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Sunday, May 26, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "If Your Brother Sins Against You"

“If Your Brother Sins Against You”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
May 26, 2019 :: Matthew 18:15-35

Pop Quiz. Who can remember what book of the Bible we have been studying together since December of 2017?

You are forgiven if you couldn’t remember, because we’ve ended up taking two long breaks from Matthew in the last two months.

We’ve made it up to chapter 18. If you want to turn there with me, we’re going to be in Matthew 18, starting in verse 15 this morning.

The last time we were in Matthew together was the last Sunday of April, and the disciples were asking Jesus which one of them was the G.O.A.T. The greatest of all time in the kingdom of heaven. Do you remember that?

He said that it was the humble.

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

So Jesus told us that we are to become like these little ones, and to welcome these little ones and to not harm these little ones and to not hate these little ones.

Because He loves the little ones.

And it was amazing because we realized that WE, His disciples, are the little ones that He’s talking about.

The Father loves us and doesn’t want us to wander off and get lost.

The section ended by Jesus telling a story about a search and rescue operation.

Where a shepherd had a hundred sheep, but one of them wandered away. And the shepherd left the ninety-nine on the hills and went looking for the one that had wandered off.

And Jesus said that that was like the heart of God for wandering disciples. “Your heavenly Father is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

Does that sound kind of familiar?

It seems like a long time ago to me. A lot has happened since then.

But Jesus remains the same, and so does His teaching.

In the next section, the one we’re going to look at today, Jesus continues His fourth major block of teaching in this Gospel, His teaching on relationships and obedience, by explaining to His disciples what they should do if another one of the disciples sins against them.

“If Your Brother Sins Against You”

Now, I think this is intimately connected to what we just talked about. Jesus isn’t just starting a brand new topic here. Look for more search and rescue here. Look for more about wandering sheep, wandering people, wandering disciples.

We were just told how the Father feels about wandering disciples.

Now, we’re told how we’re supposed to relate to them ourselves.

Jesus could have said, “WHEN your brother sins against you...” because it’s inevitable.

The church is full of sinners. There are no other kind of members.

Everybody in this room is a sinner, and guess what, sinners sin.

Now, everybody who belongs to Jesus is also a saint, so we don’t have to sin all of the time. In fact, saint is our deeper and truer identity now that we are in Christ.

But we still sin. I do. My wife and kids can tell you.

You don’t have to say, “Amen.”

It’s inevitable that brothers and sisters (the word here translated “brother” refers to both kinds of siblings...it’s inevitable that brothers and sisters) will sin against each other from time to time.

So what should a Christian do when their Christian sibling sins against them?

By the way, I love that Jesus uses family language here.

This is about sin by a member of the family of God against a member of the family of God.

It’s not about the world and how we relate to them though there may be transferable principles to other kinds of conflicts.

This is a family matter.

One of you sinning against me. Me sinning against one of you.

How should we handle that in this family of God?

Jesus gives 5 steps.

Number one:

#1. GO AND SHOW HIM HIS FAULT.

If it’s a sister, go and show her her fault. V.15

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

Step #1. Go and show your brother his fault.

Privately.

This is in most instances a very private matter. Just the offender and the offended.

If your brother sins against you, go to him and try to make it right.

Now, what does the world say to do when this happens?

If your brother or sister sins against you...what?

“Go...see a lawyer!
Go...tell your neighbor!
Go...gossip about it to your friends!

Whatever you do, don’t go to him or her, I mean, they should come to you.  After all, they’re the ones that hurt you!”

But that’s not what Jesus says. Jesus says, “Go to them.” Yes, they hurt you. They sinned against you. It was a real sin. A real hurt. A real debt. A real stab.

But you are to go and try to show them where they have gone wrong.

As I have gotten older, I have found this to be harder to do.

I don’t like conflict.

If you have sinned against me, chances are, I have run away from confronting you.

At least at first.

Now, it’s better in many cases if you can to overlook an offense.

The Proverbs say that it’s a glory to overlook an offense.

But that means that a sin is unilaterally forgiven, and it won’t come between us at all.

If you can’t overlook something, the Lord calls you to go to your spiritual sibling and try to work things out.

If we consistently practiced step #1, we would have very few Christians ever get to step #4.

If we consistently practiced step #1 in our marriages, we would have very few Christians ever get divorced. Not that it wouldn’t happen, but it would become much more rare.

But we avoid confrontation, and we let offenses pile up, and we wait for the other person to take the initiative, and before you know it, we’re bitter and divided.

Now, it’s important how we go about showing somebody their fault, too.

Most of the time, we need to do it in a Galatians 6:1 way.

Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

Gently.

Of course, there are also times when flipping over tables is appropriate.

And it takes some wisdom to discern which times are which.

The point here is that we are to go and show our brother his fault.

And see here what the goal is. V.15 again.

“If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

You see the goal? All along, that’s the goal. To win your brother over. Restoration of fellowship. Debts forgiven. Relationship restored.

“If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

If he was a sheep, he’s been rescued!

Most of time when we confront somebody poorly, we want satisfaction not restoration.

We want an apology, not a brother back.

But Jesus is interested in family harmony.

The point of these steps is to get things back to where they belong.

Now, if you have sinned against someone else, if you’re on the other side of this equation, you aren’t supposed to wait for the confrontation.

Remember what Jesus said back at the Sermon on the Mount, “[I]f you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

If we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, we should be meeting each other on the way!

This last week, my conscience was heavy with some sins of the tongue that I had committed, and I had sinned in front of a group of Christians (and really against the group). So when I was convicted, I went to the whole group and asked for their forgiveness.

And they all readily granted it, for which I’m thankful.

Because we are family, and we want to do whatever depends on us to maintain that family unity.

But, however, that doesn’t mean that your brother will always listen, does it? V.16

“But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'”

That’s step two.

#2. TAKE ONE OR TWO OTHERS ALONG.

We only take this step if step #1 failed to win our brother back. “But if he won’t listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

Now, that last piece is a quote from Deuteronomy 19:15. It’s got a judicial ring to it.  There is a case being built here against the person who has sinned that needs to be established in case this thing goes before the whole church.

But I don’t think that the two or three going along is only for establishing “who said what.” I think that the two or three going back to talk with the erring brother is a more serious attempt at winning them back.

It’s getting a small group involved in someone’s life and showing how seriously concerned they all are about the well-being of this brother or sister who is wandering. It’s probably also to introduce more help if the conflict needs mediation, arbitration, and conciliation. Sometimes, we just can’t handle conflicts on our own. We need help!

Take one or two others along.

Now, what does the world say at this point?

The world says, “Give it up! Forget it. He’s not worth it. She’s a joke.”

The world says, “Get what you can. Cut your losses. Forget about that other person.”

But God says, “Go after them.”

Now, remember the point of going after them is to try to win them.

It’s not to gang up on them, it’s to gather round them in love.

Take one or two others along.

But that doesn’t always “work.” What if the sheep doesn’t want to be rescued? V.17

“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church...”

#3. TELL IT TO THE CHURCH. 

That’s step number three. “Tell it to the church.”

At this point, it’s gotten beyond affecting just a small group. It threatens to affect the whole church, so the whole church needs to get involved.

