Charles’s quotes

"It is surely ours to combine these elements of mourning for sin and joy in our salvation in one complex and composite experience which keeps us perpetually humble and yet perpetually joyful too."— Rev William Still

Showing posts with label worship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label worship. Show all posts

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Seven Words On Seven Chapters (John 1-7)

We look at the first seven chapters of John's Gospel. Our seven words are (1) Who; (2) What; (3) Wind; (4) Worship; (5) Wholeness; (6) Word; (7) Witness.
(1) Who is Jesus?
  • Chapter 1: (a) the Word (v. 1); (b ) God (v. 1); (c) the life (v. 4); (d) the light of men (v 4 ) and the true light (v. 9); (e) the only begotten Son (v. 18) or the Son of God (vs, 34, 49); (f) the Lamb of God (vs. 29, 36); (g) Master (v. 38); (h) the Messiah or the Christ (v. 41); (i) the King of Israel (v. 49); (j) the Son of Man (v.51).
We focus our attention on another description of Jesus - "this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit" (v.33). This is based on the Spirit's descending, like a dove, to abide on Jesus (vs.32-33).
(2) What kind of Spirit does Jesus baptize us with? What kind of Spirit does He pour out upon us? What kind of Spirit does He give to us to live in us?
  • Chapter 2: The Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7), "the Spirit of Christ" (Romans 8:9). To answer the question, "What kind of Spirit does Jesus baptize us with?", we look at Jesus Himself.
In chapter 2, we see the grace (vs.1-10), glory (v. 11) and holiness (vs. 13-22) of the Lord Jesus.
In these three words - grace, glory and holiness, we have a description of the work of the Spirit in the whole course of the Christian life.
  • The beginning of the Christian life is grace.
  • The destination of the Christian life is glory.
  • The way by which we travel from grace to glory is the way of holiness.
The life in the Spirit is the way which takes us from grace to glory in the highway of holiness.
(3) The wind of the Spirit (3:8)
The Christian life is to be a life of going with the wind of the Spirit, and not against the wind of the Spirit (3:8).
The fourfold direction of the wind of the Spirit (3:16): The wind of the Spirit blows us in the direction of (a) the love of God; (b) the Saviour; (c) faith in Christ; (d) eternal life.
The life which goes with the wind of the Spirit, and not against the wind of the Spirit, is a life which is becoming, increasingly, more Christ-centred and, increasingly, less self-centred.: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (3:30).
This Christ-centred life in the Spirit is a life which is characterized by worship (chapter 4), wholeness (chapter 5), the Word (chapter 6) and witness (chapter 7).
(4) Worship in the Spirit and in truth (4:24)
Worship in the Spirit is not, simply, a warm feeling inside, a pleasant emotion which says, "I enjoyed that." It is not, simply, a vague inward spirituality which is characterized by inner contentment. Worship in the Spirit , true spiritual worship focuses attention not so much on our feelings but on Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us.
What we must remember is this: When we speak about the Spirit, we are speaking about the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit who delights to glorify Jesus Christ and to point us to Him, who is the Saviour of the world.
This is true spiritual worship - worship which leads us to magnify and exalt Jesus Christ, worship that leads us to give glory to the Saviour who love us and gave Himself for us, to give praise to the Christ who was crucified for us, to give honour to the Lord who was raised from the dead for us, to sing "Hallelujah" to the King who is coming again for us.
When the Spirit of God is at work in our worship, He will lead us to say of Jesus Christ, "this is indeed the Saviour of the world" (4:42).
(5) Wholeness in the Spirit
When we are truly worshipping in the Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ will ask us this challenging question, "Do you want to be made whole?" (5:6).
He calls us to leave behind the old life, which is characterized by the weakness of the flesh. He calls us to live the new life, which is characterized by wholeness in the Spirit.
"Do you want to be made whole?"
The first essential for experiencing the mighty power of the Spirit of God is an intense desire for the Spirit of revival and renewal to be at work among us.
"Do you want to be made whole?"
Jesus Christ will pour upon us the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of revival and renewal, as you and I say, "Yes, Lord, I want you to do this for me?"
"Do you want to be made whole?"
(6) The Word of God and he Spirit of God
The call to wholeness comes to us through the Word of God. The Spirit of God speaks to us through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.
The contrast between the Spirit and the flesh (3:6) is re-emphasized in 6:63.
While the Spirit and the flesh are contrasted, the Spirit and the Word are not set against each other. The Spirit and the Word belong together. The Spirit uses the Word to bring us out of the weakness of the flesh and into the wholeness which is ours through faith in Christ.
(7) Witness (7:37-39)
This wholeness, which comes to us through the Spirit and the Word, is not for our own benefit only. The Spirit uses the Word to point us to Christ - the source of our wholeness, so that we, in turn, might point others to the Saviour.
When the Lord Jesus speaks of "rivers of living waters", He does not say that they will flow into the believer's heart. He says that they will flow out of the believer's heart.
The Spirit is given to us on the basis of Jesus' glorification - His death, resurrection and ascension. Because Jesus, the Lamb of God, has died to take away the sin of the world, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we might share this good news with our needy world.
The Spirit empowers us for the work of mission, Christ's mission in the world.
  • Ezekiel 47 - the development of Christ's mission
  •  vs.3-5: ankle-deep - Jerusalem; knee-deep - Judea; up to the loins - Samaria; deep enough to swim in - the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
  • v. 6: "Son of man, have you seen this?"
  • Revelation 22 - the outcome of Christ's mission, the healing of the nations (v. 3); reigning for ever and ever (v. 5).

