July 20, 2008
The sermon for this week is a borrowed sermon from my cousin, Pastor David Schaller. I only have it in PDF format, which I can't reproduce on this blog. So, here's the link where you can get the PDF for yourself.
It is the sermon marked "Pentecost 9". If you don't have a PDF reader you can download one on the Redeemer Website where the sermon is. Sorry for this inconvenience.
-Pastor Caleb Schaller
July 13, 2008
Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Psalm 119 was written in a very specific form of Hebrew poetry. In the Hebrew, the first eight verses begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “aleph”. The second set of eight verses all begin with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “bet”. The third set of eight verses all begin with the third letter, and so on all the way through the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Since there are 22 sets of 8 verses, Psalm 119 has a total of 176 verses. It is the longest chapter in the Bible. It takes about seventeen minutes to read aloud.
Some Psalms tells us who wrote them right away, but Psalm 119 does not. For this reason, scholars like to argue about who wrote it. Some say it sounds like King David’s pen. Others point to a different follower of God.
It is difficult to determine without a doubt who the Writer was. But, we know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit was the author. God’s Holy Spirit used someone’s personality, experience and emotions, to express the truths of God in just the right way. And while we might not be able to put a name tag on Psalm 119, the Holy Spirit did leave us some details about the person who penned it.
From the very first verses it is clear that the Writer is a follower of Jehovah God. He calls himself the LORD’s “servant” who is waiting for the LORD to save him (v38-42).
He is in great need of saving for he is being oppressed and persecuted by people who hate God’s word. Some of these people are powerful government officials (v23,46, 161).
In one verse the Writer says that he has been tied up by his enemies (v61). The fact that he speaks of being bound and oppressed by government officials who hate the LORD has led some to believe that Psalm 119 was written from inside a prison. To support this thought, in verse 109 the Writer expresses his fear that his life could be extinguished at any moment (v109).
Some have assumed that Psalm 119 must have been written by an old and experienced follower of God. But, the Psalm suggests the opposite. In verses 99-100 we read,
“I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts” (Psalm 119:99-100 NIV).
It would appear that the Writer is a relatively young man.
A number of times the Writer asks God to deliver him because he is dedicated to the LORD and does what is right (v59, 121).
But the Writer also confesses that he has not always kept the LORD’s commands. He confesses that he has sinfully wandered away from the LORD and still needs the Shepherd of souls to seek out and save him (v67,176).
Throughout his Psalm, the Writer repeatedly says that the source of his hope is God’s promise.
“May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise;” (Psalm 119:41 NIV).
“Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:49-50 NIV).
The Writer looks forward to serving God in joy after he has been rescued from his current oppression (v117). But, throughout the Psalm he makes it clear that he will not delay, but will do God’s commands now, as he waits for God’s deliverance.
“I wait for your salvation, O LORD,
and I follow your commands” (Psalm 119:166 NIV).
Psalm 119 is a Psalm about dedication to the LORD. It is about trusting that the LORD will keep His promise to save, even when times are dark. It is about doing what the LORD says to do, even when human reason suggests a different course of action is better. It is about the follower of God separating himself from Satan and all evil ways so that he can serve the LORD with all his heart, soul and mind.
When meditate on Psalm 119, we find that there is only one thing that produces a dedication like the one it describes.
Our theme for today’s meditation is: Love produces dedication.
Old Testament............. Psalm 119:113-128 (NIV)
113I hate double-minded men,
but I love your law.
114You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
115Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!
116Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.
117Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
I will always have regard for your decrees.
118You reject all who stray from your decrees,
for their deceitfulness is in vain.
119All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
therefore I love your statutes.
120My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws.
121I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
122Ensure your servant’s well-being;
let not the arrogant oppress me.
123My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
124Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
125I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.
126It is time for you to act, O LORD;
your law is being broken.
127Because I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,
128and because I consider all your precepts right,
I hate every wrong path.