If the Pastor or another Elder was not part of your “Step 2 Team,” this would be the time to get them involved.

“Tell it to the church.”

Now, that doesn’t mean stand up on a Sunday morning during “testimony time” and gossip about your friend’s behavior!

It means to get church leaders involved, meet with the principal people in the situation, get counsel, get a larger group of members together to intervene, set certain people to praying, and make it clear to the member who is trapped in the sin that this is serious business and needs to be dealt with.

I will level with you: this part (when something gets to this step in the process) it is no fun.

There has been almost nothing more painful and difficult for me in pastoral ministry than leading a church through this process at this step. Most of it is the role of a Pastor or Elder to do. And it’s a difficult business that no one enjoys. If you did enjoy it, there’d be something wrong with you.

But it is love! It’s love go after the wandering sheep even if the wandering sheep doesn’t want to be found.

I have not practiced this perfectly or even consistently as I would want.

And when this process is handled poorly, even more people get hurt.

But this is Jesus’ command to us, and it is love.

This is what a loving shepherd does for wandering sheep.

This is what a loving family does for the family they love.

They seek reconciliation and restoration.

“Tell it to the church.”

Remember where that word “church” came from in the Gospel of Matthew?

Remember when Jesus asked Peter the big question?

“Who do you say that I am?”

And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

And Jesus said, “That’s right, and on this Rock, I will build MY CHURCH.”

“My messianic community. My called out gathering of people.”

The church belongs to Jesus.

And now the church, belonging to Jesus, gets involved in this conflict to try to resolve it and bring reconciliation and restoration to the family.

And when that works, it’s glorious!

I’ve seen this at work. And it’s glorious thing.

But, of course, it doesn’t always work because sometimes disciples just want to keep sinning.

So you tell it to the church (v.17), “...and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

#4. TREAT HIM LIKE AN OUTSIDER.

Now, remember, this didn’t start with telling the church.

If sins against one another can be cared for privately, that’s the way to go.

And most of them can.

The vast majority of them can.

But sometimes you get the whole church involved, and they still don’t want to listen.

Then you treat them like a “pagan or a tax collector.”

I love that. Remember what Matthew did before he because an apostle?!

This is step #4. And it’s called by various names, sometimes “Church Discipline” or  "Disfellowshipping” or “Ex-communication” because if someone is an outsider, outside of the Christian fellowship, they shouldn’t be taking communion.

The “you” here in verse 17 is singular. The church declares him or her an outsider, but each individual member needs to act that way, too.

If he refuses to listen to the church–the church has, as a whole, reached out to him and tried to bring him back, but he has refused to turn–then you treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Not as an enemy, but as someone who is outside of the family of God, someone who is clearly not a believer because they are not acting like one. As someone who you cannot have fellowship.

Somebody outside of the family.

I know that brings up a host of questions. It takes wisdom and discernment to make good decisions about what is and what is not acceptable.

And we need to extend to grace to one another as we stumble forward together.

And we need to be careful to not make matters worse by doing it poorly.

But the principle is clear. Step #4 is to treat them as outsiders. Put them out of the church family, and treat them like they are out of the church family.

Now, here the world goes ballistic! It says, “How cruel! How unloving!” But it is really just the opposite.

You’re still trying to win them and restore them.

You are still trying to rescue them!

The whole point is to rescue your brother or sister while maintaining the purity of the church.

This drastic action of step #4 is meant to shock people back to their senses.  It is “putting them outside” for their own good and for the church’s purity. This is taught other places in the New Testament. Check out 1 Corinthians 5 today for another example.

And no one is to be exempt. Pastors like me are to be treated the exact same way. Carefully, with two or three witnesses, but equally. 1 Timothy 5 says, “Those [elders] who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning” (v.20).

This is serious stuff. To be treated with prayer.

And verse 18 says that we are doing the Lord’s business when we do it. V.18

‘I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven [or, better, “has already been bound in heaven], and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven [or, better translation, “already been loosed in heaven.” This is the Lord’s business. It’s serious and needs prayer.] ‘Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.’”

Does that language sound familiar to you?

It’s also like chapter 16, isn’t it?

Jesus told Peter that he would have that kind of authority.

And now we find out that the church together has that kind of deep authority.

And if we are doing things right and righteously, there is symmetry between what the church does here and what God wants in heaven.

Now, it’s been a while since we were in the Gospel of Matthew together.

But there is a principle we’ve been seeing over and over again as we’ve gone through it together.

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of Jesus Christ.

“Keep your eye on the ball.” Right?

What is the ball? “Who is Jesus?”

Don’t miss it in verse 20.

Look at that claim that He’s making.

He’s claiming that when the church gathers together and prayerfully does this deep authority work of trying to bring reconciliation between disciples and restoration of sinners back to fellowship, where is He?

Right there with them.

Right in the center.

Right there in their midst.

Who could do that?

That’s a big claim there!

This guy is saying that He’s in the middle of all of these messy conflicts between believers. Calling them to each other. Calling them to be family. Calling them to repentance and love.

Sometimes we think that verse 20 is about prayer meetings.

But it’s really about congregational meetings. (Which, hopefully, are prayer meetings, too!)

The congregation gathered together in the name of the Lord Jesus to do the work of  the church of the Lord Jesus.

And where is Jesus? Right there in the middle.

One more step.

What happens if your brother or sister repents?

#5. FORGIVE HIM FROM YOUR HEART.

Look at verse 21.

Peter knew that’s where Jesus was heading with all of this. That’s why he came and asked him the question he did in verse 21.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? [Notice the similar language] Up to seven times?’”

That’s a lot! Some of thee rabbis just said 3. Peter is being generous. Have you ever been sinned against 7 times and had to forgive 7 times? It’s hard to do. But (v.22)...

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. [Again and again and again.] Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.

That’s over one gazillion dollars in today’s money. No joke. This was more money than was in Israel at that time! It’s 20 years wages times 10,000. Somewhere between 6 and 9 billion in today’s dollars. It’s the biggest weight of currency times the highest Greek number. This is a gazillion dollars.

Jesus is using the highest of hyperbole to get across His point.

“Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt [and of course that wouldn’t have done it. This debt could NEVER be repaid]. The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. [WOW!] But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii [not a small amount of money–a hundred days’ wages is a considerable sum – say $14,000 – it’s a real debt but nothing compared to what he’s just been forgiven].

He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. [Wait. What?] His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' [Sound familiar?] But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. [This man had obviously learned NOTHING. He was bitter and irrational and unforgiving and UNCHANGED.]

Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Wow. What a powerful story!

The point of this parable is not to explain the mechanics of how God forgives and when.

The point is not to teach that we get forgiven, then there is a test to see if we will forgive and then God takes away our forgiveness.

Parables don’t work like that. Most of the time there isn’t a one-for-one analogy between each character and scene and real life.

I think the message of the parable is twofold.

First, that we have been forgiven a massive sin debt that we could never pay.

We should marvel at what Jesus did for on the Cross.

And second, that “forgiven people forgive” (See the notes from the Zondervan NIV Study Bible on Matthew 18:35).