Fulfil Your Vows

“Fulfil your vows” (Nahum 1:15).
We’re going to think together about our Church membership vows. These vows can be summarized in five words: Faith, Worship, Devotions, Giving, Witness.
The first vow is the foundation upon which the others are built.
The other four vows are the practical implications of the first vow: our confession of faith.
The first vow emphasizes that there is a faith to be believed, a faith to be confessed: “I believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and I confess Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord.”
We are called to have faith. The Bible calls us to have a personal faith. It is not only the faith of the Church. It is to be my faith. It is to be your faith. Each one of us is to say, “I believe.”
What does it mean to have faith? It means believing something. there is something to be believed. Faith also means trust. When you and I say, “I believe in one God,” we are saying, “I am trusting God, putting my trust in Him.”
The question is asked, “Do you believe in God?” The real issue is not so much the existence of God. The real issue is the importance of God. Many people claim to believe in God’s existence, but it’s very clear that this belief makes no real difference to the way they live their lives.
Do you believe in God? How important is He to you? What difference does He make to your life? These are the practical questions of faith.
“I believe in God.” There are many different ideas of God. What are we to believe concerning Him? Who is the God in whom we are called to put our trust? We are to believe what the Bible teaches us about Him. In the Bible, we have God’s self-description. God tells us what he is like. He reveals Himself to us.
How does God reveal Himself to us? What does the Bible teach us concerning Him? God reveals Himself as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The Bible speaks of this way – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). We cannot fully understand this, but we can believe it. The important question is not so much, “Do we understand it?” It’s “Do we believe it?”
Many people believe in a God who cannot be described – an “unknown god.” The Bible speaks to us of a God who has introduced Himself to us, a God who can be known. At the heart of our faith, there is a Man – “the Man, Christ Jesus.” He is “the one Mediator between God and man” (1 Timothy 2:5).
How do we know what God is like? We know Him through Jesus Christ – “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). How do we get to know God? We get to know Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus Christ? He is our Saviour and Lord.
* He is my Saviour because He is my Lord. Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28). That’s why He can be my Saviour.
* He is my Lord because He is my Saviour. Those who have trusted Him as Saviour consider it their privilege to submit to Him as their Lord.
At the heart of the Trinity – God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, there is the Man, Christ Jesus. The Father points to Him (Matthew 3:17). The Holy Spirit leads us to Him (John 16:14).

"Fulfil your vows" (Nahum 1:15).

Do you promise to worship regularly, with your fellow Christians, on the Lord's Day?

Let us worship God. we are called to worship Him. We are to worship Him in "wonder, love and praise." In our worship, we are to exalt the Lord our God. we are to glorify Him. We are to proclaim His greatness in "humble adoration." In simple and sincere faith, we are to say to him, "Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever."

Our worship is concerned with God. The "who" of worship is far more important than the "how" of worship. Who we worship is far more important than how we worship. Before we ask, "What is worship?", before we ask, "How do we worship?", we must ask the first question, "Who do we worship?"

To understand what worship is, we need to be clear about worship is not.

* Worship is not superficial emotionalism. We need sound teaching from the Word of God. We need Christ-centred preaching, which strengthens our faith and inspires our worship.

* Worship is not barren  intellectualism. We need the moving of God's Spirit in our hearts and lives. We need the power of God, moving among us. If our worship is to be whole-hearted, if we are to grow strong in our praying and strong in our caring, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit.

What is worship?

The question, "What is worship?", is directly related to the question, "Who is God?"

We learn, from the Bible, what God is like. As we learn what God is like, we learn also how we are to worship Him.

The Bible teaches us that God is holy. The Bible teaches us that God is love. Our worship should focus our attention on the holiness and love of God. There should be reverence, as we enter the presence of the holy God. There should be joy, as we come to the God of love.

(a) We come to the Lord to express our gratitude to Him.

(b) We come to the Lord in fellowship with His people.

(c) We come to the Lord so that we might be changed by Him.

* Expressing our gratitude to the Lord

In Psalm 107, the importance of thanksgiving is emphasized five times.

- "O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever" (Psalm 107:1).

- "Let them thank the Lord, for He is steadfast love, for His wonderful works to the sons of men" (Psalm 107:8,15,21,31).

We worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving. We worship Him in the fellowship of His people.

Following the last of these calls to give thanks to the Lord, there is, in Psalm 107:32, a call to worship the Lord in the company of His people - "Let them extol Him in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders." 

* What does it mean to worship in the fellowship of His people?

- God speaks of His people as His "remnant", as the "survivors" (Isaiah 37:32). We live in an age of darkness, a generation in which the vast majority of people have little or no time for God. Even in such an unbelieving age as ours, God still has His faithful people. It is the Lord Himself who gathers His people for worship. It is the presence of God Himself which draws His people to worship.  This is more than meeting with one another. We come to meet with the Lord.

- God calls His people to be His witnesses. Before we can be His witnesses, we must be His worshippers. We are to "exalt Him in the assembly of His people" (Psalm 107:32). We are to worship the Lord as those who have been saved by Him. We sing praise to Him who has given His salvation to us (Isaiah 38:20).  Our commitment to worship is to be a life-long commitment. We are to worship "all the days of our life at the house of the Lord" (Isaiah 38:20).

* We worship the Lord so that we might be changed by Him. An excellent description of what it means to worship is found in Revelation 1:10 - "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day."

When John was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day," he became a changed man. How was he changed? He was changed in the presence of the Spirit. He was changed through the hearing of God's Word. "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet." In the presence of the Spirit, John heard the Word of the Lord, and he was changed. We, too, can be changed by the Spirit and the Word. Through the Spirit, the "parched ground" of our lives can become the "flowing springs" of His blessing (Psalm 107:35). As God's Word is sown into the hearts of men and women, it yields a fruitful harvest (Psalm 107:37) - "By His blessing they multiply greatly" (Psalm 107:38). This is God's purpose for us. It's His purpose of blessing.

Together, with His purpose of blessing, there is a warning. It is a warning addressed to those who do not take seriously the call to worship God. It is addressed to those who are content with formal religion, those who have no real desire to be "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day." Where the Lord is not honoured, "rivers" will be turned into "a desert," "springs of water" will be turned into "thirsty ground," "a fruitful land" will be turned into "a salty waste" (Psalm 107:33-34). Why does this happen? It is a judgment of God upon the wickedness of men (Psalm 107:34). How does it happen? - "They are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow" (Psalm 107:39).

* Whatever your response to the Word of the Lord, you will be changed. Either you will draw closer to Him, or you will draw back from Him. Which will it be? Drawing closer to Him or drawing back from Him?

