul be so willing to simply proclaim the Gospel? Why would he place so much faith in a simple open statement of truth? The reason is because this truth is like no other truth in the Universe, for it has the ability to penetrate into the heart of man. You can see Paul’s understanding of the Gospel in Romans 1:16.
Now here is the problem. Some of you, if not many of you in this park, do not know what the Gospel is. No one has ever shared with you the Gospel, nor have never read the Bible to see the Gospel for yourself. Which is a major issue if the GOSPEL is the power for salvation. For if you don’t’ know the Gospel, then you will not be saved.
And because of that if I were to ask you today, “Are you going to Heaven or Hell?” Most likely, all of you would say Heaven. If I were to ask you, “Why do you believe this?” Some of you would say, “Because I go to Church.” Folks, going to Church is not the Gospel. A building has no ability to save your soul from Hell. Never once does Jesus say go to the Church and you will be saved. Not once. Brick and mortar has no special power over you soul.
Others of you may say, “I am going to go to Heaven because I am good person.” Unfortunately, the Bible says the complete opposite about you. Romans 3:12 says, ”No one does god, not even one.” Jesus himself reinforces this truth in Luke 18:19 when he says, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except god alone.” No one is good enough to get to Heaven. Every single one of us on this planet has sinned, and our sin is enough to send us to Hell.
So do not for once think you are going to Heaven because you go to a building, and participate in a certain liturgy. Nor should you think that you are going to Heaven because you are “good.” Neither one of those things are the Gospel. However, Satan would love for you to believe this, for if you do, you will spend eternity with him.
So today, I am going to proclaim the open statement o f the truth, and my prayer is that you would have ears to hear, and would accept the Good News and place your faith in Christ Jesus as your Lord and as your Savior, if you haven't already.
God is the Creator
Let us start with verse 6. It says, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” Where does this verse come from? It comes from the beginning, Genesis 1. In the very beginning, before there was creation, there was God. He existed before space/time.
Scientists love to talk about a “Big Bang,” which is the scientific explanation of where the Universe came from. Scientist believe at the moment of the big bang there is what is called singularity. Singularity is the existence of infinite density and infinite temperature, and in that moment of singularity there is no existence of the laws of physics, and it was from that moment of singularity that all the Universe came from. What science can’t tell you is what is behind the Big Bang? What caused the Big Bang? What is infinite in density and infinite in temperature? What can exist outside all of the laws of physics?
However, the Bible does. God has told us explicitly how it all began. The Infinite, Eternal, Sovereign God is the force behind all of Creation. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 is reminding us of that reality in verse 6. He is reminding us that God is the Creator. God is the Potter. God is Sovereign, and the evidence of this reality is all around us. Look at the sky. Look at the grass. Look at your hand. Look at your children. Look at a bumble bee. Creation screams that it has a creator, and logic screams this as well.
Just think about it. Everything that has a beginning has a cause. We call this cause and effect. For example, at one time this amphitheater did not exist, but now it does. How did it get hear? This amphitheater was built by builders. How do I know this? Did I see them build it? No. The reason I know that builders built the amphitheater is because it exists. The builders were the cause of this existing. Likewise, as we look around, how do we know that this world was built? Because all things that exist have a cause.
Humanity Is Blind
However, here is the problem, we fail to thank God. We fail to give him the praise that is due his name. Instead of giving God glory, we instead give other things glory, like ourselves.
I think verse 4 tells us why, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” Because of the deception of Satan and the subsequent fall, humanity is blind. This is the reality for who have ever lived. Because of Sin we fail to see God as God and therefore give Him the glory he deserves. Therefore instead of living for Him, we blindly live for other things.
And because of this blindness we have made a mess out of the world. From day to day we leave a wake of disaster behind us: Murder, abortion, sexual immorality, drugs, drunkenness, coveting, divorces, lying, the list can go on and on. The world is an absolute mess. However the worst is found in verse 3, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing”
The biggest issue in our life is sin. But why? What is so bad about living in sin? Why can’t we live our life our way? The reason is because God is a just God and he will not ignore our rebellion against him.