And so Jesus is warning us that if we aren’t people who forgive then we may not yet be people who have been forgiven.

If someone is consumed by bitterness and unwilling to forgive their brother or sister in Christ, then it calls into question their salvation.

We shouldn’t give false assurance to someone like that that they are saved.

Because the grace of God transforms us to be gracious people.

Disciples of Jesus forgive disciples of Jesus. That’s just what we do.

And we do it “from the heart.” For real.

This is why Jesus taught us to pray like this in the Disciples’ Prayer. Remember that from the Sermon on the Mount?

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Jesus closes with this crazy story to move us to do the opposite.

We are supposed to see ourselves as the one who is forgiven an astronomical gazillion dollar debt to God.

And then been transformed by that forgiveness.

So if a brother or sister sins against you and then repents, what should you do?

What would you do?

What will you do?

“Forgive your brother from your heart.”


***

Previous Messages in This Series:01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith

Sunday, May 19, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "Open Doors at PSU"

“Open Doors at PSU”
May 19, 2019
Colossians 4:2-6

Today, we are going to commission Abraham and Jordyn Skacel for their ministry to the campus of Penn State University with the international mission Cru.

Some of you may not be familiar with the ministry of Cru. Though you might know it by its original named Campus Crusade for Christ founded by Bill Bright.

Our church has supported Cru missionaries for several decades.

I’m not going to recount for you the history of Cru, but it’s worth learning about. Cru is a great ministry that has reached out to millions with the gospel of Jesus Christ since the 1960's. And it has spawned lots of great ministries like Family Life Today and Josh McDowell and Athletes in Action.

But the bread and butter of this ministry has always been reaching out to students on college campuses. "Campus Crusade for Christ."

And that’s what Abe and Jordyn have been called to do. They met each other at Cru at Penn State (so it’s obviously a great matchmaking service as well!), and they were discipled by Cru at Penn State, and trained as leaders at Cru at Penn State, and now they are called to go back to that campus as missionaries to Penn State.

And here’s what I want us to today this morning.

We’re going to elongate our break from the Gospel of Matthew one more week. This time not going to the Psalms but to the end of one of Paul’s letters to the church at Colosse.

This is in “so what” section that normally comes at the end of Paul’s letter where he gets really practical. If the first half of this letter is true, then “so what?” How should we live because we have learned the truth of the gospel?

This part comes right after the section that we love to quote about how we should do our work “as working for the Lord, not for men.” And that’s true for all of us whether or not we are campus missionaries or pastors or anything else, right? We are all supposed to do our work as working for the Lord.

Well, this next part is also for ALL of us. Not just for those who are campus missionaries or pastors or evangelists.

Paul is talking to the whole church when he writes chapter 4, verses 2-6.

I’ve got two points of application for us today from this commissioning message.

And they are for all of us, not just for Abe & Jordyn.

Application point number one:

#1. PRAY FOR OPEN DOORS.

V.2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer...”

Devote yourselves to prayer.

I think there are at least 4 ways that we are to pray here in these 3 verses.

#1 is to PRAY SPECIFICALLY.

Paul asks that they pray for 2 SPECIFIC THINGS:

The first is in v.3: Pray, specifically, for open doors for the gospel.

And the second is in v.4, pray, specifically, for clear proclamation of the gospel.

Let’s think about those 2 specific prayer requests.  Pray specifically for open doors for the gospel. Look at v.3.

“And pray for us, too, that God may OPEN A DOOR FOR OUR MESSAGE.”

Pray specifically for Open Doors.

This means to focus in our prayer times on asking God to create opportunities for the Gospel to go out. Literally, v.3 could be translated, “pray for us that God may open a door FOR THE WORD.” That’s the gospel.

You and I are to specifically ask God to open up doors for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Do we do that?

What percentage of our prayer-life is given over to praying for OPEN DOORS?  Either for ourselves for others?

What percentage of our prayer-life is given over to praying for OPEN DOORS? God-ordained opportunities for the Gospel to be shared with unbelievers.

5%?  10% ?  75%?

God wants you and I to pray specifically for Open Doors for the Gospel.

So, Abe and Jordyn, you need to do that. You need to be praying that doors will open at PSU for the good news of Jesus Christ.

And, church, we need to be praying that for Abe and Jordyn. “Lord, please open a door this week for Abe as he meets with students on campus.” We need to pray that. “Lord, please open doors for Jordyn as she meets with young ladies on campus.”

But we don’t need to just pray that for PSU, right?

We need to pray it for ourselves.

Pray for your family members as they go off to school or work in the morning.

“Lord, I pray for my daughter as she gets on the school bus this morning. I pray that you would OPEN A DOOR that she can share Jesus with someone in the hallway, or in the cafeteria, or during a break.”

“Lord, I pray for my husband as he heads over the mountain to work. I pray that you would OPEN A  DOOR for your Gospel so that he can boldly share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ with a co-worker, or a client, or a customer, or a supervisor, or a lunch-mate.”

You and I need to pray specifically for open doors. God says to do it, right here.

That’s one of the reasons why we have the Harvest Prayer Time once a month. We pray for those who need Jesus by name and we pray for open doors that the gospel would reach them.

Do you do this for yourself? “ Lord, I’m heading to Wal-Mart this afternoon. Would you OPEN A DOOR for your message while I’m at the store?  I’m willing to be used if you’ll open the door.”

So often, we neglect this simple kind of prayer that asks God to create opportunities for the gospel to be proclaimed. Little prayer bursts like that would make a big difference in our power in evangelism.

Do you ever wish that you had more guts when it comes to sharing your faith?

I’ve often wished that people would ask ME about the gospel, instead of me having to bring it up. But do I pray for that? That’s where the power comes from!

You and I need to pray specifically for open doors for the gospel at PSU and wherever we are.

The second SPECIFIC prayer request here is to pray for CLEAR proclamation of the gospel. Look at v.4

“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”

Pray, specifically, for a clear presentation of the gospel.

One that is not hindered by a lot of excess stuff.  One that is hear-able.  One that is focused, plain, un-ambiguous, crystal-clear.

Pray that gospel goes out clearly.

This is really important as we pray for people that are sharing the good news like Abe and Jordyn and the Cru folks they work with.

There is so much that could be taken wrongly when we share the gospel.  And this is a prayer request that the gospel come out plain and unmistakable in its truth and glory.

Cru is world famous for these little booklets. “Have you heard of the four spiritual laws? #1.“God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. #2. Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life. #3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life. #4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.”

That’s one great way of making the gospel clear.

And that’s what we need to pray SPECIFICALLY for.

Have you prayed this way recently? “Lord, I know that I am being called to share something about Christ with my neighbor. Help me to know exactly what to say so that they can understand.”

Do you ever wish that you had better answers to people’s questions? V.4 calls us to not just wish for, but to PRAY FOR IT. 

You and I are called to specifically pray for a clear presentation of the gospel.

Let’s pray this way, “Lord, I pray for Abe as he speaks to students this coming Thursday night. I pray that he would have clear thoughts and clearly express them.  Lord, I pray for my wife as she meets with her friend for coffee; that not only would you open a door for the gospel in that meeting, but that she would share the gospel clearly–and it would be right there plain as day for her friend to consider.”

