May 30, 2008
Psalm 5:11-12 (ESV) – 11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. 12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.
The Psalmist calls for God’s people (i.e. “all who take refuge in You”) to rejoice… to sing for joy… to exult in God for He has spread His protection over us.
Think about this. God has blessed us beyond compare as His people. He covers us with His favor like a shield. He gives us His presence for all eternity, despite our sin, in Jesus Christ. He graciously gives us… not only that which we don’t deserve… but the exact opposite of what we do deserve. Recognizing this should cause us to rejoice…
Are you a joyful person?
I must confess that I am not nearly as joyful as I should be. I spend far too much time in “the Slough of Despond”, as John Bunyan put it in “Pilgrim’s Progress.” I spend far too much time seeing a half-empty glass, drained as a result of my own sin and living in a sin cursed world, rather than rejoicing in the overflowing cup of blessings which God has graciously given me in Jesus Christ.
The Psalmist tells us here that God’s people are joyful, because (“for” in verse 12) of the blessings which God has bestowed upon us and the proper response is joyful singing.
I am not much of a singer. That is probably being too generous… I am a bad singer. But that doesn’t change the fact that joyfully singing to the Lord should be a part of my life, because I have experienced the blessings of God in Christ Jesus. I need to remember what God has done for me… and express the resulting joy in song.
I have found the music produced by Sovereign Grace Music to produce this effect in me. I do not know of any musicians who are more intentional about focusing on the greatness and glory of God in Christ Jesus than those who produces the albums for Sovereign Grace Music. I find it hard to listen to this music and not be reminded of the cross and my salvation. I find it hard to listen to this music and not be moved in remembering my God who loves me and gave up His only begotten Son to death for me. I find it hard to listen to this music and not be moved to joyful praise of God in song (even if it is off-key.)
I thank God for the men and women of God at Sovereign Grace Music. They are a gift for this generation. Perhaps my thought at this particular moment is that they are a gift from God to me.
If you are interested in learning more about Sovereign Grace Music or purchasing some of their albums, you can find them here http://www.sovereigngracemusic.org/
May 27, 2008
In my earlier post entitled “3 Responses to the Gospel”, we dealt with Acts 13:48…
Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
Note carefully that being appointed to eternal life precedes belief.
If God is responsible for our faith, then what role does human responsibility play in our salvation?
If this is a question which gnaws on your mind… or if you simply want to learn more about the amazing salvation which God has graciously given to us… then I would whole-heartedly recommend that you take the time to listen to the 2-part message by C.J. Mahaney entitled “The Mystery of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.” You can download these messages for free here http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=A1251-00-51
Sola Gratia (“Grace Alone.”)
Jason Robertson has a great post over at the Fide-O blog on preaching as the foundation of Christian unity. You can find it here http://fide-o.blogspot.com/2008/05/importance-of-preaching.html
May 26, 2008
Dr. John MacArthur urges us to pray for the lost in a convicting article you can find here http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/05/26/praying-for-the-lost/#more-1303
Read it… and pray for the lost.
The following is a sermon preached Sunday morning at Maranatha Baptist Church on May 25, 2008.
Acts 13:42-52 (ESV) – 42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
What we have recorded for us here in the book of Acts is the results of Paul’s preaching in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch.
As was typical for Paul, he began his ministry in Pisidian Antioch by preaching in the synagogue before an audience of Jews and Gentile God-fearers. “God-fearers” were Gentiles who believed in the God of Israel, but had not fully converted to Judaism. They were permitted to attend the synagogue, but were not allowed to participate in the worship of God. They were allowed simply to observe, because they were outsiders to the people of God.
After the typical prayers and Scripture readings, Paul was asked by the rulers of the synagogue if he had a word of exhortation for the people (Acts 13:15.) Of course, Paul never turned down an opportunity to preach. So he stood up before the people and delivered a sermon to them (Acts 13:16-41), after which the synagogue service let out.
As they left the synagogue, people began begging Paul and Barnabas to speak to them about “these things” again next Sabbath.
What are “these things”? This is a reference to the sermon Paul had just preached. Let me sum it up for you…
Paul began by recounting the history of the Israel. Really, he was recounting the work of God on behalf of Israel and, by doing so, he described the character of God.
1) God is sovereign over all things… including the call of His people to Himself. God chose the patriarchs… Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… and called them to Himself (Acts 13:17.)
2) God is just. He judged the inhabitants of the land of Canaan for their wickedness (Acts 13:19.) He will not let sin go unpunished.
3) Yet at the same time, God is patient. He put up with the Israelites in the wilderness (Acts 13:18.) Despite their complaining and sin… God was longsuffering with them.
4) God leads His people…providing protection and guidance for those who are His (Acts 13:20-22.)
5) He is a God of salvation… a God who delivers His people with a mighty, uplifted arm (Acts 13:17.)
6) He is a God who makes promises… He made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and David (Acts 13:23.)
And Paul makes it very clear that all these promises are fulfilled in Jesus (Acts 13:23-39.)
1) He is the Son of God.
2) The promised Messiah… the Savior and King which God had promised long beforehand to the patriarchs and David.
3) He lived a righteous life on our behalf, fulfilling all righteousness, so that His people could be declared righteous in the sight of God and enter into eternal life with Him.