Imagine being in Wal-Mart and seeing a father with his 5 year old son The child is whining and complaining because he wants a gun. The father tells him “No, you cannot have a gun, you will hurt yourself.” Then imagine the 5 year old turning to the father and flipping him off and grabbing the gun and run out of the store as he attempts to load it with bullets. Then imagine the father shrugging it off, or laughing about it. Would you think he is a good Dad? Of course you wouldn’t, so why do we assume God shrugs off our sin.
God is our Father in Heaven and he is a Just God. Each one of us will stand in judgment before Him. The coming judgment of God was one of Jesus’ most common messages during his three year ministry. He was constantly warning people about the coming judgment.
For those who do not believe in the Gospel, your destiny is found in verse 3, you will perish. Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death.” And this perishing is not just physical death, but it is eternal death, Hell. Every single person who does not accept the good news of Christ is guaranteed to live all eternity in a place that Jesus described as “eternal torment.”
Once again, why do I say these things? Because it is an open statement of the truth. It is what Jesus proclaimed, it is what John the Baptist proclaimed, it is what Peter proclaimed, it is what Paul proclaimed, it is what the early Church proclaimed, it is what the entire Bible proclaims, and it is what all Christians today should proclaim. People must hear the bad news before they will accept the good news.
Christ is the Glory of God
So what is the good news? The good news is Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the good news. This is why the Angles proclaimed to the Shepherd's in Luke 2:10 regarding the birth of Jesus, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news is found in the person of Jesus Christ. The answer to your biggest problem, sin and death, is not found in a building, it is not found in a ritual, it is not found in yourself. It is found in Christ alone.
This is the whole point as to why Jesus came into the world, to save sinners like you and like me. Jesus said of himself in John 14:6, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
God sent Jesus into the World to fix the world's problem, sin. He was a rescue party of one, sent behind enemy lines to rescue his bride. And the way He rescued her was to live a perfectly sinless life and then lay down his life for her. Jesus was the only person to walk this planet without sin. He was perfectly righteous. He then died on the cross, and God the father, poured out all of his wrath against sin upon His Son.
As John the Baptist rightly said in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! “ Jesus took away our sin. All of it. He paid every last cent for the sins of the world, past, present and future. For those who trust in Jesus, there is nothing left for you to do to pay for your sin. No penance. No purgatory. Nothing. Christ has done it all. This is why Jesus cries out on the cross “It is finished.” This is why the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This is why the author of Hebrews says that Jesus, our great High priest, sat down after ascending to Heaven. Because all the work was completed. This is why Jesus says in Mathew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is why Jesus says in John 8:32, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This is why in Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” One sacrifice. Perfect. Forever. This is why it is called grace, for it is entirely a gift.
And this is what the world, and perhaps some of you are blind to. Look again at verse 4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” According to this verse, what does Satan desperately not want you to see? The “gospel of the glory of Christ.” What is the gospel of the glory of Christ? It is that Christ did all the work, and paid for all of our sin, therefore he gets all the glory.
The only thing left for us to do is it believe. That's it. This is how we receive the gift of Jesus' payment for our sins, and his righteousness.
The question I have for you today, in the sight of God, is do you believe in Jesus? Do you place your trust in his life, death, and resurrection? Do you have faith in the sufficiency of his sacrifice, and that on the third day he rose from the grave?
It is my prayer that today, just like it says in verse 6, shines in your hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Let's pray.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 5, 2015
Open Your Bibles to Psalm 1. Today we begin our journey through the book of Psalms. We will be working our way through it for the next three months with periodic Sunday’s where I will step away and cover a specific topic. What I have decided to do is to preach the Psalms as they come. So today will be Psalm 1, next week Psalm 2, and so on and so forth. The reason I am doing this is to protect you from my sinful desire to cherry-pick. I believe cherry picking is one reason we have so many immature Christians today. They have not been taught the whole counsel of God.
It will be my intent to periodically preach from the Psalms in the years, and perhaps decades to come, God willing. This means that if we get through 10 Psalms this summer, my hope is in the next year or two, we will pick up where we left off, until we eventually work our way through 150 Psalms.
Before we begin I want to give you a road map of how today will go. First, I want to explain how I will preach the Psalms. Second, I want to give us some general insight into the Psalms. Third, with the time we have left we will examine Psalm 1.