Because no one gets saved without the gospel. So our gospel needs to be as clear as we can get it.

#2.  PRAY DEVOTEDLY.  Pray specifically and pray devotedly.

V.2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer.”

Devote yourselves to prayer.

Don’t just pray occasionally for open doors.
Don’t just pray randomly for clear presentations of the gospel.
Don’t just pray haphazardly.

Pray DEVOTEDLY.

The Greek word rendered here “Devote yourselves” is a very strong one It’s a word that was used for people who joined the military and DEVOTED themselves to the service. (And the military is not something you are casual about, is it?!) It was a word that was used of a boat that was ALWAYS at the ready for someone to use.

Constantly, Steadfastly, Faithfully, Staunchly, Devotedly...Pray.

In v.2 he has in mind prayer for all kinds of things. Prayer for our spiritual lives, prayer for our finances, prayer for our relationships, prayer for our families, prayer for our church, prayer for our businesses, prayer for our government.

You and I are to get devoted to prayer.

And in this case, it also means to pray regularly, consistently, disciplinedly, and devotedly for open doors for the gospel. Praying without ceasing for the good news.  Praying systematically, faithfully, habitually, orderly...devotedly for the gospel.

Here’s the question.

Do you have a time set aside daily to pray? It isn’t just a good idea. It’s vital for our lives. And it’s crucial for our witness. That’s where the power is! If you don’t have one, come up with a plan right now to get devoted.

Abe and Jordyn need us to be devoted to praying for them.

And we need to be devoted to praying for ourselves.

Specifically, devotedly, and number three...

#3.  We need to pray WATCHFULLY.

This means vigilantly, alert, observant, carefully, attentively, watchfully.  V.2

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful...”

Being watchful.

Being aware of what God is doing...and what God might be doing. Looking forward to Christ’s return. Remember that “watchful” is almost a buzz-word for being ready for the return of Christ.

We need to pray in a watchful way.

Alert to God’s agenda.

Do you pray that God would keep your eyes open to what He is about to do?

We don’t know how much time we have until Christ returns. And so we need to be alert. We need to have our “heads-up,” so to speak. We need to be watchful.

And #4.  We need to pray THANKFULLY.

V.2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

Thanksgiving is to be a constant attitude in our constant prayers.

We need to see how little we deserve and how much we have and let our gratitude spill over into thankfulness in our prayers.

And we need to thank God in advance for how He is going to answer our prayers.

Especially for OPEN DOORS!

“I pray today, Lord, that you would OPEN A DOOR for me at work to share Christ with my co-workers. Help me to make a part of your gospel clear to them today. And Lord, however you answer this prayer, thank you in advance for what you are going to do.”

I’m not saying that we should thank Him in advance for doing exactly as we have asked, because He refuses to be boxed-in by our prayers. But we know that He loves to answer our prayers and always does what is best with them. So, we can thank Him in advance.We can overflow with thanksgiving as we devote ourselves to prayer.

Application Point #1.  Pray for Open Doors.

Pray Specifically.
Pray Devotedly.
Pray Watchfully.
And Pray Thankfully.

Application Point Number Two for both the Skacels and for all of us.

#2. WALK THROUGH OPEN DOORS.

It’s not enough to just pray.

We must pray! But we can’t stop there.

We must walk through the doors that God opens for us. Look at verse 5.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Abe & Jordyn, “Walk Through Open Doors at PSU.”

Church Family, “Walk Through Open Doors wherever the Lord opens them before you.”

I see three ways we’re supposed to do that here in Colossians 4.

First, we need to:

- WALK THE WALK.

V.5 again, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.”

The key word there is ACT.  Behavior.  What your life says about Christ is almost as important as what your mouth says about Christ.

Be wise in the way you act toward people outside of Jesus Christ. 

Walk the Walk.

Be a consistent Christian.

Remember what we prayed for Simon last week from Colossians 3:12, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” That’s right here in the context.

That’s walking the walk. That’s living like a Christ-follower!

When a non-Christian sees someone living like that...watch out...OPEN DOORS are right ahead!

One of the greatest joys you can ever have is when someone takes you aside and says, “There’s something different about you. You aren’t like the rest of us. What is it?  I want what you have. Would you share it with me?”

That comes from living the life 24/7.  Not just on Sundays at 10:30am.  But Mondays at 2:30pm.  On Fridays at 10:45pm.  24/7.

The door is always open for Walking the Walk before unbelievers.

And then, secondly:

-  SNAP-UP EACH OPPORTUNITY AS IT COMES.

V.5 again.

“Make the most of every opportunity.”

The word here for “make the most” is a word that shoppers would like.

It’s the word for grabbing a bargain.

Like on Black Friday shopping! People standing in line in the cold for hours and hours to get a fantastic deal. And when time is right, they SNAP-IT-UP!  No waiting.  No hesitation. They know a good deal when they see it, and [WHOOOMMF!] that dress is hers. That smartphone is his.

They make the most of each opportunity.

That’s what this word here means.  Snap it up.  Grab it before someone else takes it off the shelf.  Now’s the time.

WALK THROUGH THE DOOR.

God loves to open doors. And we must walk through them.

It would probably be better to say, “Leap through open doors!”

When you see an opening for the gospel, jump in there.  Don’t hesitate!  Grab it while you can.

Abe & Jordyn, Lanse Free Church, if you want to be used by the Lord to see people come to faith in Christ, then walk the walk before them and then snap-up each opportunity that comes your way.

And you do that by saying words.

No one gets saved without words. 

Your walk is vital, but your words are essential.

And last but not least:

-  SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH WORDS OF GRACE AND SALT.  V.6

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Grace, here, probably refers to the gentleness and winsomeness with which you share the gospel. But it also probably refers to the content of your speech. That you would talk about the GRACE of God in Jesus Christ.  That you can’t get to heaven by your works.  You can’t win your way there.  You must trust in the grace of God.  You must receive what Christ did for you on the Cross to be saved.  It’s a gift, it’s grace. You don’t deserve it.  You deserve Hell, but God offers grace.

That’s what our words should be full of. Full of grace.

And full of salt.  Salt could mean two different things.  Salt was a preservative for life.  So it would be life-full words.  Words that communicate the abundant life Christ offers.  Or salt was also (as it is today) something that adds flavor.  So, it would mean zesty-words.  Words full of wit and life and tact and winsomeness.

“Not boring” would be another way of putting it.  Don’t sound like a broken record or a life-less machine when you are talking about the GREAT NEWS in the world!

Your words about the gospel should contain some passion, some spark, some twinkle of zesty-ness to enliven the conversation.

Jesus Christ is the most amazing person that ever will live, there should be some razmataz when we take up his name in our conversations.

You and I must walk through the open doors that God provides.

Walking the walk, snapping-up the opportunities, and talking the talk, sharing the Gospel with words seasoned with grace and salt.

Abe & Jordyn, I believe that the Lord will be opening many many doors for you at PSU. This is YOUR TIME to reach students for Jesus Christ.

We’re all going to pray for that. We’re going to pray specifically, devotedly, watchfully, and thankfully.