4) He died for our sins upon the cross. He was cursed by God and punished for our sake so that we might be forgiven.
5) He was buried in a tomb…
6) But God raised Him from the dead on the third day, clearly demonstrating for all the world to see that Jesus is His only begotten Son… the Messiah… and Savior of sinful men and women.
This was the heart of the message Paul preached and he called all of his hearers to respond to the message by trusting in Jesus Christ, because through Him, God offers the forgiveness of sins and justification (i.e. being declared righteous) (Acts 13:38-39.).
Paul warned his hearers to take these things very seriously…
Acts 13:40-41 (ESV) – 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: 41 “ ‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’ ”
He warns them not to scoff. Don’t be astounded. Don’t be amazed by this. Don’t think this is too good to be true. Don’t cast this message aside. Because if you do… you will perish…and face eternal judgment.
This is an amazing message… the most amazing message ever preached… and the most important message ever preached. It is a message which demands a response.
This is the same gospel message we preach today. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the only living and true God. He is the eternal God… the unchanging God… and His message of salvation is the same today as in the days of Paul.
We are all sinful. That is true of every one of us without exception. All have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23.)
And God’s justice demands a punishment. He is patient with us, but He cannot allow sin to go unpunished (Ex 34:6-7.) And that punishment is death and hell for eternity (Rom 6:23.) .
God in His justice must punish sin, but God in His grace has made a way for sinful men and women to be delivered from the judgment to come. There must be a punishment for sin, so God provided a substitute for us… Jesus Christ… who lived and died and rose again in our place so that we might have eternal life through Him.
This is the only message of salvation. There is no other. And this the message which Paul proclaimed. And it is the message which we proclaim today.
This is a powerful message (Rom 1:16)… and it is a message which produces a response.
Here in Acts 13:42-52, we see three common responses produced by the proclamation of the gospel
First of all, notice that some took him seriously and wanted to hear more…“As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42.)
This message was astounding and some begged to hear more the next week.
But also notice that some of them were impatient. They weren’t willing to wait until the next week. They followed Paul and Barnabas, who told them to continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:43.)
It is interesting that they were told “to continue” (προσμένω (pronounced prosmeno.)) In order to “continue” in the grace of God, a person must first enter into the experience of the grace of God. This implies that some of these people who followed them had already become Christians. They were believing in Jesus Christ and Paul and Barnabas urge them to hold fast to their Savior. No wonder they wanted to hear more. We’ll see more about them in a minute. But they weren’t the only ones who wanted to hear more.
Notice that the next week… “almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:44.) Most scholars agree that there is a little bit of hyperbole here. Pisidian Antioch was a very large city. It is highly unlikely that every person in the city showed up the next week. Many of the people in the city would have been completely uninterested in hearing about a message preached in a Jewish synagogue, since most of the city was not interested whatsoever in the God of the Jews. But there is no question that a large crowd turned out to hear what Paul and Barnabas had to say.
Now really think about this for a moment… how did these people know to come to the synagogue on this particular Sabbath? It is doubtful that Paul and Barnabas… merely two men… could have gathered this large a crowd by themselves. They didn’t have email or television advertising. How did all these people know to show up in this place on the Sabbath to hear more about the gospel?
This turn out must have been the work of those who had been converted and those who wanted to hear more of this message. They must have talked with others throughout the week about these two men and the message they came preaching the week before. They must have invited others to come and hear the message of the gospel.
And people came…a whole lot of people came. It was much like a 1st century Billy Graham crusade. Christians went out and invited everyone they knew to come and hear the proclamation of the gospel. And many came, because they wanted to hear more about the gospel.
This is the first response we see here to the preaching of the gospel… some people wanted to hear more. But that wasn’t true of everyone, because some rejected the message of the gospel.
When Paul began speaking to this massive crowd, the Jews began contradicting everything he said. They argued with him and attempted to refute his message by speaking against him.
But this wasn’t all. They were also “reviling Him.” The word translated “revile” is the Greek word βλασφημέω (pronounced blasphemeo) and it typically means “to blaspheme.” Now the ESV renders it that they were “reviling him”, meaning Paul, but the pronoun “him” doesn’t occur in the Greek. The NASB gets it right here, they were simply “blaspheming.” Now this could mean that they were blaspheming Paul, but it seems more likely that they were blaspheming God.
There is an important point to be made here. To reject the gospel is blasphemy. Jesus Christ is the Son of God… the Messiah… who suffered and died for our sins and rose again the third day according to the Scripture. He is the greatest expression of the glory of God in human history (Heb 1:3.) To reject the gospel is to reject Jesus Christ… to deny that He is Who God says He is. And that is blasphemy…
They were doing exactly what Paul warned them against in verse 41, they were scoffing at the gospel.
Why? Notice that it wasn’t for theological reasons. It wasn’t because of their study of Scripture. It was because they were jealous. And not just a little jealous… they were filled with the jealousy.
Why were they jealous?
We aren’t told for sure, but it is not hard to guess. Paul and Barnabas were getting all their attention. People were listening to them and believing the message that they were preaching. This weakened their role in the lives of Jews and Gentile God-fearers.