Psalm 107 ends with some words of challenge: "Whoever is wise, let him give heed to these things, let men consider the steadfast love of the Lord." In view of the Lord's great love, will you not confess your need of Him? - Lord, my life is "a desert," "a parched land" (Psalm 107:35). Will you not invite Him to meet your need? - Lord, turn the "desert into springs of water, the parched land into springs of water" (Psalm 107:35).

Fulfil your vows” (Nahum 1:15).
“Do you promise to be faithful in reading the Bible and in prayer?”
Religion can make you immune to reality. You can get so used to a form of religion, which is comfortable, that you fail to hear the voice of the Lord. His voice is the only voice which can awaken you and bring you out of the slumber of shallow superficiality.
Are you prepared to take Jesus Christ seriously? Are you prepared to break out from the comfortable atmosphere of shallow, superficial religion? Are you ready to be gripped by the Spirit of God? Will you read the Word of God with a real desire to be changed by the Lord? Will you seek God in prayer with an earnest desire to become more like Jesus day-by-day?
These are searching questions. They take us beyond the superficial questions – “Do you go to church?”, “Do you like the minister’s preaching?” These questions are inviting you to think about your relationship with God. Are you content to remain a spiritual ‘baby’, to be spoon fed by the minister?
God wants us to go on with Him. He wants us to grow in faith. He wants us to grow in our love for Him. This is why Bible reading and prayer are so important. This is not just about religious habits. It’s about getting to know God. It’s about being changed by God.
We talk about the church changing the world. If this is to happen, the Church needs to be changed. We need to be changed. You need to be changed. I need to be changed.
This is where the personal discipline of Bible reading and prayer becomes very important. You and I cannot really be changed if we do not take time to listen to God and speak to Him.
“God often visits us – but most of the time we are not at home” (French proverb). We hear the prompting of the Spirit – take some time to read God’s Word, take some time to pray. “Do not quench the Spirit.” “Do not grieve the Spirit.”
We are to grow into maturity. This involves the opening of our eyes to see Jesus, the opening of our ears to hear Him, and the opening of our lives to serve Him. This growth begins with conversion – the new birth, but it must not end there. We must go on to maturity. If there are no signs of spiritual growth, then your profession of faith must be called in question. This deep questioning does not come from the minister or the church. It comes from the Spirit of God and the Word of God.
The Word of God calls us to grow in Christ. The Spirit of God longs to re-create in us the character of our Lord.
Are you at home when God visits? Do you take time to read His Word? Do you take time to pray?
There will be no spiritual growth if you fail to find time for God, for His Word, for prayer.
Let’s think about our spiritual journey. Have you and I pulled back from following the Lord? or Have we gone on with Him? We must not think only of the public hearing of God’s Word and public prayer. We must also think about personal Bible reading and prayer.
The personal and the public – we need both. Let’s think about prayer – public prayer and private prayer.
When we speak about prayer, we must emphasize public prayer as well as private prayer. What is prayer? Is it always and only a private matter between myself and my God? No! There is also the call to God’s people to gather together for united prayer.
In most churches, few people pay much attention to the call to gather together for prayer . Often, the attendances are shameful. We look around, and wonder, “Where is he? Where is she?”
What are we to say about public prayer? It’s a duty. It’s a privilege. It’s a blessing.
Small groups lend themselves to greater sharing in prayer. We are not, however, to be content with small numbers. We must pray earnestly that more people will commit themselves to gathering together for prayer.
There are differences between personal prayer and public prayer.
In personal prayer, there can be a real outpouring of the soul. In public prayer, it is more than the individual pouring out his or her soul before the Lord. We are leading others in prayer. This doesn’t mean that there is just one person praying, and the others are just listening. The others are silently praying along with the leader. They are giving their silent “Amen” to the prayer that is being prayed aloud.
In public prayer, we cannot just ‘let go’ and say everything that comes into our minds. Wisdom requires us to leave some things unsaid when we are praying in a meeting. Other people are listening to what we say.
In public prayer, we must not fall into the trap of using our prayers as a way of getting at other people, ‘preaching’ a message that we want them to hear. When prayers start to sound more like sermons, we should pray for a rediscovery of the real purpose of prayer – speaking to God.
Alongside public prayer, there is to be personal prayer, spending time alone with God.  He is our Father. We are His children. A good father will want to spend time with his children – sometimes, with all of them together; sometimes, with each one on their own. God is like that. There are times when He wants us to gather together in prayer. There are times when He wants each one of us to be alone with Him.
Whenever we think about prayer – public and private, we should also think about hearing God’s Word and reading God’s Word. Our prayer life will grow strong when we give careful attention to hearing and reading what the Lord has to say to us from His Word.
When we pay close attention to both the Word of God and prayer, we are emphasizing that our conversation with God is a two-way conversation. God speaks to us. We speak to Him.
Let’s think about this two-way conversation – reading the Bible and praying.
* Where do I start in reading the Bible?
Some start at the beginning, and get bogged down in the second half of Exodus, or in Leviticus. It would make better sense to begin with the gospels. they tell us about Jesus. You could, then, go on to Acts. It tells us the story of the Gospel being preached by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
* Which Bible should I read? Some people stop reading the Bible because they find the king James Version difficult. They have never taken the trouble to look for an appropriate modern version. If you want to be able to say, with the Psalmist, “Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97), find a version of the Bible you are likely to understand and enjoy reading.
 * How much should I read?
Some people read too much too quickly, and they end up with spiritual indigestion. There are various Bible reading plans which will help you to start reading the Bible and keep on reading it. Following a plan will help you to be faithful in reading God’s Word.
 * How can I understand what I read?
Are you serious about reading God’s Word? You should be. I hope that you are. If you are serious about learning from God’s Word, day-by-day, you may find Bible reading notes helpful. Look for notes that will help you to walk more closely with the Lord.
 * As well as reading the Bible, we should pray.
If, like the Psalmist, you are to grow in wisdom as you are to grow in wisdom (Psalm 119:98), if you are to grow in true, spiritual understanding (Psalm 119:99-100,1o4), if you are to take delight in God’s Word (Psalm 119:102), to live in obedience to His Word (Psalm 119:101), you need to pray. You need to ask the Lord Himself to be Your Teacher (Psalm 119:102).
 * When you pray, remember that you are speaking to God. Remember that He is your loving, heavenly Father.  Remember that He loves you. Remember that He wants the best for you. Remember that He wants to help you to grow in faith. Remember that He wants to help you to grow  more like Jesus.
 * When I pray to God, what am I to say to Him?
 - You can praise Him for who He is.
Let the lessons you have learned from God’s Word feed into your prayer. God’s Word will lead you into praising the Lord. In your prayer, lift up your heart to the Lord. Praise Him.
 - You can thank Him for what He has done for you, what He is doing for you, and what He will do for you.
 - You can confess your sins and receive God’s forgiveness.
 - You can pray for others – for your family, for your friends and neighbours, for the church, for ministers, for missionaries.
 - You can pray for yourself. Don’t be so preoccupied with your own problems that you forget to pray for others.
“Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.”
Take time for God. Take time to be with Him.
There are so many other things we can do with our time. Don’t let time slip away. “Take time to be holy.”
"Fulfil your vows" (Nahum 1:15).
"Do you promise to give a fitting proportion of your time, talents and monry for the Church's work in the world."
The Gospel calls for a change in our way of living. Before we speak about giving, we must speak about living. What are your priorities in life? How are you responding to the Good News of Jesus Christ?
How do you use your time? What takes up most of your time? Do you find time for God? or Does everything revolve around yourself? Do we think so much about ourselves that we never really pay much attention to our Lord Jesus Christ?
What about the gifts God has given you? Everyone of us has gifts. They have been given to us by God. Are we using these gifts for God? How much we use our time and talents for God shows how much or how little we care about Him.
When we think about giving, we’re also thinking about caring. Do we care enough to give well? Do we care enough to give quality time to God? Do we care enough to give quality time to the service of Jesus Christ? Do we lay our talents before the Lord and invite Him to use us in His service? Do we care enough to give ourselves to the Lord? or Do we say, “I can’t do that”, and really mean, “I won’t do that”? The level of our giving of time, talents and money shows how much or how little we care about God.
God has a mission. It’s an “all the time” mission. Do we want to get involved in His mission? or Does His work suffer because of our indifference?
A self-giving response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls for a change in our way of living. We get so used to things we don’t really need, and the work of the Lord suffers. We get so used to the way things are that we lose sight of the way things could be if we allowed the Lord to take control of our lives. When you and I think about our lives, there are two questions we need to ask ourselves: “How do I live?” and “How should I live?” These are two very different questions. The first asks, “How am I living right now?” The second invites us to make a response. It calls for change. It calls us to be changed by the Lord. It calls us, to say from the heart, “I want to walk with Jesus Christ, all the days I live of this life on earth, to give to Him complete control of body and of soul.”
Christian living – This comes before Christian giving. Some people say, “Money doesn’t matter to God. He’s interested in the heart.” Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
In our giving, we give thanks to God, and we provide for His work to be done. When we do not honour God in this way, our worship lacks depth and reality, and the work of God suffers. The giving of money for the Lord’s work emerges out of the giving of ourselves to the Lord.
- We are to give quietly – not as spiritual show-offs.
- We are to give consistently – as part of the giving of ourselves to the Lord in His service.
- We are to give whole-heartedly – as an act of worship.
- We are to give sacrificially. We need to exercise greater discipline in our use of money. We need to manage our money wisely and well. Where there has been a misuse of money, we need to seek and receive God’s forgiveness, and we need to receive His wisdom and strength to redirect our lives towards the greatest priority of all: the priority of God’s Kingdom.
What is your attitude towards this highest priority, the priority of God’s Kingdom?
There are some who have become very materialistic in their way of thinking. When they hear the call to increase the level of their giving to the Lord, they dismiss this out-of-hand. They don’t want to be bothered. Their reaction shows the things they really care about – the things of this world.
Our giving is to be an act of worship, offered to God. We come to the Lord with joyful praise – and we bring our offerings to Him. In our giving, we express our attitude towards the Lord, our desire to honour Him in every part of our life.
We seek to give glory to Him. We’re not to be like the Pharisees – honouring Him with our lips while remaining far from Him in our hearts.
God wants to bless us, but His blessing will be hindered if, in our hearts, we have no real desire to honour Him.
Do you want to know more of His blessing on your life? – Honour Him as the Lord of your life.
Give yourself more fully to the Lord, and you will have the joy of discovering that the Lord has more satisfying and more significant work for you to do for Him.
If you draw back from committing yourself, more truly and more fully, to the Lord, He will withdraw His blessing from your life. If, in your heart, there is a resistance to the Word of the Lord, God has something to say to you. It is something very serious. he says this: “Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).
If,in your heart, you find a greater openness to receive the Word of the Lord, then I ask you to pray with me, “Lord, help me to open my heart more widely. Help me to receive Your blessing more fully.”