And not just for you but for us, too.

And we’re going commission you today to walk through those open doors as the Lord opens them.

Walking the walking–snapping-up each opportunity as they come, and sharing the gospel with words full of grace and salt with the students at Penn State University and beyond.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "Unshaken Moms"

“Unshaken Moms”
May 12, 2019 :: Psalm 62

We’re going to elongate our little break from the action in the Gospel of Matthew and take another quick dip into the Psalter together.

Last week, we looked at Psalm 103. This week, we want to look at Psalm 62. Another of the Psalms of David.

When Anita, and Amy Jo and I got together this week to plan our Mother’s Day worship service, I asked them what song they would want to sing, as mothers, on Mother’s Day.

And Amy Jo said, “I’d like to sing ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’ That’s what I need to hear on a Sunday singing about being a Mom. That our God is faithful.”

And I thought, I’m sure that all of the moms need to hear that and sing that, too.

And that got me thinking, maybe I should find a good psalm with that message to preach it, too. A song about God’s faithfulness.

We looked at one last week with Psalm 103. What if we stuck with that theme?

So I decided that the next day, I would go looking for one.

And the next day, I got up in the morning, made my Trader Joe’s coffee, poured it into my favorite ugly mug, and sat down on the couch before anybody else woke up to do my daily devotions in the Psalms, and what do you think was the very next Psalm for me to read?

Psalm 62.

And I read it, and then I read it again. And then I said, “This is the Psalm for Mother’s Day.”

It’s not your normal Mother’s Day text. It’s not Proverbs 31 or something like that.

And it’s from a guy’s perspective. It’s written by King David.

But you know what? Being a Mom is, I think, a lot like being a king.

Because you know what I think the hardest part of being a king is?

It’s being responsible.

It’s probably great to have sovereignty and authority and power.

But a great king is greatly responsible.

And that’s what Moms are, right?

Moms, do you feel the weight of responsibility?

And kings are often under attack. David was, at least.

Do Moms feels attacked?

The Psalms exist to give a prayer language to people under great stress.

Any moms under great stress?

Well, Psalm 62 is about a person who is under great stress but is trusting God and finding in God the peace that they need.

In fact, the psalmist says that they will quote, “never be shaken.”

Let me read the first two verses to you.

“For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David. My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Here’s my title for today, “Unshaken Moms.”

Mothers who are unshaken and virtually unshakeable no matter what gets thrown at them.

Sound good?

Of course, this is true for more than just moms.

This is a song for all of us to sing, to ourselves, to others, and to God.

But I want to provide some particular application to Moms because this is Mother’s Day, and because I want our church family to be full of unshakeable Moms.

Let’s read the first two verses again.

What I love about them is that they are so confident.

David comes out of the gate singing a loud anthem of confident trust in the Lord.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

I like that song!

It’s positive and encouraging. It could be on K-Love!

And it sounds so good. I want that for myself.

The words “my soul finds rest” in some versions is translated, “my soul waits in silence” (ESV) or “I wait quietly” (NLT).

The Hebrew is literally, “my soul silence.” Or “My soul is silence.”

The idea is that David’s soul, his innermost being, is silent.

Now, obviously, he’s making noise here.

He’s composing and singing a song for his worship leader Jeduthun to put into the rotation at worship at the tabernacle.

But his soul is not noisy. It’s not chaotic. It’s not frantic. It’s not frenetic and disorderly and loud.

It’s...silent.

It’s at rest.

It’s sitting there patiently waiting for God’s salvation.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”

That salvation was from David’s enemies.

He was under attack. He was under stress. He was under duress. He was being assaulted.

But He was at peace.

I want that. And I want that for you. And I want that especially for our Moms.

The way to get there is to trust in God alone. V.2

“He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

You never know how much you appreciate a rock until you need it.

You never know how much you appreciate something solid and trustworthy and true and unshakeable until your life gets shaken.

God is a rock.

That doesn’t mean He’s dumb. He’s smarter than anything.

But it does mean that He’s immovable. He does not budge. He does not move. He does not drift away. He is solid and trustworthy.

God is not going anywhere.

Let me say that again. You can trust God because God is not going anywhere.

“He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress...”

David knew all about fortresses. They were places of safety, right?

If you run to the fortress. If you can just get to the fortress, you’ll be safe.

God is a fortress.

You’re safe if you’re in Him.

Do you see that? Do you feel that?

David says, “He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Some versions say “greatly” shaken. You won’t be able to knock this guy over.

I don’t know about you. But I want that for myself.

I want to be able to say that and sing that and mean that.

But I don’t always feel that.

Well, here’s a little secret:

David doesn’t always feel it either.

Verses 1 and 2 are the goal and the end result, but they are not the whole story.

Look at verse 3.

David turns from confidence to complaint. V.3

“How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down–this leaning wall, this tottering fence?”

He’s not talking to God here. He’s talking in his song to his enemies.

He’s using some of the language of lament. That pregnant phrase, “How long?”

Which indicates that he’s had enough. He’s really feeling it, and he wants it to be over like now.

How long are you guys going to keep this up? How long do I have put up with this treat?

And notice how vulnerable he feels!

“Would all of you throw him down–this leaning wall, this tottering fence?”

David feels shakeable!

David feels vulnerable.

David feels weak and under attack.

He’s a leaning wall. And these guys are pounding on it.

He’s a fence that is tottering. And these guys are kicking it.

Does anybody feel like David right now?

I’ll bet there are some Moms right here who feel that right now.

Like you’re a fence ready to fall.

And there’s somebody, Satan if not other humans, who is pushing on the fence.

What I want you to see and hear and feel is that David is both Psalm 62:1-2 and Psalm 62:3-4. Both of those are true of David in that moment.

David can proclaim that he will never be greatly shaken, and he can feel vulnerable and shakeable at the same time.

Because he’s under attack.

And he knows it. He knows the score. Verse 4

“They [his enemies] fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Selah”

That probably means to pause and take a break to let that sink in. Selah.

He knows his enemies two-faced schemes.

They want to take him out.

Topple him from being the king.

Remember Psalm 41? How they came to his sickbed and acted like they cared, but then they gleefully spread the word that he was going to die.

Moms, you have enemies, too.

The world, the flesh, and the devil.

And they are liars, as well, that want to see you go down.

It’s right to be fed up with it.

It’s right to call it out.

David wrote a song about it that he wanted other people to sing.

What’s not okay is to give in.

After taking the deep breath at the end of verse 4, David sings loudly to his soul. V.5

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

Three points of application this morning. Here’s number one.

#1. TELL YOUR SOUL TO TRUST IN GOD.

David’s talking to himself again!

Last week, he was telling himself to praise the Lord.

He was telling his soul to bless the Lord.

Here he’s telling his soul to get quiet in the Lord.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.”

It’s the same thing as verse 1, right? Just he’s singing it to himself now.

Verse 1 said that this is what he does. His soul finds rest in God alone.

Now, he’s saying to himself, “Don’t forget to do what you do, David!”

Tell your soul to trust in God.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.”

See it doesn’t always just happen. We have to talk ourselves into it sometimes.

“Remember Who God is!”