The same thing happened in Jerusalem back in Acts 5. As the apostles were preaching this same message in Jerusalem, multitudes of men and women were being saved. And the religious leaders in Jerusalem didn’t like it, because they were jealous of the popularity of the apostles (Acts 5:17.) And they did all they could to stop the preaching of the gospel.
How did Paul and Barnabas respond to this rising opposition?)
They didn’t cower. They didn’t shut up. They spoke out all the more boldly and this is what they said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you…”
What does Paul mean by this? We find the answer in the next verse. Notice the word “for” (γὰρ.) This tells us that what follows is the ground of this statement.
Why was it necessary that the Word of God be spoken first to the Jews? Because “the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’.”
Notice that the Lord has commanded “us.” Who is the “us”? Not just Paul and Barnabas, but the Jews. This is made clear by the passage from which Paul is quoting.
Paul is quoting here from the Second Servant Song in Isaiah 49:5-6…
Isaiah 49:5-6 (ESV) – 5 And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
This is speaking of the Servant of the Lord, who is identified in Luke 2:32 as Jesus. Notice what He will do. He will reconcile the Jewish people to God. But that isn’t all. In fact, that is “too light a thing” for Him to do. It isn’t big enough. His ministry will be much bigger than this. He will not only bring salvation to the Jews, but He will also be a light to the nations, meaning the Gentiles. He will bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
As I said, Luke 2:32 makes it clear that this is referring to Jesus in His role as the Servant of the Lord, but if we go back just 2 verses to Isaiah 49:3, then we see that the Servant of the Lord is identified as Israel.
So what is the point of all this? Jesus came to reconcile sinful Jewish men and women to God through His life, death and resurrection. But that isn’t all. That would be too small a thing for Him to do. He would also reconcile the Gentiles to God and He would do so through reconciled Jews (see F.F. Bruce, NICNT, 265-267.)
Paul and Barnabas went first to those who were to fulfill this role… the Jews… but…they thrust the gospel aside and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life.
Notice very carefully what Paul says here. They are responsible for rejecting the gospel. They thrust it aside and, by doing so, they are passing judgment on themselves. They are making a decision which declares them to be unworthy of eternal life.
Scripture is clear that this is our natural state. Apart from the work of God, every human being will reject Jesus Christ and the message of the gospel. That is because we are thoroughly and completely contaminated by sin…
Romans 3:10-11 (ESV) – 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
No one seeks for God. No one. Even though God’s attributes and power are clearly seen in creation, we willfully choose to suppress the knowledge of God and worship things in creation rather than God, our Creator (Rom 1:20-23.)
This describes all human beings in our natural state. We are innately sinful and idolatrous and we willfully choose not to seek after God. And in doing so, we judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life with God.
This is what we see going on here… the natural rejection of the gospel by sinful men and women.
Since the Jews rejected this message and the ministry which was rightfully theirs, Paul and Barnabas, taking on the ministry of the Servant of the Lord, they turn to the Gentiles. They turn to those who are receptive to the gospel. They become a light to the nations, proclaiming to them the gospel, so that they might be saved.
This leads to the third response to the gospel here in the text… some receive the gospel and are saved. “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord…” (Acts 13:48.)
We should remember that the Gentiles were excluded from the people of God and the worship of God. Even those who were God-fearers were not really part of the people of God. They were outsiders… strangers and aliens to the promise of God (Eph 2:11-12.) But now they are welcome to come to God through Jesus Christ and enjoy the full privileges of being His people.
No wonder they rejoiced and gloried in the gospel.
We are told here that they “believed.” Whereas many of the Jews rejected the gospel, scoffing at the Messiah and blaspheming God, these Gentiles believed.
Doesn’t this contradict what I just said about human beings being innately sinful and not seeking after God?
What makes the difference between these believing Gentiles and the unbelieving Jews?
These Gentiles who believed were “appointed to eternal life.” The word translated “appointed” is τάσσω (pronounced tassō) and it means to be “ordained” or to be “destined” for something. It is a perfect passive participle in the Greek, which means that it was something which happened in the past but has continuing results (perfect tense.) Also, it is something which was done to them (passive verb.) In other words, they didn’t appoint themselves. In other words, sometime in the past, they were appointed or destined by someone to eternal life.
Who appointed them to believe and receive eternal life? God did…
Compare this to Ephesians 1:3-6…
Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV) – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
It is only because God in His sovereignty chooses some for salvation that anyone is saved. He chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world and, at the right time, through the hearing of the gospel, He causes His people to be born again (I Pet 1:23, James 1:18), granting us repentance (Acts 11:18) and faith (Eph 2:8), so that we can be saved.
This sovereign choice of God makes all the difference in the world…and all the difference in eternity. It determines who will accept the message of the gospel and be saved.
Some people will say this is unfair. After all, if God appoints some to believe and be saved and not others, than isn’t He playing favorites?
That is God’s prerogative if He so desires. He is the Potter and we are the clay and He can do as He sees fit with His people (Rom 9:19-23.)