"Fulfil your vows" (Nahum 1:15).
"Do you promise, depending on the grace of God, to confess Christ before men and women, to serve Him in your daily work, and to walk in His ways all the days of your life?"
* First, we note the words, "depending on the grace of God." Without the grace of God, we cannot even begin to confess Christ before men and women, to serve Him in our daily work, and to walk in His ways."
This is a rebuke to the attitude which says, "I do my best", while never recognizing the fact that our best is never good enough. When we say, "I do my best," God calls us to bow before Him, and receive His Best - Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
It's also a word of encouragement. When we become painfully aware That our best can never be good enough, God comes to us with His Word of encouragement - "I am with you. I am your Helper. I will not fail you. I will give you the strength that you need to live for Me."
* The Christian life can be described in different ways.
(a) Confession - confessing Christ before men and women;
(b) service - serving Christ in our daily work;
(c) Walking - walking in His ways.
When we speak about Christian living, we must emphasize this - "depending on the grace of God."
* How can we sustain this kind of life? We can't. Only Christ can.
This is why we must place great emphasis on Paul's description of the Christian life: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
- This is what it means to be a Christian - Christ lives in us.
- This is what we mean when we use the phrase, "depending on the grace of God."
Jesus says to us, "The Holy Spirit is the Helper who dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:15-16).
* (a) The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Christ before men and women.
- "The Holy Spirit ... will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26).
- "The Spirit of truth ... will bear witness to Me; and you also are witnesses" (John 15:26-27).
We are Christ's witnesses, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
"The Gospel must first be preached to all nations ... Do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit" (Mark 13:11).
You may say, "I am not a preacher. I am not a teacher." There is something else that needs to be said, "If you are faithful in your personal witness for Christ, confessing Him to others, your witnesses part of the preaching of the Gospel and the teaching of God's Word." This witnessing for Christ is grounded in a relationship with God, in a life of discipleship.
* (b) The nature of our relationship with God becomes clear as we consider what Jesus teaches us concerning serving Him.
"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all hat I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 14:15).
We are more than servants in our Master's house. We are sons and daughters of our loving, heavenly Father.
Before you can serve the Lord, you must become His child. The service that we offer to the Lord is not the service of hired hands. It is the service of His children.
The life of service does not begin with the words, "I will give my service to the Lord."
It begins with the words, "I will receive salvation from the Lord. I will receive Jesus as my Saviour."
Before you can give to the Lord, you must receive from Him.
The life of service is a response to God's love. It begins when we receive God's love, when we realize that He loves us. Our love for Him arises out of His love for us. Through faith in Christ, we are born into the family of God's love. Our obedience is an expression of love (John 14:21). It is Gospel obedience. We must not try to obey God in the hope that we might receive forgiveness because of our great obedience. That's legalistic obedience. It has nothing at all to do with the Gospel. Gospel obedience is very different. The Gospel is not about our great obedience, and what it can do for us. The Gospel is about God's great love. It's about what He has done for us - not what we can do for Him. We experience the love of God. We receive the forgiveness of God. Out of gratitude to God, with love for God, we give ourselves in service to Him.
* (c) We are to walk with the Lord, all the days of our life.
Everything that we may do for Christ, as His witnesses, arises out of our following Him, as His disciples. "Follow Me" - This was the first thing Jesus said to His disciples. We are to walk with the Lord. Before we can run, we must learn to walk. If a child never moves beyond walking to running, there's something wrong.
"Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
Is this a word for enthusiastic young people? Are we 'too long in the tooth' for this kind of enthusiasm? No! This is a word for all who will "wait upon the Lord" and "renew their strength. We are told, in Isaiah 40:30, that "even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted." This is followed, in Isaiah 40:31, with these great words, "Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength."
How can we keep on walking with the Lord all the days of our life? How can we "run and not be weary"? How can we "walk and not faint"? The answer is the Lord (Isaiah 40:28-29).
If we are to confess Christ, serve Him and walk with Him, we must come to Him, at His Cross, and receive His forgiveness for our many failures. We must come and receive His power, the power of His resurrection, the power of the Holy Spirit, the power that changes us, the power that renews our life.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Worshipping the Lord: Learning From The Psalms