“Remember what we said in verse 2?”

“Sing that to your soul again in verse 6.”

“He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

And here, David drops the “greatly.”

“I won’t just be not greatly shaken. I won’t be shaken at all!”

Tell your soul to trust in God.

That’s how to be an unshaken Mom.

It’s simple. I’m not saying it’s always easy. But it is simple.

“Hey, soul. Don’t forget Who your God is!”

“They are coming at you with all they’ve got. And you know how weak you really are. Your Instagram looks great. You look like you’ve got this mothering thing all together. You are set to be mother of the year.

But you know what it’s really like inside your home and even worse inside your heart.”

A leaning wall. A tottering fence.

Sing this song to your soul.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

Verse 7. “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”

#2. TELL OTHERS TO TRUST IN GOD.

In verse 8, David turns outward. He had been turned inward, talking to his own soul.

But now his song changes to a song for other people to hear and to follow. V.8

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah”

Stop and pause and think about that!

God isn’t just David’s refuge. He is the people’s refuge. He’s everybody’s refuge that runs to Him.

“Trust in him at all times, O people;”

In all circumstances.

No matter what is going on.

Trust in Him.

Here’s what a godly Mom does all day long.

She’s constantly pointing her children towards the Lord.

And urging them to trust in Him.

I’ve seen that so many times as I watched Heather Joy in action as a Mom.

And notice that David urges prayer.

Not just faith but faith focused upward in prayer.

“Pour out your hearts to Him.”

That’s what a godly mom does. She prays.

And she encourages her kids to pray.

And she encourages other people to pray.

Moms encourage other Moms.

Everybody encourages everybody.

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

In verse 9, David contrasts what we are supposed to trust with what we aren’t supposed to trust. Basically people and money. People in verse 9 and money in verse 10.

“Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.”

Top to bottom and bottom to top, people can’t be trusted and don’t have that much true weight.

Not trust in an ultimate sense. Don’t look to people for your validation as a Mom.

Don’t look to people for your salvation.

Don’t expect people to fill that God-shaped hole in your heart.

They can’t and they won’t.

If you have one, don’t expect your husband to fill that hole.

Don’t expect your kids to fill that hole.

And don’t expect money to do it either. Whether you by it legally or otherwise. V.10

“Do not trust in extortion or take pride in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.”

David is singing loudly, isn’t he?

He’s singing to whoever will listen to his song that you can’t build your life on people or money.

They are not a rock.
They are not salvation.
They are not a fortress.
They are not a refuge.

Only God is.

“Do not set your heart on them.”

We need to tell people that.

And then David changes again. He goes from singing to himself, to singing to other people, to all of a sudden singing straight to God.

In verse 11, Psalm 62 becomes a prayer.

“One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

That’s a poetic device there in verse 11 that we call X+1. He says something and then adds something to it.

“One thing God has spoken [X], two things have I heard [X+1, listen up to both. They add up to something awesome]: that you, O God, are strong [powerful, sovereign, a rock, a fortress], and that you, O Lord, are loving [hesed, faithful love, steadfast love, trustworthy love]. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

He is saying that God is just!

God is full of power and love and justice.

That’s just the kind of God that we need!

And unshaken God!

God is unshaken!
God is unshakeable!

He is strong.
He is steadfast.
He is just.

And that’s exactly what David prays back to God.

#3. TELL GOD YOU TRUST IN HIM.

You’ve heard who God is and you are putting your faith in Him.

That’s what makes an unshakeable Mom.

That’s what makes an unshakeable King.

That’s what makes an unshakeable Christian.

When life gets tough, the tough get to singing.

They sing to their own souls: “Find rest, O My Soul, in God alone.’

They sing to their friends and neighbors and their own children, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

And they sing to their God, “You are strong. You are loving. You are just. You are faithful.”

“Great Is Your Faithfulness.”


Thursday, May 09, 2019

"Anger: Calming Your Heart" by Robert D. Jones [Book Review]

Anger: Calming Your Heart (31-Day Devotionals for Life)Anger: Calming Your Heart by Robert D. Jones

Robert D. Jones has written yet another incisive book that I wish I didn’t need so much.

Anger: Calming Your Heart is the newest installment in the 31-Day Devotionals for Life series which is shaping up to be one of the most helpful set of resources out there today providing biblical counsel for life change. This one in particular is really good.

They picked the right guy to help readers deal with their anger. Bob is an expert. I was an early admirer of his first book on anger (Uprooting Anger, 2006), and this one contains that same wisdom now distilled into short readings that get right to the heart of the matter and then move quickly into practical application to help you change. Don’t be fooled by the brevity. There is a lot of gold buried in them thar hills.

The greatest strength of Anger: Calming Your Heart is the biblical precision with which Bob treats his subject. Bob cuts through the cultural fog that surrounds this topic with clear definitions and biblical nuance. He knows what anger truly is, where it goes wrong, and what we are supposed to do about it.

My favorite aspect of the book is that Bob presents multiple godly alternatives to sinful anger. He doesn’t just urge repentance but also shows us the many righteous routes we can take instead. There is a whole week of readings that start “Don’t Get Mad; Get ___________!” I really needed those.

I also dog-eared several entries on righteous anger which was exemplified by Jesus Christ. Bob calls Him, “The Perfectly Angry Man.” By comparing my anger to Jesus’ anger, I was better able to assess how often my heart and ways are so often skewed in the wrong directions and proportions. My anger does not measure up. Thankfully, Bob shares that the same Person Who is my perfect example is also my sacrificial Savior who provides the pardon for my sinful anger.

At times, this book doesn’t always feel “devotional.” My friend Bob is a teacher at heart, and while each chapter is eminently practical, it is not always as warm and welcoming as I would have preferred. Of course, I don’t always need “warm and welcoming” as much as I need “incisive and transformative.” Bob certainly does not see himself as above the reader and often turns the illustrative spotlight back onto himself revealing his own failures and room for growth. Bob knows that we must deal with our anger, so he does not coddle.

Bob has been a mentor in ministry for me now for two decades, and this book reminds me why. It is brimming with concise, precise, and incisive wisdom for a problem we all have. I will be giving it out to others liberally and returning to it again and again.


View all my Goodreads reviews.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

From Opponent to Proponent: How my mind changed about requiring premillennialism in the EFCA

Next month, our association of churches will be making a decision together about changing one word in our statement of faith.

I have written a short paper about how my thinking has changed on this idea over the years. I've gone from having strong concerns to being an advocate for the change.

I'm hoping that my story is helpful for those who are processing the discussion in their own minds.

If that sounds interesting to you, you can download it from my Dropbox: From Opponent to Proponent: How my mind changed about requiring premillennialism in the EFCA.

[Note: Dropbox may ask you if you want to open an account before showing you the file. You don't have to do that. Just click "No, go directly to view."]

Sunday, May 05, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!"

“Praise the LORD, O My Soul”
May 5, 2019 :: Psalm 103

We’re going to take another break from the Gospel of Matthew. I didn’t plan this break, but apparently the Lord did.

When Emilee died on Thursday, and Heather and I went to be with Ken and Rob & Michele at the hospital, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to just preach the next text in Matthew this Sunday. I was pretty sure that I needed to go back to the Psalms.

