Good morning. My name is JT, for those of you who don’t know me. I serve on staff here as the pastor of The Village Church Institute. We’re continuing a sermon series in the Psalms. I’ve just loved it. I hope it has been fruitful for you. The Lord has used it in my life. We’re going to be in Psalm 34 this morning.
I want to say a few things as you’re turning there. First, I was talking with my wife Macy last night and was just expressing joy and gratitude and thanksgiving that I get to do this with the people I love so much, that we get to open God’s Word this morning to hear from the Holy Spirit, to be convicted of our sin, but to be reminded of the good news of Jesus.
I just want you to know that, as a pastor, there’s no privilege greater, and I don’t take it lightly. I know the rest of our pastors don’t take it lightly. I told her that, and I thought I needed to tell you that. You guys are a generous people to pastor. You’re kind, you’re encouraging, and you love Jesus, so you make this really easy for us. The fact that I get to get up here and do this today is really a pure gift for me. So thank you for that.
We’re going to be in Psalm 34. I want to give you a brief background on Psalm 34 before we read it. If you know much about poetry, it’s an acrostic poem, or an acrostic song. If you know Hebrew, which I’m guessing most of you don’t, you would see that every verse starts with a different letter, like A, B, C. I used to know Hebrew. I don’t anymore. My Hebrew professor at Dallas Seminary… I’ll never forget. I was taking Hebrew 4. We were exegeting Ruth.
He came to me and said, “JT, you’re not very good at Hebrew.” I said, “I’m well aware of my inadequacy at Hebrew.” He said, “You passed, but you passed by the skin of your teeth.” I said, “That’s a weird phrase.” He said, “How much skin do you have on your teeth?” I said, “I don’t have any skin on my teeth.” He said, “This is called grace. You’re welcome.” I just got out of the classroom as quickly as I could and said, “Thank you.” The Lord is merciful and kind.
So, it’s an acrostic. It’s also based on an actual historical event in David’s life. If you remember, David is this anointed king of Israel who is meant to reign and rule on God’s behalf. He’s God’s chosen king, but he has not ascended to the throne yet at this point in his life. Saul is on the throne, and he has a weird relationship with Saul. At points their relationship is good. At points their relationship is very bad to the point where Saul is trying to have David killed.
At this point, Saul was trying to have David killed, so David flees. Something else about David’s life you probably know is that he killed Goliath, this Philistine giant, this warrior, and he also killed thousands of Philistine soldiers. David flees from the presence of Saul into the presence of the Philistines, and the Philistines recognize who he is. This is in 1 Samuel, chapter 21.
They’re like, “Hey, isn’t this the guy who killed Goliath? Isn’t this the guy who killed all of our friends and buddies when we were at war against the Israelites? Isn’t this the king of Israel? Do you know what we should do? We should kill him.” So they take him before the king of Gath, and David realizes, “My life is over. I’m going to be killed. I am a king standing behind enemy lines in front of another king who knows I killed his most prized warrior. My life is done.”
So do you know what David does? He acts like he’s a crazy person. I’m serious. The Bible is wild, guys. The Bible is crazy. In 1 Samuel, chapter 21, it says David acts like there is drool coming out of his mouth, and then he acts like a crazy person. The king is like, “If this guy is crazy, I want nothing to do with him,” and they just let him go.
That’s wild. That’s top 10 crazy Bible story wild. That’s not in The Jesus Storybook Bible, I don’t think. It’s crazy, and it’s in here. I promise you. You can go read it later. So, David experiences what he considers this redemption from God. “I was supposed to be dead, but God has spared my life.” Then he writes this psalm, Psalm 34. Let’s start reading in Psalm 34, verse 1.
“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”
Isn’t that a beautiful psalm? Psalm 34 is trying to answer a question for us. It’s trying to answer the question of…What does it look like to live a redeemed life? If you’ve been redeemed by God, like David had before the king of the Philistines… If you’ve been redeemed and saved and you should have experienced death but instead have been given life, what does your life begin to look like? What captivates your heart? What captivates your thoughts? What captivates your mind? What kinds of activities do you begin doing? What does it look like for you to experience the redemption of God?
Here’s my main point for this sermon: The life of the redeemed is characterized by three things. First, the life of the redeemed is characterized by worship of God; secondly, it’s characterized by radical repentance; and thirdly, it’s characterized by eternal hope. Let me give you those three again. First, if you’ve been redeemed by God, you worship God; secondly, you radically repent; and thirdly, you have an eternal hope.