But this question is ultimately missing the point. This question seems to picture God standing at the gates of heaven and pushing away those who are seeking to enter into His presence. That is not the case at all. There is none righteous, no not one. There is none who understand. There is none who seek after God (Rom 3:10-11.) We are all naturally running away from God as fast as we can. Naturally, we all choose to reject the gospel and be damned to hell forever. If left to ourselves, we would all judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life. But God graciously reaches out and seizes hold of some, drawing them to Himself and granting us eternal salvation (Jn 6:44.) If God didn’t do this… then no one would be saved…
God isn’t unfair. God is gracious.
If God treated us fairly, then all would be damned to hell. But God is gracious and saves some… those whom He has appointed to salvation according to His own sovereign will.
This is cause for rejoicing and those who are converted will rejoice and glory in the gospel… not just to themselves… but before the watching eyes of the world.
That is what we see going on here… “The Word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region” (Acts 13:49.)
Who was doing the spreading of the gospel? Those who believed and were saved.
A great thing is happening here. The gospel is going forth boldly and powerfully. But it seems like this only served to throw more fuel on the fire of the Jew’s jealousy, for they stirred up the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city against Paul and Barnabas. These were important Gentiles in the city. Most commentators believe that the women described here were Gentile God-fearers and the men were their husbands. These men were leaders in this region. They are powerful men and they began to persecute Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of the area.
As a result, Paul and Barnabas traveled down the road to Iconium to continue their ministry there. But as they leave, they shook the dust off their feet. This was a symbolic way of saying this city was unclean and bound for destruction. In fact, it is a way of saying that this city is so unclean that they didn’t even want the dust from the city’s streets to cling to their shoes.
We don’t know if these new Christians in Pisidia Antioch were persecuted after Paul and Barnabas left. But their teachers were thrust away from them. Yet God did not leave them as orphans. They were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit dwelt within them, filling them with joy even in the midst of persecution.
What do we learn from this passage?
There are three common responses when the gospel is preached:
1) Some will reject the message…
2) Some will want to hear more…
3) And some will be saved…
God is the One who determines how people respond to the gospel. Only those who are appointed by God to believe in Jesus Christ and receive eternal life will be saved.
This leads us to an important question. If God has already in eternity past appointed those who will be saved, then why do we share the gospel?
The simple answer is because God has commanded us to (Matt 28:18-20.) But we also preach the gospel, because God works through means to call sinners to salvation. He works through the proclamation of the gospel to call those who are His to Himself.
This is a privilege which God has given to His people, that we might take part in the saving work of Jesus Christ through proclaiming the gospel. Bringing salvation to the nations is His ministry… He is the Servant of the Lord… but through our relationship with Him, we are the means by which He brings light to the very ends of the earth.
Are you a Christian?
Then be a light to the world. Preach the gospel.
It won’t be easy. You will be persecuted. You probably won’t get run out of town… you might… but probably not… but you will likely be mocked and scorned.
Don’t let that stop you. Speak out boldly about Jesus… no matter what occurs…
If you are not a Christian then I would warn you… don’t scoff at the gospel…
To reject the gospel is to blaspheme God… And there is no salvation for those who those who reject Jesus Christ.
May 24, 2008
There is a fascinating brief post over at the Stand to Reason blog on the results of chasing after “relevance” in our modern worship services. You can find it here http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2008/05/the-irrelevance.html
May 22, 2008
Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV) - 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
This is an important passage of Scripture for all Christians. We are called by our Lord and Savior to shine brightly in the midst of a sin-darkened world so that God may be glorified as the world sees Him in us.
But does this apply to our children as well?
My wife and I have chosen to home school our children, because we take seriously the commands of Scripture to “teach our children diligently” to know and love God (Deut 6:6-7, Eph 6:4, etc.) This is a personal decision which my wife and I feel convicted is necessary in our family situation. I would not state that every Christian must home school their children in order to be obedient to God. I have never preached a sermon on the necessity of homeschooling. I have never counseled someone that they must home school or be disobedient to the Word of God. However, my wife and I both are quite convicted that this is the right decision for our children.
It never ceases to amaze me how much flack my wife and I have received from fellow Christians regarding our decision to home school. It is not uncommon at all for my wife and I to have people express strong opposition to our decision to home school our children. One of the arguments I typically hear against homeschooling is Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5 that Christians are to be “salt and light” in the world. After all… how can my children be salt and light in the world if they are not attending public school? (There are several fallacies present in this question. For example, is school the only place where children are “in the world?” Or must I expose my children to a constant barrage of unbiblical teaching grounded in secular humanism taught by intellectually superior adults in order for them to be “salt and light” among their unbelieving friends, etc?)
I recently came across an interesting article by Voddie Baucham addressing this very issue. Dr. Baucham is a brilliant apologist and staunch advocate of homeschooling. Although he states the case for homeschooling in stronger terms than I would, I do believe that he answers well the question of whether or not our children are called by God to be salt and light in the world. You can read the whole article here http://www.voddiebaucham.org/vbm/Blog/Entries/2008/2/14_Salt_and_Light.html .
Psalm 37:4 (ESV) - 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
This verse is often misinterpreted by Christians as meaning that God will give me whatever I want (i.e. earthly blessings) if I delight in Him. But think very carefully about what the Psalmist is saying here…
1) “Delight yourself in the Lord…”
The Hebrew word translated “delight” (עָנַג, pronounced aw-nag) literally means to be delicate or feminine (Strong’s, עָנַג.) It carries the idea of being pliable or sensitive. In this particular context, it means to be dependent upon God and to derive one’s pleasure from Him.