And I figured that if I needed the Psalms, probably many of you would need the psalms, too.

As I said a few weeks ago, I’ve been reading and praying through the Psalms deeply in 2019. They have been the focus of my morning devotions each day.

And I just finished reading that excellent book on lament, that biblical practice of taking your pain and sorrow directly to the Lord.

A few weeks ago, we looked together at Psalm 41 which has some strong lament in the middle of it.

I highly recommend Psalms of lament when your life hurts.

Psalm 103 is not a song of lament though it recognizes the reality of pain and suffering in our lives.

Psalm 103 is more a song of comfort and gratitude.

We often read it in November around Thanksgiving.

And we sing from it year round to give praise to the Lord for His many blessings.

In recent years the song “10,000 Reasons” has become popular, and it is based on this Psalm. Psalm 103. We’re going to sing it next Sunday.

The thing I appreciate the most about Psalm 103 is that in it King David talks to himself.

You know that it’s okay to talk to yourself?

I like that this Psalm gives me permission to talk to myself because I do.

You know if you wear a Bluetooth earpiece nowadays people just assume that you’re talking on the phone. “Yes, hello!”

So, it’s socially acceptable to talk to yourself now.

Well, it’s also spiritually acceptable to talk to yourself.

In fact, it’s spiritually recommended to talk to yourself.

It’s spiritually necessary to talk to yourself the way that David does here.

He talks to his soul.

The title of our message is the first line of the Psalm:

“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”

That’s what we call Hebrew parallelism.

The Hebrews liked to repeat themselves.
The Hebrews liked to repeat themselves.
I say, “the Hebrews liked to repeat themselves.”

When David says, “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”

He’s saying the same thing twice.

He’s talking to his soul which he calls his inmost being.

The King James says, “All that is within me.”

He’s talking to himself.

And he’s telling himself what to do.

We all need to do this from time to time.

We all need to give our own souls a talking to.

Because our own souls, our own hearts, don’t necessarily want to do what they are supposed to do.

Can I get an Amen?

David talks to his deepest insides, the real David down deep inside, his heart, his soul, and he says, “Hey, soul? Praise the LORD.”

“You may not feel like it, but do it anyway.”

“Praise the LORD. Praise His holy name.”

That’s important. That means praise God as He truly is. As everything that His holy name signifies.

David is preaching a sermon to his soul.

Why did he need to do that?

What was going on in his life?

When didn’t he need to remind himself of this?!  Remember the life of David that we read about a few years ago in 1 and 2 Samuel?

My friend Pastor Russell Muilenburg once wrote this about Psalm 103:
The Biblical record does not tell us when in his lifetime he wrote this Psalm, but there are many occasions in his story when these words may have fallen from David's lips.
When he was a young man his death was ordered by King Saul, his father-in-law and mentor.  For months on end he lived as a fugitive in the hills of Israel.  Separated from his wife and forced to act like a madman in the presence of his mortal enemies, he lived his every day on a dangerous precipice where the slightest mistake would mean his life.  He was a wanted man, a hunted animal in a land which had once hailed him as a hero.
Surely in the long nights he spent hidden away in secrecy caves there were times when the running nearly got the best of him.  Times when he was ready to throw his hands up in the air and turn his back on God.  Times when he felt like cursing God rather than worshiping Him.
Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul.  Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach these words to his heart.  Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."
Or again, after David married Bathsheba she bore him a son who lived only a short time.  For seven days David fasted and wept while his infant son was overcome by illness.  He was so distraught over the sickness that when the child died the servants did not dare tell him for fear of what he might do.
Surely this was one of the darkest times of David's life, a time when the forces of unbelief waged relentless battle with his soul.  And yet, when he did learn of the child's death, scripture tells us he picked himself up off the ground, put on clean clothes, and went into the house of the LORD to worship (2 Sam. 12:20).  Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul.  Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach these words to his heart.  Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name."
Or still later, as David's reign as king neared its end, his son, Absalom, mounted a coup against him.  Once again the loyalties of a nation that had so revered him were turned away.  An exile from his own city David was forced into enmity with his own flesh and blood.  Surely in those days when he was mustering an army to fight his own son, David must have wondered where God was.  Surely there were times when he wanted to give in to the dark impulses of his soul.  Times when he was prepared to abandon his faith in God for the life of the frustrated skeptic.
Then it would have been that he would have needed a pep talk for his soul.  Then it would have been that he would have needed to preach these words to his heart.  Maybe it was then that this anthem of self-exhortation came into being:  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name." (“A Pep Talk for the Soul” Russell Muilenburg,  Sermon: 3/5/00)
One of things I’ve loved about reading the Psalms this year is that we often DON’T know what was going on the psalmist’s life that was causing and shaping the psalmists to write these songs.

So they are so readily applicable to whatever is going on in our lives right now.

You don’t have to be going through the exact same thing as David to sing the same song he does.

But we do need to sing this song, and we need to sing it our ourselves, to our own souls.

V.2 “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–”

He repeats himself again.

And this time, he takes it another step.

Praise the Lord involves remembering.

It involves remembering, not forgetting all of the blessings that the Lord has given you.

Sometimes, when something bad happens to us, we forget all of the good things that have happened to us.

And we forget WHO gave us all of those good things.

David says to David, “Don’t forget all of the LORD’s benefits.”

And then he lists some of them to himself (v.3).

“...who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”

David says, “Remember that, David?!”

“Don’t forget!”

It’s so easy to forget.

So David says to David, “Remember He "forgives all your sins" (and David was forgiven much!). He "heals all your diseases" (David had been healed many times by the Lord). He "redeems your life from the pit" (How many times did the Lord rescue David? He "crowns you with love and compassion" (and David knew about crowns. What a beautiful picture of his care for David–a crown of love and compassion on his head!) He "satisfies your desires with good things" (The Lord was David’s shepherd.) He renews your youth "like the eagle's" (Giving David the vigor and vitality he needed to be a man after God’s own heart).

All of those blessings and more have been given to David by the LORD.

And David told David to not forget any one of them.

We need to count our blessings, too. And remember that they are the Lord’s blessings given to us.

That’s David’s list in verses 3-5. What’s on yours? What’s on mine?

“Praise the LORD, of my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

In verse 6, David moves from focusing on himself to all of God’s people, and he begins to say even more what God is like. V.6

“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

David sees God clearly.

He sees that he worships a God–who no matter what the circumstances that we find ourselves in–this is a God worthy of our praise. And he preaches that goodness and praiseworthiness of God to his own soul that his soul would give God the worship that he demands and deserves.

How can he do this? He knows who God is. He says (v.7) that God made known his ways to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. Because God spoke through the 10 Commandments and through the miracles and through the prophets and through the Word of God, we can know what kind of a God, God is.

Does verse 8 sound familiar to you?

It should. It’s one of those foundational touchstones of the whole Bible.

It comes from what God said about Himself when Moses asked to see His glory.

And God said, “No, that won’t work. But I’ll hide you in the cleft of a rock, and I’ll pass by and you can see the afterglow of my back.” Whatever that means.

And when the LORD went by, He said His name.