First, how will I preach. There are two ways to preach, the right way and the wrong way. The wrong way is for me to use God’s Word as a vessel for my opinion. The right way is for God to use me as a vessel for His truth. True preaching is taking God’s Word, breaking it down, analyzing it, mining it for absolute truth, and then proclaiming IT by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what we call expository preaching, and this is when the Word of God has its sharpest edges, and God receives the most Glory. This is the way John MacArthur preaches, John Piper preaches, Matt Chandler preaches, David Platt preaches, etc. These reformed guys preach expositionally, and this is the way I hope to preach. For it is the right way to handle the treasures that are in this book, and we will see this as we study Psalm 1 today.
Overview of the Psalms
With that said, let us step into this amazing book. As we begin our journey we should first recognize what this book is. The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 songs. The Hebrew title for the book of Psalms is “tehillim” which means to make a jubilant sound or praise. The words “Psalms” comes from a Greek word which means the plucking of strings. So as we walk through these Psalms, we must recognize that we are studying God inspired worship music. This is interesting because these songs are abundantly rich in Biblical truth. In this day in age we have a tendency to think about songs as being emotional and separate from the mind and intellect, but that is not the case when examining the Psalms. In God’s book, deep knowledge of God and praise are inseparable.
So let us talk briefly about the book itself. As I said, it is a collection of 150 separate Psalms. This makes it the longest book in the Bible. Another odd fact is that it contains the shortest chapter, Psalm 117, and the longest chapter, Psalm 119. Another thing that is odd is that, depending how you define middle, the middle of the Bible is Psalm 118:8. The book itself is actually a collection of five books. Those who originally compiled this hymnal for Israel chose to break it into five parts. Perhaps some of you have noticed this as you read through the Psalms.
The psalms are written by a variety of men; the most prominent of those being David. Quite often it is referred to as the Treasury of David. It is believed David wrote nearly half of the psalms. Other authors include, Moses, Solomon, Asaph, the Sons of Korah, Ethan and Heman. In addition, some 50 psalms are attributed to no one. Because the book of Psalms is a collection of separate songs, written by separate men, its coming together took approximately 1000 years, from Moses (1400 B.C.) to the Babylonian exile (500 B.C.).
The last thing that I want us to understand as we begin is that the Book of Psalms is a book about Jesus. Jesus is the Word. Jesus says it himself in Luke 24 that all Scripture points to him, this is true for every book in the Bible including the Psalms.
The pointing to Jesus comes in two forms, prophecies and foreshadowing. Regarding prophecies, the book of Psalms contains more prophecies about the coming of Jesus than any other Old Testament book. More than 90 specific prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus. Regarding the general foreshadowing, we will need to be more intentional as we dive into the text, for shadows do not always catch our eye, unless we are looking for them, but it is interesting to know that the book of Psalms is quoted more by New Testament authors more than any other book in the Old Testament. It is referenced in one way or another approximately 112 different times in the New Testament. So with that, let us now read our text, pray and then unpack it.
In this text we see the comparison of two individuals, the righteous and the wicked. In these two descriptions falls every man. In the eyes of God, you are either one or the other. There is no such thing as a middle ground when it comes to your standing before God.
You see this reality mentioned a number of times throughout the Bible. In fact, last week we briefly looked at one of those text, Matthew 25, where Jesus talks about the coming day of judgment. Jesus says that on that day he will separate the sheep and the goats. The sheep will come into the Kingdom of God and the goats are sent to “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
We see it again in Matthew 13 where we see Jesus talking again about the final judgment and he uses the comparison of wheat and weeds, and he says this, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30). Just a few verses later we see Jesus again talking about the final judgment before God in verse 47.
The word righteous as used in this passage, does not mean sinless. The reason we know that is also in the Psalms 14 and Psalm 53 it tell us that no one is good, no one is righteous. We know that it is only Jesus who is truly righteous in a sinless sense. The Psalmist in this text is not talking about being sinless, but by having a right position, or standing before God. So how is someone righteous in a Psalm 1 sense. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ. It is by believing in God, we can stand in the congregation.