Does this describe us?
Do we rely solely upon God?
Do we derive our greatest pleasure from Him?
To determine the answer to this, let me ask us a very simple diagnostic question: Would we rather spend time communing with God (in worship, the Word, prayer, even in our vocation) or with other people, engaged in other activities?
I can only speak for myself here, but I am often guilty of preferring the things of this life to the living and true God. It is not uncommon for God to seem distant or abstract in our sojourn here on this earth. At the same time, the good gifts which God has given to us (for example: family, friends, food and shelter) are often so accessible and provide instant gratification. I confess that I am often guilty of delighting in them more than God. How about you?
The Psalmist calls us to delight ourselves in God. In fact, He does more than just make a suggestion here. The verb translated “delight” is an imperative in the Hebrew, meaning this is a command. This is not a helpful suggestion which the Psalmist sets before us… no… this is a command from the pen of the inspired Psalmist to strive to delight completely in God.
How do we do this?
I have just confessed that I am not always good at this, so I am probably not the best person to answer this question. However, I have found that when I am most focused upon God… when I am bathed in the revelation of God found in His Word… when I spend considerable amounts of time in prayer… most importantly, when I remember the greatness of my salvation as found in Jesus Christ… then my delight in God is always greater. Therefore… for me… it seems that the key to delighting in God is spending much time in His Word and prayer and worshipping my God who has saved me eternally in Jesus Christ.
This is not an isolated command in Scripture. We see this set forth as the normal experience of believers all throughout Scripture…
Psalm 27:4 (ESV) – 4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
Psalm 42:1-2 (ESV) – 1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 63:1 (ESV) - 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.
Philippians 3:8 (ESV) – 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…
Notice in this last example (Phil 3:8), the Apostle Paul states that he is willing to give up “everything” so that he may know Jesus Christ. Delighting in God can be costly… but it is worth it. The Psalmist tells us that this desire for pleasure in God will not be ignored…
2) “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
The term translated “desires” (מִשְׁאָלָה, pronounced mish-aw-law) refers to petitions or requests (TWOT, מִשְׁאָלָה.) In Hebrew thought, the heart was primarily the seat of the inner man. It was the source of the will. In other words, the Psalmist tells us that God will honor our delighting in Him by graciously giving us what we are asking of Him from the very depths of our being.
Now think carefully here… if we are delighting ourselves in God… then what are the desires of our heart?
If we are relying upon God and deriving our primary pleasure in Him, then He is the desire of our heart. The promise here is not that God will give us the things of this world if we delight in Him… no… the promise is that God will give us Himself, if and when we delight ourselves in Him.
The greatest blessing which we can ever receive is to know God and bask in His glory. Jesus said that eternal life is ultimately all about knowing God and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent (Jn 17:3.) The greatest blessing imaginable is for God to make His face to shine upon us (Num 6:22-27.)
God promises that when we delight in Him… when we are relying upon Him… when we take pleasure in Him… then He will give Himself to us. The Apostle Paul was willing to give up everything in order to experience this (Phil 3:8.)
How about us?
Does this describe us?
Do we bask in the blessing of knowing God?
If not… then are we truly delighting ourselves in the Lord?
May our prayer be that God will set our affections upon Him, first and foremost. May we desire Him more than anything else. May we seek Him earnestly. May we pant after Him. May we count all things loss for the sake of knowing Him. May we delight ourselves in the Lord… and may He give us the desire of our hearts.
May 19, 2008
Read the post entitled “God Will Heal My Faithlessness” by Tyler Kenney over at the Desiring God Blog (you can find it here http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1232_god_will_heal_my_faithlessness/)
Mr. Kenney is not alone in this. I am ashamed to admit how often I, too, allow my circumstances to affect my joy in Christ.
How about you? Spend some time meditating on this… and pray that God will give us believing hearts!!!
The following is a sermon preached at Maranatha Baptist Church in the morning service on May 18, 2008:
What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Liberal theologians will tell us that the gospel is doing good works. It is giving a cup of cold water to a little one in need.
Is this the gospel? No. This is an outworking of the gospel in the life of the believer, but it is not in and of itself the gospel.
Liberation theology… which is popular in certain developing countries and among certain minority groups in our culture… teaches that the gospel is a message of liberation from oppression. Jesus came to liberate the downcast and oppressed. In many ways, Jesus is seen as a political Savior for those who are mistreated and abused.
Again, this is an outworking of the gospel. God is no respecter of persons. All men and women are equal in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:28), but this is not the gospel.
I often hear people today say that the gospel is the change which Jesus has brought about in their life. They “surrendered all” to Him and He fixed their life. He healed their family… removed their addictions… gave them happiness and success.
Again, this is a result of the gospel in the life of the Christian, but it is not the gospel itself.
What is the gospel?
The gospel is the objective action of God within human history to bring salvation to sinful men and women through the work of Jesus Christ… who lived that we might be righteous before God… who died to forgive our sins… and who rose again that we might have victory over sin and death.
The gospel is literally “good news.” It is an announcement that God has done something to save sinful people like us. The gospel is the good news of what God has done… outside of us… for us.