These are the words given by the Holy Spirit, through a fellow believer, to us. They are given to build up our faith, to teach us and to comfort us as we also wait for the LORD’s salvation. We pray, teach us your decrees also, O Lord, according to your love. Amen.
Maybe you’ve sold beauty products from Mary Kay. Perhaps Candle-Lite candles. Maybe waterless cookware, Encyclopedias or something else. Being a good salesperson doesn’t come easy and it isn’t for everyone. Especially if your ability to sell directly impacts your take home pay.
I’ve never been a salesman. But I think that if I ever was, I would have to sell a product that I thought every person really needed. I product that I felt was so good that it would sell itself.
If everybody else in the world really needed what I was selling, then I’d find some way to get it to them. I’d find the right words to convince them. I’d work hard to help them see that they really couldn’t live without my product.
Love of my product would produce dedication to selling it.
In the same way, Jehovah God’s love for sinners is what creates our love of Him. And in turn, with that love comes dedication to Him.
Throughout Psalm 119, the Writer expresses that he has hope for the future because God has promised to save him. Today, you and I have hope for the future because God has not only promised to save us, God has done it through Jesus the Messiah.
God’s Garden of Eden promise, which the Old Testament prophets describe, has come to realization in Jesus of Nazareth. In the person of Christ, God’s Son became truly human, like you and I.
Because He was sinless, He had room on His soul to take up our every despicable deed. Our every evil thought. Our every shameful action. And out of love for our broken souls, He did take up our sins, every one.
While He hung crucified, all our sin and guilt hung on Him. The eternal condemnation for our sins was poured out on Him in time. Our uncountable individual punishments were inflicted on Him instead of on us. This isn’t poetry or imagination, the physical and spiritual suffering of the man Jesus is historical fact.
In the last verse of Psalm 119 the Writer prays to the LORD,
“I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant…” (Psalm 119:176 NIV).
When we feel guilt over our sins, let this be our prayer also. God will respond to our confession with love. For, as apostle Peter wrote,
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25 NIV).
God is our refuge and our shield. He has sheltered us from His anger over sin by covering us with His sinless Son. He still shields us from the evil forces of this world by His educating Word.
The Good News of Jesus shows us that God loves us dearly. His love produces faith in our hearts and with that faith comes dedication Him.
Like a potted plant, our dedication to God grows the more we sit in the light of His Word and the more we drink in the water of His Word.
One of the most remarkable things about Psalm 119 is the amount of times that it refers to the words of God. The Writer refers to what God says with many synonyms.
He calls it : The Word. The Law. His Statutes. His Precepts. His Commandments. His Ordinances. His Decrees. His Promises.
Almost every verse of Psalm 119’s 176 verses has one of these terms for God’s Word in it. There are only a handful of verses that make no reference to God’s Word. Maybe around five.
It kinda makes you think the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something here. Maybe that God’s Word is precious?
We love Jehovah God and we love His Word too. Because the LORD’s Word is what reveals who God is. Yes, God could appear visibly and have a discussion with us. But, in His loving wisdom He has chosen not to reveal Himself to most sinners in this way. Instead, He has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind through His living Words which are recorded in the Bible.
In those Words we find a specific God described. A God who is unlike any created being. He is single being with three persons. He is not a concept, or some ethereal energy. God is not a impersonal power that we can harness if we just, “learn the ways of the force”.
The LORD is a personal God, and He does not change who He is to match what sinners imagine Him to be like. There are characteristics that He has, and does not have. There are things that He does and does not do. And in all that He is and does, He is utter goodness. He is absolutely just. As the Bible describes Him,
“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 NKJV).
God is good.
God’s Word expresses who He is. God’s Word expresses His will. What He wants done. How He wants us to live so His will is done.
Because God is utterly good, we can be sure that what God commands is also utterly good, and always beneficial to follow.
The Writer of Psalm 119 says,
“I will speak of your statutes before kings
and will not be put to shame,
for I delight in your commands
because I love them” (Psalm 119:46-47 NIV).
“Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.” (Psalm 119:23-24 NIV).