The Psalm begins with the word “Blessed.” Interestingly, this is what Jesus called Peter in Matthew 16:17 after Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven”
It is how Jesus began the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn…blessed are the meek…blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…blessed are the merciful…blessed are the pure in heart…blessed are the peacemakers…blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” I do not think it is a coincidence that the book of Psalms begins the same way.
The word blessed in Hebrew is esher and if you were to look up the meaning in a Lexicon it would say happy. In fact, the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates this verse as “How happy is the man…” Having said this, I think there is a reason why this word is commonly not translated to happy. Happy doesn't quite do this word justice. It doesn't have enough depth to it. For to be esher (blessed) is to be happy as a result of receiving. Esher is just not a feeling, it is a feeling that is produced by grace. This makes sense in light of how we tend to use it. If you were to ask me, how do I feel and I said “happy” that would be different then if I said that I feel “blessed.” By saying blessed I am saying, I am happy, but that my happiness springs from something unmerited.
So who is the blessed in our passage? The Pslamist starts with the negative, then moves to the positive. First he says that a blessed person is one, “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” With each one of these descriptions you can see an escalation of evil, or an increase in the hardness of ones heart, walk, stand, sit.
So what does it mean to walk in the counsel of the wicked? It simply means seeking advice from the fallen, broken, sinful world. Unfortunately, this is a common characteristic of most people, even Christian people. When in uncertain, where do you seek advice? Oprah, Dr. Phil, an unsaved Psychologists, celebrities, magazines, unsaved coworkers, and unsaved friends. Each one of these people, if they have not received Christ in their life, are spiritually blind, and have no hope in giving you Christ exulting counsel. Jesus said it well in Matthew 15:14 when he said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Which leads to our next phrase “nor stands in the way of sinners.” This is the faliing into the pit in which Jesus spoke, for it is the implementation of the wicked advice. Another way to think about it is the taking the wide and easy path that leads to destruction that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7. Or the “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—“ that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2. It is standing against God and with sinners, those who miss the mark.
Lastly, the Pslamist says, “nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” This is the final act of rebellion. Not only does this person seek advice against God, and implement that sinful advice, but they then mock those who don't follow suit. They begin to teach others and ridicule those who do not accept their sinful opinion. They become a teacher and preacher of sin They want more wicked people to jump on their bandwagon of rebellion. This was the case for the Pharisees. Jesus said this to them in Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
Regarding these three positions of walking, standing and sitting, I can't but help see the connection with the current status in America regarding homosexuality. Many self-proclaimed Christians, and self proclaimed Churches have sought counsel from the world, chosen to stand with the disobedient, and now they scoff at those who do not join in with their sinful ways. They mock those who have read and have accepted Leviticus 18, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1, and the dozens of other implicit scripture on the subject. The people who reject these text are like our psalmist says, chaff. They are blown about with the ever changing wind of this fallen and broken world. Today it is homosexuality, tomorrow it will be something else. As scripture clearly teaches, this is not the pathway of blessedness, it is not the pathway of happiness, love doesn't win. It is trampled on and destroyed. This walking, standing, and sitting with sinfulness leads to one destination...perishing.
No, the blessed ones are those who “delight in the law of the Lord.” What is the law of the Lord? The word used here is actually torah, which is commonly used to reference the first five books of the Bible, but torah in Hebrews means instruction. So a good reading of this text is to say “delight in the instruction of the Lord.” Which of course includes more than just the law, or the first five books of the Bible, but all of the Scripture.
For the man that is blessed this treasuring of God's Word causes him to think about God's instruction day and night. Reading the Bible is not about a check list. It is something that he soaks in, thinks through, works out, analyzes, and clings to.
As the Psalmist says, the man that is blessed has been planted next to the Word of God. He has made the intentional decision to live life in accordance to God's Word. It is his standard of truth. It is his sustainer. As Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, this man is living “on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
And what is the result? Fruit. The man planted in God's Word is guaranteed to yield fruit. What kind of fruit? Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control”
Imagine if I came up to you and said, I have a sure fire way that you can have experience love and joy and peace and in every situation you will have he capacity to rise above it, and be outside the fray, would you want it? Of course you would. And folks you can have it if you want it. If you want to have a blessed life, the answer is not found on facebook, or magazines, or doctor Phil. It is not found in the counsel of the wicked. It is found in God's Word.