The apostle Paul makes this point very clearly in his sermon at Pisidian Antioch, found in Acts 13:13-41, where he preaches the gospel… which he calls “this message of salvation”… to a group of unbelievers. (I would recommend reading this passage of Scripture before continuing. I will be referring specifically to the text as translated by the English Standard Version.)
This sermon takes place during Paul and Barnabas’ 1st missionary journey. They have finished a successful preaching tour across Cyprus, which resulted in the conversion of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus (see Acts 13:1-13.) Now they have sailed the city of Perga on the mainland of Asia Minor, before traveling north to the city of Pisidian Antioch, in the region of Phrygia / Galatia.
It was at this time that John Mark left Barnabas and Saul and returned to Jerusalem. Luke (the author of Acts) does not provide us with many details, but it is clear that Paul considered Mark leaving as an act of desertion (Acts 15:38.) We will deal with this in greater detail when we come to Acts 15:36-41.
In the city of Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas followed their typical model of ministry and began by going to the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue. A typical 1st century synagogue service would include a reciting of the Shema and the Sh’moneh esrei (“The Eighteen Benedictions”… formal Jewish prayers which recounted the history of Israel and petitioned God to fulfill His promise to send the Messiah), a reading from the Law (i.e. the Pentateuch) and a reading from the Prophets, followed by a word of exhortation (much like a modern sermon) from any qualified male in attendance (New Bible Dictionary, “Synagogue.”)
After the reading of the Law and Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue asked if Paul or Barnabas had a word of exhortation for the people.
Paul’s sermon can be divided into three basic points:
1) Recounting the history of Israel and the promises of God – Acts 13:16-25
2) Explained how these promises have been fulfilled in Jesus – Acts 13:26-37
3) Call to respond to this message of salvation – Acts 13:38-41
Paul begins by walking through the history of Israel, but he is doing more than giving them a history lesson. H is using the history of Israel as a means of showing them the work of God in human history on behalf of His people…
1) God chose the fathers (meaning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.)
God, in His sovereign grace, had chosen the patriarchs and called them to Himself and made explicit promises to them.
A good summary of these promises is found in Genesis 22:17-18…
Genesis 22:17-18 (ESV) – 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
In this passage, God is promising Abraham that He will give him many descendants and they will be victorious over their enemies. Also, through Abraham’s offspring would come a blessing to all the nations of the earth.
The history of Israel is a description of how God has fulfilled these promises…
2) God made Israel a great nation while they were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
He caused them to multiply greatly and blessed them immensely, even though they were strangers and aliens in the land of Egypt. The Egyptians, however, grew jealous and oppressed the Israelites.
3) God led them out of bondage with an uplifted arm.
This is a reference to the Exodus, when God demonstrated His power and absolute superiority over the false gods of the Egyptians through bring plague after plague upon the Egyptians, even striking down their firstborn and destroying their army at the Red Sea.
God delivered Israel with a mighty display of His power, yet the people rebelled against Him.
4) Paul says that God had to “put up” with them in the wilderness.
They complained about their circumstances. They failed to trust in the God who had delivered them. They fell into immorality and idolatry. Yet God was longsuffering with them. Finally, He disciplined this first generation. They all died in the wilderness, but He fulfilled His promises to the patriarchs by bringing the next generation into the land of promise.
5) God destroyed seven nations and gave the Israelites the land of Canaan as an inheritance.
Scripture tells us that God destroyed the nations in Canaan because of their wickedness (Deut 9:4-5.)
God destroyed the Canaanites and gave their land to the Israelites as an inheritance. This is a display of God’s grace. They did not earn the land… no one earns their inheritance… it was given to them freely by the God in order to fulfill His promises.
6) After God delivered them into the land of promise, He gave them leaders to guide them and deliver them.
God gave them judges and kings, culminating in David, a man after God’s own heart, a man who would do the will of God.
This doesn’t mean that David was perfect, but He was a man who knew God and sought to honor Him.
God made additional promises to David, just as He had the patriarchs before Him. These promises are recorded for us in II Samuel 7…
2 Samuel 7:8-14a (ESV) – 8 Now, therefore, thus you (i.e. the prophet Nathan) shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son…”
Notice the repetition of the word “I” in this passage. Who is doing the work? God is. God made promises that He would act on behalf of David and His people. He promised a place of safety and peace for His people and He promised that David’s descendant would build a house for God’s name.
In part this was fulfilled through Solomon when he built the temple in Jerusalem. But that temple did not endure forever. The implication of this promise is that the kingdom established by this descendant and the house He built for God would remain forever. Therefore, it cannot be ultimately fulfilled in Solomon. This is a reference to Jesus Christ, the descendant of David, who would build an eternal house for God… an eternal temple made up of living stones… of Christians… founded upon the proclamation of the apostles and prophets… with Jesus Christ Himself as the Chief Cornerstone (Eph 2:19-22, I Pet 2:4-5.)
God promised David, just like He had promised the patriarchs, that He would take action on His behalf, and Paul announces to all those present that these promises have been fulfilled in Jesus.
7) “Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as He promised” (Acts 13:23.)
