August 10, 2015

August 9, 2015 - Psalm 145

Theme: When find yourself in the depths of sin…
1) Are you cowering in fear or bowing in respect?
2) Are you down for good or are you getting up?

Many people, especially Christians, don’t always remember or understand what it means to be a Christian. They think that what makes a Christian is being better than others. Better at knowing God. Better at following God’s Word. And even better at succeeding in life. They think that being a Christian means that I do things that separate me from everyone else.

The truth is that everyone is sinful, and that sin keeps us down. No matter where you are in life at the moment or what your relationship with God is right now, you still have sin. That sin has various levels of effect in your life. Sometimes you feel really good and you’re not concerned with sin at all. Other times you can’t seem to think about anything but sin. Perhaps you’ve had a good week and you’re not really down about much. But others here are struggling with problems because of sin, some of you may have concern and anxiety at this very moment. Does this make some greater than others? Are some marginal Christians and others true, strong Christians?

Sin is a reality even if it doesn’t feel like it on the inside or if it doesn’t look like it on the outside. Even those who have everything in life still have a gaping need because of sin. Many put on a tough exterior of happiness and fulfillment but really are hollow on the inside. You can’t out run sin and you can’t buy relief from it. No matter who you are, it will catch up to you and it will wear you down. I’m sure many of you have felt this way before, perhaps you’re feeling it right now too. When sin tightens its grip on your life, I want you to ask yourself two questions: Why are you at that point? And where are you going from there? When sin brings you low, why is it? Is it because you’re terrified of God and you’re trying to hide from him? Or are you humbly bowing to Him in respect and faith? When sin brings you low, are you staying put or are you getting relief?

In our sermon text for today we explore the answers to both questions. In this Psalm, David spoke quite cheerfully, not the way you might expect from someone caught in the depths of sin. Through a careful study of these words we see why he had such great hope, the same hope you and I have today: 

A Song of Praise. Of David. I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. 7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. 10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, 12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. 14 The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. 18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. 20 The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. 21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

One thing that can be said about young people is that they live like they’re invincible. They do what they want, they eat what they want, they stay up as late as they want. They’re still young enough that they can get away with these things for a while, but usually bad habits develop that stick with them for the rest of their lives. In a way, it’s good to know and be reminded of your own mortality. A reality check is a healthy thing in life.

Spiritually, many of us often live like we think we’re invincible. We think how we want to. We do what we want to. We ingest harmful things through television and the internet. We laugh at the dirty jokes. We speak the vulgar words. We indulge in sinful activities. When life is going well, we hardly take the time to think of others in need or to return thanks to God for all His blessings to us. When things go wrong we often complain against God for not treating us well enough or we dig deeper into our addictions to satisfy our longings for fulfillment. We do all these things because we’re all sinners. But we also do them because we like to avoid our mortality.

But no matter who you, sin will eventually catch up to you, and when it does it will take you down to the depths. As we read David’s words in this psalm it doesn’t seem like he suffered from anything. He sounds so happy and positive. But David wasn’t any different than you and me. He had his demons too. In another psalm, he wrote: Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! 2 Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, my heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me (Psalm 55:1-2,4-5).

It was also David who said, I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me. 23 I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust. 24 My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat. 25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads (Psalm 109:22-25). David was a sinner and he knew the depths of sin well. He was an adulterer and murderer among many other things. When you look at his life he was no saint according to the world’s definition.

How could he speak with such joy? What reason did he have to return so much thanks and praise to God? One reason is that David understood the depths of sin in the light of his own mortality. He knew he had no right to complain or resist God because his own heart was filled with sin. He had no righteousness of his own to stand on. He knew he was the one responsible for his actions, it was not God’s fault. But David knew even more than that. As he dwelt on his own failures and limitations, he understood them in his own mortality but also in the light of what God had done for him. He knew that God loved him and promised to send a Savior that would redeem him from sin. He knew that anything he could call “good” in life was that way because it came from God alone. He knew that the reason God allowed sin to affect his life was to make him stronger in his faith and to lead him closer to God. David lived life just as you do. Will you see the same thing he did? Sometimes, you have to be in the depths in order to see the light.