This is why we at Cornerstone are Bible people. This is the way that God has designed to pour his Grace out upon you, through His Word. And what is wonderful, is that each one of you have it in your hands in this moment. Spiritual prosperity is literally within you grasp, so make the intentional decision to be happy, and plant yourself in the living Word of God.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 31, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:10-13. We are nearing the end of our 6 month journey through the book of Philippians. For those of you of have joined our Church since January 1st, or for those who have missed Sunday’s due to travel or sickness, I want to remind you that you can go to our website and find the sermon’s online. They exist in written form and some of them are also on video. The reason I mention this is because when you work through such as we are today we need to understand the context surrounding the text. Obviously, due to time we cannot cover the entire book each Sunday so if you are interested you can fill in some gaps by means of our resources online. With that said, let us read out text, pray and exegete our text.
Today we are focusing our attention on the disposition of contentment. In verse 11 we see the Apostle Paul say, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” So let us start with the question, what does it mean to be content?
If we look around the text we can get a picture of what Paul means by being content. We see in verse 11 that contentment is the absence of being in need. This being is, however, modified by verse 12 which tells us that this being does not mean that you are born with a silver spoon on your mouth, for it says this being may include a circumstance of lowness, a circumstance of hunger. Therefore you can be content and have absolutely nothing.
Likewise, being content does not mean the absence of circumstantial swings. Paul speaks of being low and then abounding. He speaks of hunger and plenty. He speaks of need and then abundance, through it all, he can say like we sang earlier, “It is well.” For Paul is content dispute the highs and lows of life.
And don't forget the current condition of Paul as he pens these words. He is without a job, no money, without a family, chained to a Roman guard 24 hours a day, and waiting to find out if he will be killed. It is in this circumstance that Paul has contentment. Therefore the contentment that Paul is speaking of is not conditional on one’s external situation, it is conditional on one’s internal state of mind.
For those who were here last week you will recall how we spent a fair amount of time discussing the effects the Fall had on the mind of man, and how at conversion the curse of the mind is reversed through Christ. A verse that summarizes what we discussed last week and transitions nicely in our discussion for today is Ephesians 4:20-24. Just briefly turn with me to this passage. It is the book right before Philippians.
Prisoner of Discontent
With that said I want to spend some time talking about the old you. The person you were before you learned of Christ, before your eyes were opened to your need for a Savior. The understanding of who you were pre-conversion will help us wrap our minds around this idea of contentment.
This old self is described in Ephesians 4:22 as “corrupt through deceitful desires.” Prior to the renewal of your mind, you were a slave to your passions and your desires. Your hard heart craved to be satisfied with the things of this world. Some of you sought satisfaction in experiences, for some it was money, for it is your business, for some it was American Dream, for some relationships.
Having said this, the pursuit of these pleasures never produced in you a satisfaction. Your corrupt heart cried out for more food, more alcohol, more money, more stuff, more success, more independence, more education, but none of these things fulfilled what they promised. With each addition to your life came more discontentment. Your heart still cried out for more. You were still unsatisfied, despite the world being your oyster. This is the reality of every person on this planet that does not have Christ. Everyone, apart from Christ is a prisoner of discontentment. I realize I use this parable a lot but it speaks so well to the plight of the unsaved.
The Unveiling of the Secret
I believe a great picture of this state of discontentment is seen in the life of the Samaritan women at the well described in John 4. This Samaritan women was drawing water out of Jacob’s well in the middle of the day, an indication that she was an outcast from her own town. The reason for this most likely is that in her life she had five different husbands and she was now shacking up with someone she was not a married to, and Jesus confronted her about it her sin. And he said to her these words in John 4:13,
Oh how many married couples need to hear this message! Do not be deceived, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. Leaving your spouse to find satisfaction in the arms of someone else will not produce in your contentment, it will only produce brokenness. Stop looking for satisfaction in the well of your sin, and look up and see Christ! This is the beginning of the secret of contentment, only in him will your heart be satisfied.