Paul is pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of all these promises and he is not alone in seeing things this way. John the Baptist, whom, for the most part, the Israelites believed was indeed a prophet of God (Lk 20:1-8) agreed with Paul’s assessment. He called the people of Israel to repent and turn to God because the Messiah was coming… a Messiah so great and exalted, that John… even though he was God’s anointed prophet… would not be worthy to even untie his shoe laces.
Notice the emphasis on God in this text. This is critical. God is the subject of at least 11 verbs in this paragraph. God is the One who is doing things. God is the One who making promises and fulfilling promises.
In this brief summary of the history of Israel, Paul has quite systematically described for us the character and work of God:
1) God is sovereign in whom He chooses as His people…
2) God is gracious and merciful in blessing those who have nothing to give Him in return…
3) God is patient in putting up with us in our sin…
4) He is just in wiping out those who reject Him (i.e. the Canaanites, the 1st generation of Israelites in the wilderness and Saul)…
5) He is present and active in leading and guiding His people…
6) God is a God who is powerful in providing salvation for His people…
Paul describes God as a God who makes promises and fulfills them.
Notice that all of these works of God and all these promises converge in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is the good news that God has taken action in human history and all this action finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. All of human history points to Him… either forward to Him in terms of promise… or back to Him in terms of what He has done.
In the first part of his sermon, Paul has pointed out the promises which God made in the past, but now he begins pointing back to the completed work of Jesus Christ.
“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation” (Acts 13:26.)
What is “the message of this salvation”? It is the gospel and Paul says that the gospel is “to us.”
Notice that this message of salvation is not just to Jews. It is to “sons of the family of Abraham” (i.e. ethnic Jews) and to “those among you who fear God” (i.e. Gentile God-fearers.) This message of salvation is for Jew and Gentile alike. God is no Respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35.)
What is this message of salvation? Paul explains it in 4 parts…
1) Jesus died…
The people of Jerusalem and the Jewish religious leaders didn’t recognize their Messiah when He came to them. Despite the fact that they heard the Old Testament read every week in the synagogue, they didn’t recognize God’s chosen Savior when He came. They rejected Him and even though they could find nothing wrong in Him, they hated Him and persuaded Pilate to put to Him death.
Paul is very specific. They hung Him on a tree. This is very significant, because every devout Jew knew what that meant. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says that any man hung on a tree is a criminal who is cursed by God.
Jesus had done no wrong. He had never sinned. He always did what was right in the sight of the Father. Yet in His death… He was cursed by God.
Paul is explicitly clear here that this was not an accident. This was not a failure on Jesus’ part. This was all part of God’s plan. It was all according to God’s definite plan and foreknowledge that Jesus be put to death upon the cross (Acts 2:22-23, 4:27-28.) Paul emphasizes this by stating that the people of Jerusalem and the religious leaders “fulfilled them”… meaning that they fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures.
The death of Jesus was part of God’s plan. It was pre-figured in the Old Testament sacrificial system… for example, in the Passover, where a spotless lamb would die in the place of sinful men and women.
It was explicitly foretold 700 years in advance in passages like Isaiah 53…
Isaiah 53:4-11 (ESV) – 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
They killed Him, then in Paul’s second point…
2) He was buried in a tomb.
Those who deny the resurrection will sometimes claim that Jesus did not die on the cross, but that He merely passed out, was taken down from the cross and healed naturally from His wounds (i.e. the “Swoon Theory.”)
But Paul makes it clear that this was not the case. He didn’t just pass out on the cross. He died and was buried in a tomb, just as had been prophesied by Isaiah (Is 53:9.) He was dead and no one expected Him to come back.
3) But God raised Him from the dead…
In verse 33… Paul says that this is proof that Jesus is the Son of God. He quotes from Psalm 2 and applies this to Jesus, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.”
This is not a reference to the birth of Jesus or the incarnation. This speaks of the unique relationship which Jesus has with the Father. He alone is the only begotten Son of God and the resurrection proves this.
This is elaborated further in verses 35-37 when Paul says that because Jesus is God’s Holy One… the only begotten Son of God… and God would not let Him see corruption. He contrasts Jesus with David. David was anointed by God, but he was not God’s “Holy One.” He died and decomposed in the grave. But not Jesus. He never saw decay, because God raised Him from the dead.
Paul makes it clear that this is not a cleverly devised myth or fairy tale, because…
4) Jesus was seen by His followers after the resurrection…
In I Corinthians 15… Paul gives a long list of those who were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord Jesus…
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV) – 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
There were hundreds of witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. This was a confirmed fact. God raised Jesus from the dead.
This is the gospel. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. This is “the message of this salvation.”
God has fulfilled His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David in Jesus… whom He raised from the dead. As a result of this, verse 34 tells us that God “will give you (plural) the holy and sure blessings of David.”
Paul is quoting from Isaiah 55:3, where God promises to apply the everlasting covenant which He made with David “to you” (plural), meaning to all His people.
What is the eternal covenant or blessings which He promised to David?
We saw this earlier in the promise made to David in II Samuel 7. God will give His people a place of peace and security in His kingdom under the rule of His King… the Messiah.