The Writer does not care if the world mocks him for following God’s direction. He will follow the will of God, because He trusts that God really is good. He also knows that God will not fail to bless those who walk in His ways.
It’s true, sometimes the good fruits of following God’s commands don’t show themselves right away. But they will with patience.
In verses 123-125 the Writer says,
“My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes” (Psalm 119:123-125 NIV).
The Writer has been waiting for the LORD to rescue him for so long that he can’t stay awake. His eyes grow tired waiting for the promise of God to be kept. For His rescue to come. But what does He do? Does he abandon the LORD and seek help from somewhere else? No! He prays that God would teach Him how to better understand God’s Word, so that He might continue to wait faithfully for God’s sure promises to be kept.
Listen to some of the lover’s words which the Writer directs to the LORD:
“I delight in your decrees…” (v16)
“My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times” (v20).
“I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free” (v32).
“Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge” (v54).
“How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v103)
“…I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,” (v127).
“… I love your law” (v113).
What makes this believer so dedicated to the LORD?
Love for God. Love for all that God is and says.
Love for God created by God’s love for Him.
Love produces dedication. Dedication then creates separation.
In verse 113 and 115 the Psalmist writes,
“I hate double-minded men,
but I love your law” (v113).
“Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!” (v115)
The Writer’s opposition to God’s enemies is a product of his union with God. Remember what Jesus said?
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…” (Matthew 6:24).
You can’t play on both teams. You can only serve one Master. Long before Jesus ever said these words, the Writer of Psalm 119 understood. So, he separated himself from those who oppose God, out of loving devotion to God.
In the same way we modern day Christians cannot allow ourselves to be goaded into serving Satan by doing things his way. If it isn’t the LORD’s way, it isn’t right, and it isn’t beneficial. If you feel guilty doing it, then for your own good you better stop and pray. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled into serving the King of Darkness.
Instead, separate yourself from those who think sin is of little consequence. Separate yourself by your words. Separate yourself by your actions. Draw a circle around yourself by declaring Jesus to be your King in every area of your life.
When we separate ourselves from the sinful world by walking in the commands of God, we show everyone that we follow the LORD, not just with our mouths, but with our hearts.
When we tell others how Jesus’ love has made us His own, then Satan loses. Through our simple speaking of the Good News of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is put into action, and eyes are opened to God’s love.
I pray that our dedication to Christ’s message might bring separation between many sinners and Satan. I pray that we will take Jesus with us when we leave today, and share Him with one person this week.
In verse 121 the Writer says,
“I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors” (v121).
Do you feel that confident? Have you been so dedicated to God that you can say, “LORD, I’ve followed your way, so come and help me now!”
I don’t feel that dedicated to God.
But, I know where to get more dedication.
My dedication comes from my love of God. My love of God comes from God’s love for me. So that’s where I need to go when I feel like a failure. I need to go back to God and see His love for me. I need to go back to the clearest presentation of God’s love for me. I need to go back to the foot of the cross. I need to see again the bleeding, suffering Jesus, whose every pain was a labor of love for my sake.
That love cleanses my sin. And that love feeds my soul. In His love for me, my dedication takes root and grows up. In His love for me, I live. As the Writer prayed in Psalm 119,
“May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight” (Psalm 119:76-77 NIV).
May all that our LORD says be your delight, and your comfort, and your peace, and your life.
I’d like to close our sermon meditation today with the responsive reading of Psalm 31.
The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
July 6, 2008
I recently saw a story on KOMO news about a woman name Tammy Gobin. Tammy lives in the Seattle area and runs a day-care out of her home. She has a PhD and is currently working on her master’s degree. Because of her high level of education Tammy could probably have any teaching job that she wanted, but, she won’t. Why? Because Tammy’s body emits an odor that others find repulsive.
Tammy Gobin has a rare disorder called Trimethylaminuria. People with TMAU are incapable of processing Choline, a chemical found in many foods like milk, eggs and fish. As a result, they emit a bad odor like rotten garbage or dead fish. No amount of specials soaps, perfumes or deodorant can make the odor go away.