His holy name.

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

That’s who God is!

And David knows it.

And he wants his soul to know it and respond with praise.

In the remaining verses of Psalm 103, I want us to see 3 major things about the LORD that are always worth praising. Three reasons to praise the holy name of God no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. Three aspects of His character that are foundational, bedrock truths about God that we can build our lives upon no matter what comes.

The first is that:

#1. THE LORD IS THE GRACIOUS FORGIVER OF OUR SINS.  Let’s read vv.9-12.

“He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

The Lord is the gracious forgiver of our sins.

David could give praise to God because he knew something of the mercy of God. He knew that the LORD is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love."

He knew that God is a holy and just God who cannot tolerate sin; his own experience with Bathsheba had taught him that. But he also knew that for those who repent and confess, God stands ready to forgive and show mercy and to lessen the discipline and treat us in a way we do not deserve.

And if this was the experience of David, an Old Testament saint, how much more so for those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior?

We know that God's love for sinners is very great. Verse 11 says that "as high as the heavens are above the earth" that's how great God's love is for those who fear and serve Him.

Think about that for a second. Nobody has yet given an exact measurement of the universe. From our perspective on this rock we call Earth, the celestial heavens spread out above us in a never ending canopy. That's how great God's love is for His chosen people.

It is out of that unending love that God sent his one and only Son into the world to die for us and pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus Christ died on the Cross so that we would not have to experience Hell. All who put their trust in him and give him their lives will not taste Hell, but instead will enjoy the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

O, how we do not deserve this! And O, what a joy this truth is for us sinners!

That’s what this table down here represents.

Verse 12 says, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us."

Let your mind dwell on that for a second.  East and West NEVER touch, especially the minds of the Israelites. East went that way and West went that way, and they didn’t touch. And for those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our sins have been removed from us like east from west. Opposite directions.

That means there is no record of our sins anymore. No abiding smudge or stain still attached to our souls. Our sins are separated from us by a measureless expanse that stretches beyond infinity.

Does that describe you? Have your sins been forgiven? Removed from you like east from west? Are you a faith-follower of Jesus Christ?

I have to tell you this morning, that if you don't know Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior, then you must repent of your sins and trust in Christ to be saved.  Or you will not be forgiven. You must cast yourself into the boundless mercy of God and receive the forgiveness of your sins. You must accept Him by faith and believe in His name and let Him do His redeeming work in your life.

And if you do know Him as your own Lord and Savior, then His forgiveness of your sins should be the first stanza in the song you sing to your soul each day. Preach this to your soul!

“The LORD is the gracious forgiver of my sin. Praise the Lord, O my soul.”

#2. THE LORD IS THE EVERLASTING LOVER OF OUR SOULS.  Let’s read vv.13-18.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children–with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

The LORD is the everlasting lover of our souls.

The everlastingness of God's love for us is contrasted in these verses with the frailty and brevity of human life.

We have felt that this week with the passing of Emilee.

She was here, and then she was gone.

Our lives are temporary and short and fragile.

Verse 14 says that we are dust.

We pretend sometimes that this is not so, we tell ourselves that we are going to live in this world forever.

But David knew better. He knew that this body was created from dust, and that it will return to dust.

But God's love isn't like that. God's love isn't limited by our frailty or subject to the same limits as we are. It’s not fragile and breakable and brief.

David says that from everlasting to everlasting God's love is with those who fear Him. From beginning to end, even from the point of our conception, God's love abides with His covenant people.

In fact, in verse 13, David compares this everlasting love of God to the love earthly dads have for their children.

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him."

The love that Rob has for Emilee is a beautiful echo of the oceanic love that the Father has for His children.

I love my four children. I can’t believe how big they are getting. Robin is done with school. Drew is headed into his senior year.

But our love for our children is just a fraction of the everlasting love that God has for us!

Right? Like we saw last week? How does God feel about us who are His “little ones?”

And think about this, our own frailty and brief life on this earth are not the end of the story.

There is coming a day when all those who believe in Jesus will be raised from the dead and these "dust"-formed bodies will be trans-formed bodies–to be like Christ.

Think about that!

In the everlasting love of God there is a day coming of glorious reunions with those who gone on before.

And we know there will be no tears there that day–and if there are, they will be tears of the purest joy.

God's love for His people is everlasting. And David knew that. He relished the fact that God loved him. Even though he didn't deserve or earn God's love–no one can (and that makes it all the more sweeter)–he was loved by God, and he knew it and it was a reason for praise!

If you are feeling crushed and destroyed, if sadness seems to be the cloak that life has wrapped around you, make this truth the second point of the sermon that you preach to your soul: God's love for you has no end.

“The LORD is the everlasting lover of my soul. Praise the Lord, O my Soul!”

Number three and last. We need to preach to our souls that:

#3. THE LORD IS THE SOVEREIGN RULER OF OUR LIVES. V.19.

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”

The LORD is the is the sovereign ruler of our lives. David says that his kingdom is over ALL. A-L-L. All!

The Lord is king. He rules over everything from his throne in heaven. Everything in our lives is ruled by God. And David knew that.

Nothing makes it into our lives by accident. Nothing is outside of God's kingly control. Not the Sun, not the Moon, not the Stars. Not creatures, not humans, not chest pains or cancer, not blood clots, not miscarriages or stillbirths or broken relationships or famine or earthquakes, or the loss of a job, or anything else!

Nothing is outside of God's kingly control.

And when you put together the truth of God's everlasting love for his people and the truth of his kingly control of all things, then you can praise God that nothing that comes into your life will be for your ultimate harm. God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. All things.

We don’t know He does it.

And we don’t have to like everything that He allows.

He doesn’t like everything that He allows!

He hates death, for example.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s out of His control.

He is the King.

The LORD holds the strings of our lives in His hands. There is nothing outside of His kingly sovereignty. And He is compassionate and gracious; He loves us with an everlasting fatherly love, and His kingdom rules over all. All.

David knew that. And we know that.

And we need to preach it to our souls.

God is in control.

When you are feeling lost and the events of your life seem to be spinning at a frantic, riotous pace, remember: God is in control.

Incorporate it into the fabric of your life. Sing it over and over again to your soul.  Urge your heart to know and believe and cling to this truth:

“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”

“LORD is the Sovereign Ruler of our lives. Praise the LORD, O my Soul!”

Lament, yes.

Don’t just praise God. Take Him your pain and your complaint and your trouble and your anguish.

But, also, give Him your praise.

Think about how these three things all fit together.

God isn’t just one or two of them. And He doesn’t just do one at a time. He is all three all the time.

Do you feel burdened by the indescribable weight of your sin?  Preach to your soul. “Praise the Lord, O My Soul.  Praise Him for His gracious forgiveness.”

Do you feel lost and alone in this incredibly hostile world? Preach to your soul.  “Praise the Lord, O My Soul.  Praise Him for His everlasting love.”

Do you feel the ravages of doubt and fear in a life that so often fails to make sense?  Preach to your soul.“Praise the Lord, O My Soul.  Praise Him for His sovereign rule over my life.”

David wants us all to join him in his call to all of creation to bring praise to God: v.20.

“Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.”