This promise is said to be “holy”, meaning it is for God’s purposes and for God’s glory. It is also said to be “sure.” It is steadfast… absolutely trustworthy… because God has raised Jesus from the dead. The resurrection is proof that God will indeed fulfill His promises of salvation to His people forevermore.
This is good news… but Paul insists that is not enough to simply know this information. One must respond to this message of salvation.
Acts 13:38-41 (ESV) – 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: 41 “ ‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’ ”
Paul promises two things here to those who respond to this good news…
First… in Jesus there is forgiveness of sins…
Scripture is abundantly clear that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23.) This is true of all human beings. No matter who we are, we are all sinners. None of us love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Matt 22:37.) None of us consistently love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves (Matt 22:39.) We have all slandered others. We have told lies. We have had lustful thoughts. We are all sinners.
God is a holy and just God, therefore He must punish sin. And the consequence for sin is death (Rom 6:23.) This refers not only to physical death, but also to spiritual death, which is being separated from God for all eternity and suffering forever in torment for our sin.
This is what we all deserve. But God has provided a means of forgiveness for us in Jesus Christ.
Jesus died for a purpose. He died for our sins. He bore the punishment we deserve when He was cursed by God on the cross. Through faith in Him, the slate is wiped clean and our sins are pardoned in full. They are gone forever.
But this is just the beginning of the blessings which are ours in Christ Jesus. Through Him we are “freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
I really don’t like this translation and the NASB isn’t any better. But the NKJV translates this verse more literally… “…by Him everyone who believes is justified (δικαιόω, pronounced dikaioo) from all things from which you could not be justified (δικαιόω, pronounced dikaioo) by the law of Moses.” (ἀπὸ πάντων ὧν οὐκ ἠδυνήθητε ἐν νόμῳ Μωϋσέως δικαιωθῆναι, ἐν τούτῳ πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων δικαιοῦται).
In Jesus, God offers us more than just the forgiveness of sins, He offers us justification. To be justified means to be declared righteous by God. You see, to enter into God’s presence, it is not enough that we are forgiven for sin. Being forgiven means we don’t deserve judgment, but it does not mean that we deserve the blessing of entering into God’s presence. The only way to enter into His presence is to be right and just in every way.
This requires perfection. Not just the lack of sin, but the perfect accomplishment of all that is right in God’s sight. No one has this in and of ourselves. Only Jesus is perfectly righteous. Jesus died to save us from our sin, but He also lived a sinless and perfect life so that He could freely give His righteousness to us.
Paul emphasizes here that the Law of Moses can’t save anyone. No one can keep the Law… no one can be “good enough”… the Law was given to show us our need of a Savior (Rom 3:20.)
But God has done what we could never do. That is Paul’s whole point in this entire sermon. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ has done all that is necessary to save us from our sin.
All that is demanded of us is faith. Forgiveness and justification and all the other gifts and blessings that are ours in Christ are received through believing in Jesus (verse 39.)
Believing in Jesus means that, first of all, we must know the gospel message. We must know who Jesus is and what He has done.
But knowing the facts is not enough to save us. We must actively trust in Him. We must accept the fact that we are sinners and that nothing we do can get us to God. We must admit that we are sinners and turn from our sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save us.
Notice that Paul is again very explicit that God is no respecter of persons. “Everyone who believes” in Jesus is forgiven and justified. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, there is forgiveness and justification to be found in Jesus.
No one can be good enough to get to God on their own.
Paul’s hearers couldn’t. They could go to the synagogue on the Sabbath and do their best to keep the Mosaic Law and they would still fall short.
We are no different. No one can forgive themselves. No one can make themselves righteous in the sight of God. We must trust in God who has fulfilled His promise in Jesus Christ to provide a Savior… or we will perish in judgment forever.
This is nothing to take lightly. This is of the utmost importance. In verse 41, Paul warns them not to scoff at this. He warns them not to be amazed and think this is too good to be true. Those who scoff at the gospel will perish. They will face the judgment of God forever and ever for their sin. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ will be saved.
Not everyone took him seriously this day. There were many who scoffed at the message. But some believed and were saved. Their sins were forgiven, they were declared righteous in the sight of God and they received the holy and sure blessings of David.
How about you?
What is your response to the gospel?
Do you scoff at the gospel message?
You should realize that, when you scoff at the gospel, you are really scoffing at God and His Son, Jesus Christ. And there is no salvation for those who scoff at the God of salvation.
Do you know what the gospel is?
The gospel is the objective action of God within human history to bring salvation to sinful men and women through the work of Jesus Christ… who lived that we might be righteous before God… who died to forgive our sins… and who rose again that we might have victory over sin and death.
The gospel is more than a philosophy of religion.
The gospel is more than a way of life.
The gospel is more than the change which God has produced in us.
No… the gospel is the good news that God in Christ Jesus has done something to save us from our sin.
Suggestions for Application:
1) Know the gospel. Recognize that all events in human history either point forward in promise to Jesus or look back to the work which He has done to save sinners.
2) Believe the gospel. The gospel is more than just facts. It is a message which demands a response. Don’t take it lightly. Don’t scoff at it. Repent of your sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you from the judgment to come.
3) Preach the gospel. Follow Paul’s example and proclaim the good news of what Jesus has done wherever God might send you. Announce this good news to the world and may many be saved!