There is currently no exercise regiment, no prescription drug and no therapy that will make Tammy’s system work properly. Because the source of her problem is internal, Tammy cannot change what makes her unacceptable to others.
I don’t have TMAU, but I have a similar condition, and so do you. Jesus speaks about our condition in the book of Mark. Our condition offends people, but more tragically, our condition makes us unacceptable to God.
The focus of our meditation today is, “The Evil Condition of My Heart”. We read…
GOSPEL READING Mark 7:14-23 (NIV)
14Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”
17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
20He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”
These are the words of God’s Son. May God’s Holy Spirit open our evil hearts to believe His words so that we may find forgiveness, rest and healing in Jesus. Amen.
Just before the words of our text, Jesus had fed 5,000 people with a miracle. Soon after that, some Pharisees and teachers of the law traveled up from Jerusalem to check on Him and see just what Jesus was doing.
When they arrived, the Pharisees were disturbed to find the disciples of Jesus eating with unwashed hands. That may sound a little funny, but to the Pharisees it was no laughing matter. Nor was it just a matter of personal hygiene.
The Pharisees always washed their hands in a specific, ceremonial way, before eating. This special hand washing was not one of God’s commands. It was one of the traditions that had been passed down by their elders. All the same, the Pharisees didn’t consider it optional. When the Pharisees saw the disciples were eating with unwashed hands, they looked down them as if they were sinning.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for accusing His disciples of sin when they weren’t sinning at all. And then Jesus gathered the crowd to Himself and said the words of our text.
Basically He told them, “It’s not the stuff that goes into you or touches you from the outside that makes you unacceptable to God, it’s the stuff that comes from inside your evil heart.”
When people first started noticing that Tammy Gobin didn’t smell very good, I bet she figured it wasn’t her. Maybe it was something she stepped in. Maybe it was someone else. Maybe there was a garbage nearby that people were smelling.
But soon, shifting the blame became impossible. Even though Tammy couldn’t smell herself, what others sensed was certainly coming from her. And since it couldn’t be washed off or perfumed over, it must be coming from inside her.
It doesn’t take much soul searching for me to establish that I am a sinner. Most other people would say the same. They’d say, “Sure, I’m not perfect either, nobody is. ”
Since we are all imperfect people we may be tempted to consider sin normal or even okay. But to God sin is a stench that He cannot tolerate.
When God reveals to us through His word that He can’t tolerate our sin, our first instinct is to blame something or someone else.
When God held Adam and Eve accountable for the first sin, Adam blamed Eve and even blamed God, saying,
“…The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it”(Genesis 3:12 NIV).
In turn, Eve passed the blame on to the serpent, saying,
“…The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13 NIV).
In the present day we are no different. When our sin causes pain and suffering there’s always something or someone else to blame.
It’s not my fault, I was criminally insane at the time. It’s not my fault, I’m just a product of my environment. It’s not my fault, my parents’ didn’t spend enough time with me when I was a kid. It’s not my fault, my spouse doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain. It’s not my fault, the government didn’t prevent it from happening. It’s not my fault, it’s God’s fault for making me how I am.
But God is not evil, and He cannot be blamed for my sins. Nor can any other person be blamed for what I do or what I fail to do. As Jesus said,
“…evil thoughts… come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’”(Mark 7:21, 23 NIV).
Jesus listed some of the evil things that come from mankind’s heart. Jesus said,
“…from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.”(Mark 7:21-22 NIV).
I’m not going to talk about all twelve of these things. Even Matthew summarizes when he records this same thing in his Gospel. He only mentions six of these putrid fruits of man’s heart (Matthew 15:19). Jesus’ point is that the human heart is a pit toilet.
Just a few days ago I had to stop watching the nightly news because my six year old daughter was in the room. It wasn’t because the language was bad, but because the things being described were so despicable. One story was titled, “Woman Charged in Murder, Theft of Fetus”. The world is full of examples of what lies in the heart of mankind. And what lies in the hearts of mankind are the seeds of unspeakable actions.
