Monday, July 15, 2013

Touching Base! Part 211

Heart Conversations with God 2013 - Part 4
Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

According to Christianity, what is the nature of saving faith? Is it mere allegiance to certain doctrine, that if we really believe certain things, we are in? And what does, “We are in” really mean? Is Christianity fundamentally about doing certain things and not doing certain other things, or is there more to it than that? James certainly thinks there’s more to saving faith when he writes in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!” Let’s keep those questions in mind and see how Psalm 63 helps address them.

What is salvation? 

The problem – “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

The result – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The solution – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The gift of God Himself – John 17:3, 24

Years ago, the 18th century’s most influential pastor/theologian, Jonathan Edwards, asked, “Is God more honored by His glory (His excellence, worth, beauty, value, supremacy, power to satisfy) being seen, or by His glory being seen and rejoiced in?” How would you answer Edwards’ question? How does David answer the question in the Psalm below?

Psalm 63:1-8

The most likely context for this Psalm is David’s hasty escape from Jerusalem after his son Absalom had decided to claim the kingdom. David is with the people loyal to him, hiding in a Judean wilderness under the very real threat of an imminent, bloody and probably lethal attack. From a “circumstance” perspective things could not be much worse. Knowing the context of this Psalm helps us feel the weight of what he says, and should help us say, when our Judean wilderness comes, or if we are currently in one, “If David could think and trust and feel like that in light of the terrible situation he was in, why can’t I ? Why could God not sustain me like that?”

v.1 “O God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek You. My soul thirsts for You, my flesh faints for You as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Notice the verbs seek, thirsts, faints, the language of desire, of longing.)

v.2 “So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory.” (In this case it is in thinking back to the communion he has enjoyed with God in the past, and the anticipation that he will have it again.)

v.3 “Because Your steadfast love is better than life my lips will praise You.” (How great is the quality of his relationship with God that he can say this?!)

v.4 “So I will bless You as long as I live; in Your name I will lift up my hands.” (Even in and through the hardest parts of life when the normal comforts and pleasures are removed and there is no assurance of restoration.)

v.5 “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips... (Even in the dark valleys there is satisfaction in God.)

v.6 “…when I remember You upon my bed and meditate on You in the watches of the night;” (not wringing his hands.)

v.7 “for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy. (note that since God has been his help in the past, He is trustworthy to be his help in the future. Consider the shelter of mama’s wings to a young chick when it’s raining and cold. Recalls Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:37. Singing for joy when all around you is uncertainty can only happen if you are deluded or if the presence of Almighty God is actually there – does David give evidence of delusional leanings in any of his other writings?)

v.8 “My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me” (David embraces God as tightly as he possible can like a man hanging from a ledge with a deadly drop underneath, yet all the while God’s hand sustains him and keeps him from catapulting into oblivion.) Do you know that if you are His God holds you like that?

What do these verses tell us about the worth of God - that He is good only insofar as He is providing enough external comforts? Is He valuable beyond the gifts He gives us?

What do they say about the writer’s engagement with God? Does this look like duty-driven allegiance? Is this a mumble-grumble “I guess I better follow You even though I have a real problem with how You have planned this”?

Some Questions and Applications: 

Why do we not experience the presence and know and savor the excellence of our Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives more than we do? What is casting God in shadow? Two major answers are:
  1. We don’t know our Bibles very well and therefore do not know that this is what God is communicating to us for our good and His glory. Many of us have not thought deeply about the reality of biblical faith and the greatness of our salvation. In many cases, we have reduced saving faith to mere “mental assent” to certain doctrines, not seeing that to know God is also to love, delight in, hunger and thirst after, long for, obey, and enjoy relationship with Him as we see David doing here in Psalm 63.
  2. We are more enculturated than we think. (Tim Keller has much good to say in this area through his book Counterfeit Gods. A very insightful read on modern day idolatry) The third soil – see Mark 4 - Cares of the world, deceitfulness of riches and desire for other things. Which member of this unholy trinity do you most labour against?
What are some practical helps?
  • Fellowship – who do we spend time with? Who are we listening to? “He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
  • Good books and sermons that point us to God – John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, Francis Chan, R.C Sproul, John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Elizabeth Elliott, Nancy Leigh Demoss, Mark Driscoll
  • Getting into the quiet – we live in a really noisy world whose noise serves to muffle the voice of God – Internet, TV, movies, iPod, iPad, magazines, newspaper, talk radio etc.
  • Prayer – with and without scripture
  • Scripture – steeping ourselves in it as we would a tea bag to make a flavorful tea – mind renewal, change into greater Christlikeness

Superior Satisfaction – “The expulsive power of a new affection.” (Thomas Chalmers) When we cultivate a deeper taste for God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, and God’s ways in our lives, then more and more of the excrements of life are purged and His good gifts to us get put into their proper place

Conclusion – as Christ becomes a greater reality in our lives, His glory is seen in and through us increasingly, God’s worth is magnified, we are most deeply satisfied, and others receive the best news they could possibly hope for.

Marty Everding
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