And this is the secret in which Paul speaks of in verse 12 of our text. It is the secret of facing our present reality, not through the futility of our minds, or the ignorance of our hard hearts, but through Christ. Paul says in verse 13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This may be one of the top five wrongly quoted verses in the Bible. People love to post this verse In relation to climbing Mount Everest, or winning some pointless sports event, or losing weight. This is not the point of this text, the point of this text is being content no matter what your circumstances are.
And the fundamental starting point is Jesus Christ. If you do not have Christ in your life, you will never be content. So square one of contentment is Christ. You must repent and place your faith in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ as your Savior and your Lord. If you do not, then you have zero hope for your weary soul, and you will forever be a slave to discontentment, wandering this broken world before you plunge into Hell for all eternity.
The Lessons of Contentment
For those who have placed your faith in Christ, God has started a good work in you and has begun the process of the renewing of your mind, however, we must admit that you still struggle with discontentment from time to time. We still find our minds drifting towards the things of this world. We still complain, covet, and crave for something different. This discontentment is the sin that still clings to you, that Christ want's to free you from.
To you I say, first, take heart, for Paul was not without his moments of discontentment. Look at verse 12, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Behind this statement of learning is a process. I think it is wrong to understand this teaching of Paul to be one time event. God doesn't regularly work this way. The Seminary of God is usually through the trials of this life. This secret of contentment was taught to Paul over a period of time, and we can see this in 2 Corinthians 12.
Lesson one, God is not absent from our circumstances. When Paul cried out to God, it was as if God was saying, “Paul, I know your circumstances. I ordained them.” The sovereignty of God over all things, circumstances, and conditions is so crucial for your life. When you recognize that what you have in that moment is not random, but planned out by an all knowing God is foundational to your contentedness. The next time you feel discontent and want something more, look around and realize that your circumstances are ordained by your father. He knows what you need and as verse 19 in our text today says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Lesson two, in the moment of difficulty all that we do have is a gift from God. Yes, Paul had a thorn in his life, and yes it was annoying, and yes there was pain, but Paul was forgetting all that God had provided. Paul, in that moment, had forgotten about the grace of God. His life, his breath, his heartbeat, food, water, clothes, a roof over his head, and most importantly salvation through Jesus Christ, all of this was God's grace. How selfish is it for us to receive all that we have and then complain about it. We are acting ljust like Israel after the were freed from the slavery of Egypt. Constantly complaining and discontent. They were acting like divas, like spoiled brats, and we act the same way when we are unsatisfied with the Grace that God has given us.
Lesson three, through our circumstances, God is doing something for His Glory. Too often we walk through this world totally ignorant of God's purposes. Paul's thorn was a powerful, and crucial instrument for God's purpose. It kept Paul humble, and it magnified the Glory of God. Too often, when things aren't going right for us, we throw ourselves a pity-party. What a waste! God has given you your trial and tribulation so that God's power can be displayed through your life. You should not be discontent, you should rejoice in your difficulties, because it is in these difficulties, you can display the power of Christ in you. In fact, this is the point of the monotony of your life. For many of you, God has placed you in the midst of a bad job so that you can display your contentment in Christ despite the humdrum of life.
Lesson four, pray. The only reason Paul knew any of these things is because he cried out to God, and God answered him. Paul started praying with a discontent heart, asking God to remove the thorn. God did not answer Paul's prayer the way Paul wanted, but instead gave him eyes to see the rose attached to the thorn. We likewise need eyes to see all that God has done and all that God is doing through the ups and downs of our lives, and be able to sing “It is well” without being hypocrites.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 24, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:8-9. Today we continue our journey through the book of Philippians. Over the last several weeks we have slowed down somewhat due to Paul closing his letter with a series of short commands to the Church in Philippi. Today we continue examining Paul’s commands and we will focus our attention on focusing our attention. Let us read our text, pray that God would cause us to pay attention, and then let us think together.
To begin I want us to focus our attention on the end of verse eight. Paul tells the Church in Philippi to “think about these things.” The Greek word for think is logizomai. From the root of this word we get the word logic. Logizomai means to think, dwell, reckon, to take into account, reason, conclude. Paul is asking the Church to use their minds.