As we read David’s words, his praise of God means nothing without the additional understanding of his sufferings. And so, after praising the Lord, David wrote: The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. David doesn’t need to give every detail about what he went through. We know what sin is like. We know how it feels and what it can do to our lives. He simply says that the Lord lifts up those who are down. For the Christian, being down doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When you’re cast down, it can be a moment of humility. When you’re limited, it can be a reminder of God’s power. When you’re low, it can be moment of worship. That’s one thing that makes us Christians different – how we respond in the depths of adversity. When you’re down, is it because you’re cowering I fear, or because you’re bowing in respect?

It’s the work of God that makes the difference. In every sentence of joy, David expresses something directly to God alone. I will bless You. I will praise You. I will meditate on Your glorious splendor. I will declare Your greatness. All activities that make the Christian stand out, and it’s so simple: Praise and Bless God. Meditate on His Word. And declare His greatness. How do you do at those activities? Is it possible that sin gets a greater grip on your life because you’re resisting one or all of them? These are the actions of the soul who humbly bows to God. They are the natural response of faith. If we resist them, we resist God.

Are your actions a continual song of praise to God? Does He receive praise and thanks by how you treat others, how you handle His name, and how you use your time and talents? Praise and thanks doesn’t just come from the mouth on Sunday mornings. Praise and thanks also come from the decisions you make and the way in which you live your life. How are you at meditating on His glory? Do you find yourself attracted to His Word? Does it fill your heart and mind? Does it captivate your attention or do you have better things to dwell on? How are you at declaring His greatness? Do you seek opportunities to do so or do you look for ways to avoid it? When was the last time you invited someone to come to church or encouraged them to study the Scriptures with you? How bold are you in your confession of faith? Is it something you’re willing to stake your life on or something you’re too ashamed of to admit?

David gives his answers. He will praise. He will give thanks. He will meditate. He will declare. Because he’s not cowering in fear, he’s bowing in respect, even when he’s in the depths. And finally, David knew where he was headed. 18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. 20 The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. 21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

When you’re in the depths of sin you can either rise up or you can stay down. One thing you can’t do is ignore the options. There is no ground in between sin and salvation. Either the Lord preserves you or He destroys you. Sounds harsh, but that’s the reality of sin in a world created to be holy. In order for sin to be gone forever, it needs to be destroyed. Christ has taken care of that problem by dying on the cross. Sin is destroyed, but that also includes all the effects and lifestyles of sin too. Sin is a sinking ship, why would anyone want to be on board? We take joy and hope in Christ’s death on the cross because it promises salvation. But we need to remember it also equally seals the destruction of sin and all who choose it. You can’t say that God’s judgment of sin is too harsh and in the next breath take comfort in His promise of life, because the two come from the same source. Christ judged sin when He died and rose again.

So when you’re caught in the depths, there’s only two options. You can stay in that sin, sometimes even getting deeper and uglier. You can try to be neutral and stay out of it and pretend everything will work in the end, but that’s no different than continuing in sin because no one can escape it. Or you can cling to Christ by faith, trusting in the very promise of life that He freely offers you. His hand is present with you, trying to lift you up and pull you out of sin every day. You can hold to Him or you can push Him away. There’s only one way out. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to Father but by me (John 14:6).” Peter said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”

God does expect a lot from Christians. He expects them to act and speak a certain way. He expects them to give thanks and praise for what He’s done. He expects them to meditate upon His Word. And He expects them to declare His name to others. That is all part of humble worship and bowing down to God in the light of our mortality and in the light of His grace. But those things are not what make the Christian. God alone does that, all by Himself. God made Christians when He was on the cross and when He gave up that final righteous breath. That alone, having nothing to do with your own feelings, works, or failures is what makes you different. And because of that truth alone, we have hope and peace that we’re headed up, out of the pit of sin. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds on Christ Jesus. Amen. 

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