I want to spend some time contrasting this a little bit, because right now, not just the culture but even some versions of Christianity, or some distortions of Christianity, are telling you and me the opposite. I want to show you this psalm is doing something very intentional to contrast spiritualities of the fallen world with biblical Christianity.
Here is the contrast. Contemporary Christianity and other cultural spiritualities will tell you that redemption looks like this: they’ll tell you it looks like worship of self, not God; they’ll tell you it looks like expressing rage through moral superiority, and that you should pursue temporary comfort through health, wealth, and prosperity. Do you see what I’m doing here? There’s a contrast the psalmist is setting up.
First, the psalmist is trying to tell you a redeemed life looks like worship of God, radical repentance, and placing yourself on an eternal hope of Christ, but these other contrasting spiritualities, even some versions of Christianity, are telling us the opposite. They’re telling us that a redeemed life looks like worship of self, expresses itself through moral outrage because we are morally superior, and places its hope on temporary things like health, wealth, and prosperity.
The life of the redeemed is characterized by worship of God, not self. This is what the psalmist is going to tell us. Look back at verse 1. He’s showing us that worship is God-centered, not self-centered. Verses 1-3 say, “I will bless the Lordat all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lordwith me, and let us exalt his name together!”
I love the word magnify, to make big, to make great. This is a word the Bible doesn’t use very often, so we should pause and try to consider why David, the psalmist, is using this unique word to magnify, to make big, to make great, to show off the excellencies, to show off the beauty, to see that all of the perfections can be seen clearly.
My wife and I have our 12-year wedding anniversary coming up next week on July 14. About 12 years ago, I found myself looking for a wedding ring. Who has shopped for a diamond before? It requires basically a master’s degree in order to make the right decision. I didn’t realize this. I thought a diamond was a diamond was a diamond. It’s not. Right, girls? Amen. That’s the biggest “amen” we’ll get today.
It’s hard to shop for a diamond, because you have to think about the cut, the color, the clarity, the carat. There are all of these questions that have to be asked. So, I go in there not knowing all of these things, and the jeweler is trying to help me understand what I should be looking for in a diamond as I want to propose to my then girlfriend at the time, Macy.
One of the things a jeweler will do is even if a diamond by itself doesn’t look great, like, you can’t see its perfections, they will do a couple of things. First, they’ll take the diamond out of the drawer and take it over and put it against a black backdrop to contrast it, to show you the perfections of the diamond, because if you’re looking at it just by itself, you can’t see it in contrast to something else.
Then they’ll give you a magnifying glass or something to look at the diamond through so you can see all of its beautiful perfections. They’ll slowly turn the diamond, and all of a sudden, things you couldn’t see before are magnified and beautiful, and this senior in college who couldn’t afford a great diamond… When you put it under a magnifying glass, it looks pretty good, because it’s magnified. Then you pull it away and it looks more like an earring diamond than anything.
But I wanted to get this diamond, and they’re magnifying it for me so I can see its beauty. Similarly, that’s what David is trying to do here as it relates to his redemption in God. He’s saying, “We need to magnify God together. He needs to be shown to be great.” David wants God to be big and beautiful and perfect, but being sinners by nature, we don’t want to magnify God; we want to magnify self. This is the first contrast.
One of my favorite theologians, Richard Lints, when he talks about evangelical theology and contemporary spirituality, trying to describe you and me, he says, “The study of God is increasingly being replaced by a fascination with the self.” He’s saying that we’re really interested in who we are and less and less interested in who God is, and we’re calling that Christianity.
How do we know if we’re interested in magnifying the self? Let me be clear. I’m going to be an equal opportunity offender here for a few minutes, including myself. Personality tests. Are you a Nine? Are you a Badger? Are you a Harmonizer? Red, blue, black? We have all of these ways to categorize ourselves. We boast in our own specific, unique giftings. “Well, that’s my gifting” or “I’m unique.”
Do you realize the Bible almost never highlights the uniqueness of a specific person but always highlights the uniqueness of God? The Bible goes to great lengths to show what we share in common, not what separates us, and it shows us what separates us from God, yet we’re spending a whole lot of time making distinctions among each other.
We literally live in the age of the selfie, where if you just get on social media (which you might do for a few hours today, studies suggest), you’re going to see hundreds of people who think so highly of themselves they want to take a lot of selfies. In fact, we’re so passionate about selfies we’ll invent a stick to help us take better selfies.
You may have seen these genealogy tests. You can trace your specific, unique family’s history all the way back to whenever. You may see other blood or DNA tests that will show you the exact day you’re going to die. Have you seen these? It’ll tell you that based upon the genes you have, you’re going to probably live this long, and you should avoid these kinds of foods, and if you do this, you might get Alzheimer’s. It’s scary stuff.