Most likely, very few of you have thought about thinking and how it relates to God. So let us begin there. First, we should recognize that humanity is like no other created thing.
The answer to this question is one we have covered many times before. We exist to glorify God. (Isaiah 43:7). Therefore, God gave us a mind so that we can glorify God. In one way, this is what separates us from the beasts. Animals glorify God in their way, and we glorify God in our way. So at the basis of who we are, we are created to think.
With this in mind, let me ask a question, what was the name of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden? The name was “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:16). Likewise, Satan when tempting Eve in Genesis 3:5 said, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And finally, God when casting Adam and Eve out of the Garden in Genesis 3:22 said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.” The tree that led to the fall of humanity had something to do our minds.
So what happened to Adam and Eve upon eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
Mind of Christ
I am guessing that many of you don’t think about your conversion in these terms, but you should, for this is how scripture speaks of what happens when you place your faith in Christ. Listen to these text:
To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to think rightly about existence; to think rightly about who we are; to think rightly about who God is; to think rightly about Christ; to think rightly about our purpose; to think rightly about our mission.
Renewal of Your Mind
This mind of Christ that we have been graciously given at our conversion, however, is not a perfect mind. It still has flaws. Because we still live in the flesh, and still battle with sin, we at times, think wrongly. This is why Paul says to the Church in Rome,
Church is not to be primarily about rituals and entertainment, as much as it is about pursuit of the knowledge of God and the renewal of our minds. All Christians are called to think, young and old, rich and poor, A students and D students, male and female, professors and ditch diggers.
Think about What?
So what are we to think about? Things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise. Let us quickly unpack each one of these.
Where would we find things that are true? John 17:17 Jesus prays to God, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Absolute truth will not be found in the World, it is found in the Word. And it is the Word that points to the greatest truth, the holder of truth, the standard of truth, Jesus Christ, who said of himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” So where do we see truth? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are honorable? Revelation 4:11 says, ““Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” There is only one being that deserves honor, and it is God. To dwell upon what is honorable is to dwell upon God himself, and where do we find the attributes of this honorable God? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are just? Romans 3:23-26 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” The greatest display of justice is the death of Christ. For at that moment we see God holding both sides of the bargain. He demands payment that is due his name, and then he pays the debt with the blood of His son. He is truly just and the justifier. So where do we find justice? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are pure? 1 John 3:3, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” There is no purer thing than God. He is unapproachable light and in him no darkness dwells. Jesus Christ is the exact imprint of God and in him there was no sin, no blemish. He is the only person who has ever walked this planet as pure as Jesus. He is the perfect picture of purity. So where do we find things that are pure? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are lovely? One place we find the word lovely, somewhat frequently, is in the book of the Song of Solomon. Which is a an intimate love poem between a husband and wife with each partying gushing over one another. Saying things like this in Song of Solomon 4:3, “Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.” This fawning, however, points to the greatest love story in the Universe, Christ and his Church. There is nothing more lovely than our Bridegroom laying down his life for the sake of us his bride, so were do we find what is lovely? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are commendable? This word in the greek means to have a good report. To have done something gracious. With this in mind, 1 Peter 2:19 says, “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” The NIV uses commendable instead of gracious. If this is an example of something that is commendable, there is no higher commendability than the perfect Son of God sufferring on the cross and absorbing the wrath of his father, despite not committing one sin. Why would he do such a thing? Because his Father asked him. So where do we find what is commendable? The Bible.
Where do we find things are excellent? 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us toc his own glory and excellence. As Paul said earlier in Philippians, the worth of Jesus far surpasses anything we could ever imagine. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God. And the Jesus is the Word who became flesh, and it is Scriptures that testify about Him, so where do we see things that are excellent? The Bible.
Where do we find things that are worthy of praise? In Revelation 5:11 we are given a glimpse into heaven and what do we see, “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” It is only God who is worthy to be praised. This God has chosen to reveal himself in his inspired Word. So where do we find things worthy of praise? The Bible.
So in conclusion, God created you to think, not about anything, but about Him. His desire is that you would set your minds upon his glory. If you do this, you will experience a satisfaction that your soul craves. I will leave you with a Bible serve that hangs on my office at work. Psalm 1:1