After the Great Flood of Noah’s day, God said,
“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…”(Genesis 8:21 NIV).
Jesus wasn’t just talking about other people when spoke of rotten hearts. He meant you and he meant me. The apostle Paul accepted this truth, and expressed it when he wrote,
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”(Romans 7:18 NIV).
When Jesus speaks of our hearts, He’s not speaking of the organ beating in our chest. He’s referring to the center of who we are, the core of our being. That is the source of our evil deeds. And because this is so, we cannot hope to separate ourselves from the source of our sin. It is part of us that we are incapable of amputating.
Tammy Gobin couldn’t remove her digestive system in order to escape the source of her smell. We can’t remove our hearts to escape the source of our sin. And because we can’t, our condemnation unavoidable. God cannot tolerate the wicked. Psalm five declares,
“You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil;
with you the wicked cannot dwell”(Psalm 5:4 NIV).
Tammy Gobin couldn’t shift the blame, she couldn’t separate herself from the source of her problem, and sadly she couldn’t fix her body with exercise, drugs or therapy.
The same is true of sinners. We can’t blame someone else for our sins, can’t separate ourselves from our evil hearts and we can’t fix the source of our unacceptability to God. We can not rehabilitate ourselves. Our evil hearts can only be fixed by God.
Sinners are not rotten to the core, we’re rotten from the core. If we try to cover our sins with smiles and nice words and helpful actions, those things will only go so far. Like perfume, they’ll eventually fade away and reveal the stench of our underlying sinful heart.
Any suggested solution to our sin problem that doesn’t include a complete replacement of the heart, fails to recognize the full effects of sin’s infection.
Rotten is the perfect word for describing our sinful hearts, because you can’t fix rotten. You can only replace it.
And that’s where God comes in. Only God can put a clean heart into us. Only God can replace our inner, rotten heart with a new, clean, healthy one. Only God can change us from the inside out, and God does that through Jesus Christ.
When the Holy Spirit gets us to the point where we really understand sin and it’s source - then we realize:
I can’t blame things for my sins.
I can’t blame others for my sins.
I can’t rehabilitate my self.
I can’t transplant my own heart.
And all this leads us to the conclusion that we are doomed to be unclean forever, unacceptable to God and separated from Him for all eternity.
But this is where Jesus steps in to correct us. He says, “That would be the case, but I’ve taken your blame and your condemnation. You couldn’t put your blame on someone else, so I went ahead and took it from you.”
The story of how Jesus went to the cross shows us how He was tortured in our place. Because of the things our hearts produced. The Good News of Jesus tells us point blank that all the evil deeds that ever sprung from us, are forgiven because of God’s suffering servant, Jesus.
And through the Holy Spirit’s inspired words in the New Testament letters we find out another most remarkable turn of events. While those who trust in Jesus still retain their sinner’s rotten heart, God has given them a new heart too. One than fights against the old with the Holy Spirit’s help.
And at the last day that old rotten heart will be taken away forever and the new, sin-free heart will remain the only one. The core of our being will be free of sin. Free of guilt. Free of doubt. Free of pain. Free to live with God and for God in heavenly perfection.
And all this will be because of Jesus. Who would not say, “It’s not your fault” because it was. All this will be because of Jesus Who would not say, “You’re okay just the way you are” because we weren’t. We will be pure because Jesus told us the truth about our rotten hearts, and then did the work necessary to give us new hearts, uniting us forever to God the Father, through Jesus’ own selfless sacrifice.
Dear Christians, you have wicked hearts. But you also have new heart through faith in Christ. Keep listening to the Holy Spirit in God’s Word so that those new hearts keep beating. And thank Jesus today, for fixing the heart of your problem, your heart.
I’d like to close our meditation today with the responsive reading of Psalm 51. King David wrote this Psalm, and in it he mentions many of the same thoughts we’ve been considering.
The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.