In Psalm 4, there is a great message of the Gospel. By ourselves, we are sinners, turning God’s glory to shame, loving delusions and seeking false gods (Psalm 4:2). By grace, God has done something about this - ‘the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself’ (Psalm 4:3). When we pray, ‘Answer me’ (Psalm 4:1), we have this confidence: ‘the Lord will hear when I call to Him’ (Psalm 4:3). The Lord hears the sinner’s prayer, ‘Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer’ (Psalm 4:1). Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to this prayer. Christ brings relief (salvation). This salvation arises from the mercy of God. In Christ, we have a ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ which the world can neither give nor take away (Psalm 4:7-8). When the seeking sinner comes with question, ‘Who can show us any good?’ (Psalm 4:6), the Gospel Answer is always the same - Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Psalm 5 is a morning prayer: ‘morning by morning’, we are to come before the Lord ‘in expectation’ of His blessing (Psalm 5:3). The Psalmist prays with great earnestness. His prayer is a ‘sighing’ before God, a ‘cry for help’(Psalm 5:1-2). He acknowledges the holiness of God: ‘You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil, with you the wicked cannot dwell’(Psalm 5:4). The words of Psalm 5:9 apply to every one of us. Paul quotes this verse in support of the conclusion that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’(Romans 3:13, 23). There is, however, a way of coming to God. It is ‘by His mercy’(Psalm 5:7). Each of us has been declared guilty by God (Psalm 5:10; Romans 3:19-20). For the fallen, God has provided a way of forgiveness. For the guilty, He has provided a way to gladness (Psalm 5:11; Luke 2:10-11). ‘Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’(Church Hymnary, 380).

‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’(Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’(Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’(1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad’(Psalm 16:5,9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.

The first three verses of Psalm 18 set the tone: Worship. What a great start to this Psalm. Our attention is directed away from ourselves to the Lord: ‘my rock, my fortress and my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold’(Psalm 18:1-2). The great testimony of verse 3 - ‘I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies’- did not come easily (Psalm 18:4-5). The enemies of the Lord will be brought to judgment (Psalm 18:13-14). ‘The cord of death encompassed me...He delivered me from my strong enemy...’(Psalm 18:4-5,17-19) - Rejoice in the risen Christ through whom we have the ‘victory’ over ‘the last enemy...death’(1 Corinthians 15:20,26,54). God is leading us into ‘a broad place’(Psalm 18:19). Step into the future with Him. Don’t hold back! ‘Let go and let God have His wonderful way’.

‘This God’ is ‘our God’. He is ‘the Rock’. He is ‘my Rock’. No one can compare with the Lord our God. He is the living God, the God of our salvation (Psalm 18:30-31,46). In the Lord, we have salvation: ‘You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty’. In our God, we have victory: ‘You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet’(Psalm 18:27,39). Do you want to enjoy God’s blessing - His salvation and His victory? God says, ‘Clothe yourselves with humility’. Together with His command, we have God’s warning- ‘God opposes the proud’- and God’s promise- He ‘gives grace to the humble’(1 Peter 5:5). There is a question which each of us must answer: ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? There is an answer which of us must give: ‘We are on the Lord’s side’(Church Hymnary, 479).

Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (Psalm 22:7-8,18; Matthew 27:39,43,35). We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’(Psalm 22:1,16). Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’(Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’(Isaiah 53:6). When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46). Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering - ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’(John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’(Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’(Psalm 22:22,27,30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’(Hebrews 13:8; Hebrews 2:12; Revelation 5:9). Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’(Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25).
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’(Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord,...the God of our salvation’(Psalm 24:5). There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’- no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’(Psalm 24:7,9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’(Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).
God’s love for us inspires our loyalty to Him: ‘Your love is ever before me, and I will walk continually in Your truth’(Psalm 26:3). Loyalty to the Lord involves worshipping Him and walking with Him (Psalm 26:11-12). Walking with God is not easy. There are ‘enemies round about’ us (Psalm 26:4-5, 9-10; Psalm 27:2-3,6,11-12). What are we to do? We are to worship God: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’(Psalm 27:4). What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing - ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’(Psalm 27:14). Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear… I will be confident’(Psalm 27:1,3).

‘I will exalt You, O Lord’(Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’(Mission Praise,217). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him - ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’(Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy - ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’(Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer - ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’(Psalm 30:11). God calls us to worship Him - ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’(Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’(Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’(Psalm 30:12).

Looking to the Lord, we are ‘radiant’ He has ‘delivered’ us. He has ‘saved’ us (Psalm 34:4-6). Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times’(Psalm 34:1). We call upon others to worship the Lord with us - ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!’(Psalm 34:3). We invite them to trust in the Lord and come to know the joy of His salvation - ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!’(Psalm 34:8). We encourage them to keep on hearing the Word of the Lord so that they may learn to walk with God - ‘Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord’(Psalm 34:11). We seek to lead people on to spiritual maturity. We say to them, ‘Depart from evil, and do good’, praying that they will become ‘mature’, ‘trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’(Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 5:14).

Those who ‘trust in the Lord...will dwell in the land’. Those who turn from Him will ‘perish’(Psalm 37:3,20). Through faith in Christ, we look ahead to ‘a heavenly country’, ‘better’ than anything we will know on earth (Hebrews 11:16; Philippians 3:20). We have caught sight of ‘a happy land, far, far away, where saints in glory stand, bright, bright as day’. We have heard the sound of their song - ‘O how they sweetly sing, “Worthy is our Saviour King!”’ We lift our voices to the Lord - ‘Loud let His praises ring, praise, praise for aye’. Still, some are perishing. They have not come to Christ for salvation. To them, we say, ‘Come to this happy land, come, come away; Why will ye doubting stand? Why, still delay?’(Revised Church Hymnary, 587). Trust in the Lord now and look forward to being with Him in heaven.

Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalm 42:5,11; Psalm 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’(1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me...’(Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’(Psalm 42:7) - Let ‘the Spirit’ show you ‘the deep things of God’(1 Corinthians 2:10).

'Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy'(Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’(Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’(Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’(Psalm 10; Psalm 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).

‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised’(Psalm 48:1). We worship God in the place of worship - ‘Within Your Temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love’. Our worship must not end there. We are to play our part in seeing that the praise of the Lord ‘reaches to the ends of the earth’. We are to ‘be glad’ in the Lord. We are to ‘rejoice’ in Him (Psalm 48:9-11). We must not keep this joy to ourselves. The Lord is ‘the joy of all the earth’. We must share His joy. We are to ‘tell the next generation’. How will they know if we do not tell them? Many are slow to come and worship the Lord. We must not be slow to witness for Him. Let’s remember God’s promise - ‘My Word...will not return to Me empty, but will...achieve the purpose for which I sent it’- and let’s say - ‘Here am I. Send me!’(Isaiah 55:11; 6:8).

‘Create in me a clean heart, O God... Cast me not away from Thy presence... Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation’(Psalm 51:10-12). These words come to us from the ancient past. They were first spoken many centuries ago. They can be the words which change your future. You can make them your words. David made a new beginning with God. You can make a new beginning with God. You have sinned. You need to be forgiven. Come to Christ. He says, ‘I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me’(John 6:37). You need to be ‘born again’. Receive Christ as your Saviour and be ‘born again’- ‘born of God’(John 3:3,7; 1:12). You feel so weak, unable to be the person God wants you to be. Let ‘the joy of the Lord be your strength’(Nehemiah 8:10). Let His love reach you. Let His power make you a new person.

The Lord is ‘my Rock and my Salvation’(Psalm 62:2,6). As you read the Psalmist’s words, let your thoughts turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our ‘Rock’- the ‘Rock’ of our salvation. Through ‘the blood of Christ’, we receive the greatest ‘blessing’ of all - salvation (1 Corinthians 10:1-4,16). No other blessing can ever compare with the joy of knowing Christ as Saviour: ‘Your steadfast love is better than life’. Through our great Saviour - the Lord Jesus Christ - , we are learning to ‘praise’ God. We are learning to say, with the Psalmist, ‘I will praise You as long as I live’(Psalm 63:3-4). What a great Saviour we have. He is greater than all our songs of praise. He is ‘too marvellous for words’- ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’(Mission Praise, 788; 2 Corinthians 9:15).

‘Come and see what God has done’(Psalm 66:5). God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us. ‘Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me’(Psalm 66:16). God invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives. We read God’s Word. We hear His Word. This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us. He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’. He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’(Psalm 67:1,6-7). He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’. He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’ to ‘worship Him’(Psalm 67:4,7).

God is ‘our salvation’. He is the ‘God of salvation’(Psalm 19-20). God’s salvation covers our past, present and future. (a) You have been saved. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have received the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 5:1). (b) You are being saved. God is at work in our lives, making us the kind of people He wants us to be (Romans 5:3-5). (c) You will be saved. We look forward to ‘sharing the glory of God’, being with the Lord forever (Romans 5:2,9-10). From beginning to end, salvation is the work of God – He has forgiven our sins. He is making us like Christ. He will lead us on to heaven. Our God is great. His salvation is great. Let us ‘be joyful’. Let us worship the Lord ‘with joy’(Psalm 68:3). Let us give all the glory to God - ‘Blessed be God!’(Psalm 68:35).

David is going through ‘the deep waters’ of suffering. He prays to the Lord for deliverance from ‘the flood’ and ‘the deep’(Psalm 69:14-15). He had sinned against the Lord. He does not try to hide this. He confesses his sin and guilt - ‘the wrongs that I have done are not hidden from You, my guilt is not hidden from You’(Psalm 69:5). He looks to the Lord, remembering that He is the God of ‘steadfast love’ and ‘abundant mercy’(Psalm 69:16). When you come to God in prayer, do not try to hide your sins from Him. Remember - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’. In Christ, there is ‘mercy’- God doesn’t send the judgment we deserve - and ‘grace’- God sends the blessing we don’t deserve. Come to Christ and receive His ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’(1 Timothy 1:13-16; Hebrews 4:14-16).

Read the words - ‘His Name’ shall ‘endure for ever’(Psalm 72:17) - and think of Christ. His Name is ‘the Name above all other names’. He is ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’(Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16). Read the words - ‘all nations call Him blessed’(Psalm 72:17) - , and think of Christ. ‘From every tribe and language and people and nation’, God’s people have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9). Read the words -‘May His glory fill the whole earth!’(Psalm 72:19) - and think of Christ. In the ‘new heaven and new earth’, ‘the holy city’ will shine with ‘the glory of God’. ‘Its radiance’, ‘like a very precious jewel’, will be shining from this ‘lamp’: Jesus Christ, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’(Revelation 21:1-2,10-11,23; John 1:29).

‘How I love Your Temple, Almighty Lord! How I want to be there! I long to be in the Lord’s Temple. With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God’(Psalm 84:1-2). This is much more than paying lip-service to the Lord. This is real. Worshipping the Lord meant everything to the Psalmist: ‘I long for You, O God. I thirst for You, the living God; when can I go and worship in Your presence’(Psalm 42:1-2). He found great joy in worshipping the Lord: ‘Let Your light and Your truth guide me... to the place where You dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight...’(Psalm 43:4). He worshipped God with his whole heart: ‘O God, You are my God, and I long for You. My whole being desires You... my soul is thirsty for You’(Psalm 63:1). This is real worship, joyful worship, heartfetlt worship. May God help us to worship Him like that!

‘You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you... Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth... I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart... For great is Your love towards me’(Psalm 86:5,11-13). God loves us. He forgives our sins. We receive His love. We want to love Him more. His love inspires our praise - ‘I will praise You...’. His love inspires our prayer - ‘Teach me Your way...’. Our whole life is to be a celebration of His love - ‘Great is Your love towards me’. We are to celebrate His love with ‘joy’(Psalm 86:4). We rejoice in the Lord because of who He is- ‘You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’- and what He has done for us - ‘You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me’(Psalm 86:15,17).

‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness through all generations’(Psalm 89:1). Many years have passed since these words were written by the Psalmist. Many generations have come and gone since Jesus Christ came to our world. The years come and go. The centuries run their course. One generation gives way to another generation. Time moves on relentlessly. None of us can halt the march of time. Many changes have taken place over the course of time. There is something which must never change. The Lord is to be praised ‘for ever’. He is to be praised ‘through all generations’. We must look back and remember. Jesus Christ was crucified for us. Jesus Christ has risen for us. This is the Good News which inspires our praise: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever...’.

‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations... From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’(Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God...’. Before the world began, there was God - ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises - ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’(Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).

‘Surely He will save you from the traps of the hunter’(Psalm 91:3). God has given us His warning. We must ‘be alert’- ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. He also gives us His promise - ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’. How are we to resist the devil? - We are to ‘resist him, standing firm in the faith’(1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7). We must not try to resist the devil in our own strength. We will be defeated. He is much more powerful than we are. We must resist him in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have the victory - ‘Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’(1 Corinthians 15:57). Satan is out to get us. He’s trying to trap us. Let’s never forget this: Jesus is able to ‘deliver us from the evil one’(Matthew 6:13).

‘You, O Lord, are exalted for ever... The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty...’(Psalm 92:8; Psalm 93:1-2). The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’. ‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’- This is the truth concerning the Lord. ‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth. We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’. This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’. ‘From all eternity’ the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’ the Lord - ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’(Psalm 97:9; Psalm 29:10; Mission Praise, 158,217,388,507).

‘The Lord reigns’(Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’. He is not only ‘the King all-glorious above’. He is ‘the King of love’. He is ‘our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend!’. He is not only ‘the King of heaven’. He is ‘the God of grace’. He is ‘the King of mercy’(Church Hymnary, 35,36,388,360,86). His reign is not to be restricted to some faraway heaven. It is not to be a reign that is far removed from the practicalities of our everyday life. He is to reign in our hearts. He is to reign in every part of our life. Let His reign of love begin. Let His grace and mercy control all that you do. We must pray, ‘Reign in me, Sovereign Lord, reign in me’. When we say, ‘Let Your Kingdom come’ and ‘let Your will be done’, we must pray, ‘Captivate my heart. Establish there Your throne’(Mission Praise, 570).

‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’(Psalm 99:5,9; Psalm 98:4,6; Psalm 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’(Psalm 99:5,9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’(Psalm 100:5; Psalm 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’. Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’(Church Hymnary, 356).

‘Praise the Lord’(Psalm 103:1-2,20-22). Let’s praise Him for His ‘steadfast love’. He is ‘abounding in steadfast love’(Psalm 103:8). How are we to respond to His ‘steadfast love’? Are we to say, ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’? No! We must not think like this. We’re not to say, ‘I’ll keep on sinning. God will keep on forgiving’(Romans 6:1-2). God’s Word tells us something very different. Loved by God, we learn to love Him. When God’s ‘steadfast love’ has really touched our hearts, it changes our lives. This is the great change which the Psalmist has in mind when he writes, ‘As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him... The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him’(Psalm 103:11,17). Let’s thank God for His love - and live to please Him!

‘Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonderful works that He has done...’(Psalm 105:4-5). The Lord gives strength to those who put their trust in Him. Trusting in Christ, we have this great testimony: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’(Philippians 4:13). How do we receive the Lord’s strength? We must ‘seek His face always. We must not think we can face difficult circumstances in our strength. Without the strength of the Lord, we will be defeated. He has helped us in the past. Never forget this. Give thanks to Him for every victory won. As you face temptation, remember the Lord’s promise of victory: ‘God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. With the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape...’(1 Corinthians 10:13).
‘He brought His people out with joy’(Psalm 105:43). When things are going badly and we feel like giving up, we must remember the Word of the Lord: ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’(Nehemiah 8:10). We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’. The Lord does not leave us on our own when our time of testing comes. He is there for us in our time of need: ‘My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus’(Philippians 4:4,19). When we are deeply conscious of our own weakness, the Lord comes to us with His Word of strength: ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness’(2 Corinthians 12:9). Through the Word of God, we receive strength. His Word brings joy to us. Let us sing ‘glad songs of victory’: ‘The Lord is my Strength, my Song, my Saviour’(Psalm 105:118:14-15).

In Psalm 106, we read here about sin and salvation. There is a very realistic description of Israel’s sin - ‘They soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel... They despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His promise... They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord... They rebelled against the Spirit of God’(Psalm 106:13,24-25,33). This is not only ancient history. It’s the story of our life! We read this, and we must join in Israel’s confession of sin: ‘We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly’(Psalm 106:6). The history of Israel is not only a history of sin. It is also a history of salvation: ‘He saved them...’(Psalm 106:8,10). As we read of God’s salvation, we must echo the prayer of God’s people - ‘Save us, O Lord our God...’- and join with them in praising God - ‘Praise be to the Lord...’(Psalm 106:47-48).

‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’(Psalm 113:4-5; Psalm 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).

‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’(Psalm 116:1-2). Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life. What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’(Psalm 117:2). When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us. When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us. He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak. In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength. Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’(Church Hymnary, 450).

Throughout life, we have to make choices. Some choices are relatively straightforward. Others are very much more difficult. Some choices don’t affect the rest of our life very much. There are, however, choices which affect the whole of our life. There is one choice which is more important than any other - Choosing the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. Those who refuse to choose are ‘double-minded’(Psalm 119:113). They can’t make up their mind. They know that they should be following Christ - but they are still ‘in love with the world’. They are ‘lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (I John 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:4). Make your choice. Say to the world, ‘Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God’. Say to God, ‘I have decided to obey Your laws until the day I die’ (Psalm 119:115,112).

‘Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips’ (Psalm 120:2). God calls us to ‘believe the truth’, ‘love the truth’ and ‘follow the truth’. We are to be people who ‘do what is true’ (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11; 3 John 3-4; John 3:21). How can we be such people? We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is ‘the Truth’ (Hebrews 12:2; John 14:6). When we are tempted to turn away from the pathway of truth, we must remember this: ‘My help comes from the Lord’. We must remember God’s promise: ‘The Lord is your Keeper...The Lord will keep you from all evil’. God’s promise is not only for ‘this time’. It’s ‘for evermore’(Psalm 121:2,5,7-8). This gives us glorious hope as we keep on looking to Christ,‘eagerly awaiting’ His Return ( Hebrews 9:28).

‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2). Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4). We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’ (Psalm 123:3). We  seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8). As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’ - In Him we have the victory  (Psalm 123:2; Psalm 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).

‘Those who trust in the Lord... cannot be moved...’. When  we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like ‘the foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’ (Psalm 125:1; Psalm 127:1; Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’ (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10,411). ‘Christ died for our sins... He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’ (Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’ (Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’ (Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’ (Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’ - ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’ - ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’. ‘Praise the Lord!... Give Him the glory!’ (Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

Through Christ our Saviour, we are led ‘in the way everlasting’: ‘God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son’ (Psalm 139:24; 1 John 5:11). God’s great purpose of eternal salvation seems ‘too wonderful’ - ‘too good to be true’! ‘It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me, and yet I know that it is true...’ (Psalm 139:6; Church Hymnary, 385). God has a glorious future planned for us. We can hardly even begin to take it in: ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain’. We know that ‘no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ yet we rejoice in this: ‘God has revealed it to us by His Spirit’ (Psalm 139:6; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). ‘Lead me in the way everlasting!’(Psalm 139:24).

The Psalmist continues to emphasize the importance of ‘prayer’ in our battle against ‘evildoers’: ‘My prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers’ (Psalm 141:5). We pray that their ‘wicked deeds’ will not succeed. We pray that they will see ‘the error of their way’, returning to the Lord and being ‘led in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake’ (Psalm 141:5; Psalm 23:3; James 5:19-20). We may feel that our ‘persecutors’ are ‘too strong’ for us. We must never think that ‘no one cares’. We must bring our fear to God, praying, ‘Set me free from my prison, that I may praise Your Name’. Faced with powerful enemies, we must remember this: The Lord is our ‘portion in the land of the living’. In the face of fierce opposition, we must learn to say, ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 142:4-7; Psalm 23:6).

The Psalmist prays, ‘Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord’ (Psalm 143:9). He is not concerned only about his own welfare. He is concerned about the glory of God: ‘For Your Name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life’ (Psalm 143:11). How does God lead us in victory? How is He glorified in our lives? He brings to us the teaching of His Word - ‘Let the morning bring me Word of Your unfailing love’ (Psalm 143:8). He gives to us the strength of His Spirit - ‘May Your good Spirit lead me in good paths’ (Psalm 143:10). Through His Word and Spirit, God shows us His ‘unfailing love’. He enables us to say, ‘You are my God’, ‘I have put my trust in You’ and ‘I am Your servant’. He ‘shows us the way we should go’. He ‘teaches us to do His will’. He gives us victory over our ‘enemies’ (Psalm 143:8,10,12). 

‘Praise the Lord’. Psalms 146 and 147 began and ended with these words. Now, we find the same beginning and ending in each of these three Psalms - ‘Praise the Lord’. Our personal song of praise to God - ‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock... I will sing a new song to You, O God... I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your Name for ever and ever; Every day I will praise You... My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord... I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 144:1,9; Psalm 145:1-2,21; Psalm 146:2) - is just a small part of something so much richer and fuller - ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’ (Psalm 150:6). May these great Psalms of praise inspire us to praise the Lord more truly and more fully.

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