It’s because we’re fascinated with ourselves, fascinated with our lives, fascinated with who we are. We are the selfie culture. We live in a culture that’s defining us by our specialties and uniqueness, not by what we have in common. We care more about who God says we are than what God says about himself.
One of my greatest concerns, candidly, as a pastor, for the evangelical church is that we have allowed this religion of the self to seep into our spiritualities without even knowing it. It came kind of through a back door, and it’s influencing and infiltrating orthodox Christianity. In other words, we’ve taken the culture’s view of what some scholars will call the autonomous self, that you ultimately are the center of meaning, that all of the world should orbit around you…
We’ve taken that view and simply brought it into the church and given it a Christian name. There are books like The Culture of Narcissism or The Narcissism Epidemic or Generation Me that are saying over and over and over again that this view of self is what is causing the mental health crisis we’re experiencing right now. We’ve basically said, “You do have a problem, and the problem is outside of you, and to solve the problem you must look inward.”
In actuality, that’s what’s creating the problem. In actuality, the more you look in you realize, “The problem is in me. I need an external hope and an external solution.” Sociologists are saying we’re on the cusp of perhaps the greatest mental health crisis the world has ever faced, but we’re looking in precisely the wrong direction if we’re looking in. Narcissistic Christianity is an oxymoron. Christianity is not a religion that focuses on the self; Christianity is a religion that focuses on the triune God and his acts on our behalf in history.
You may have heard of John Calvin, the great Protestant Reformer. He lived in Geneva. He wrote an incredible book, Institutes of the Christian Religion. The most quoted part of Institutes of the Christian Religion is the very first line. It’s one of the best views or portrayals of what theology is that has ever been written, in my opinion.
Calvin says if you want to be a wise person, pursue two kinds of wisdom. The first is knowledge of God; the second is knowledge of self. These are the two kinds of wisdom you should be pursuing. What we’ll do is we’ll begin treating what Calvin says as if there are two diamonds worth studying. Are you following me? There’s a diamond of God that we should know, and a diamond of self, but that’s not what Calvin is saying.
If you read a little farther, Calvin says, “Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty. […] Whoever is utterly cast down and overwhelmed by the awareness of his calamity, poverty, nakedness, and disgrace…” The person who’s aware of those things has advanced farthest in their knowledge of themselves. See what I’m saying?
Calvin is not saying there are two things, knowledge of God and knowledge of self; pursue both of them. He’s not saying they’re comparative wisdoms; he’s saying they’re contrasting. The knowledge of God is the diamond, and you are simply the backdrop. You are the one meant to magnify God, not make yourself into a god. Your self-identity isn’t worthy of worship and praise and adoration; God alone is. We aren’t to make ourselves great but to make God look great. In other words, you’re not the answer; God is.
If you think you are the solution to your problem, your anxiety is going to skyrocket, but you can look outside for redemption and magnify the God who does save. Look at verse 8. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” The psalmist does not say, “Taste and see how awesome you are.”
If you think you’re awesome and you’re trying to taste and see how awesome you are, you’re going to cannibalize yourself into death. Only tasting and seeing that God is good will ever satisfy your greatest desires and longings. Hear me say this: Christianity is not a religion of self-actualization; it is a religion of self-denial. Those two things could not be farther apart from our current cultural moment.
Christianity is not a religion of self-promotion, of making ourselves great. It’s a realization of how lowly, how impoverished, how naked we are, how we have brought destruction upon ourselves, and our hope is not to look in; our hope is to look only to the cross. Jesus tells his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life [loses himself] for my sake will find it.”
This is so countercultural today. We have a Christianity and a spirituality that is promoting self-worship, not self-denial. So, what kind of Christianity are you following: self-denial or self-promotion? You can basically categorize any false religion or any false gospel with this lens: most religions and most distortions of the biblical gospel will say, “Your greatest problem is external, and your hope is internal.”
You might remember G.K. Chesterton. This is several decades ago. A newspaper asked a bunch of scholars and writers to write in what the greatest problem in the world is. So, you have people writing in, “It’s the education system” or “It’s economics” or “It’s immigration,” all great problems worthy of thinking about and facing.
Do you know what G.K. Chesterton said? “I am.” Until you get that, you don’t understand what Christ came to accomplish. Jesus did not come to make bad people good but dead people alive. Until you realize the problem is internal and the solution is external, you haven’t grasped what the psalmist is saying here. “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”
The life of the redeemed is characterized byradical repentance, not moral outrage. Look at verse 11. “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
I love that line: “…I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” When Luther talks about the fear of the Lord, he tries to categorize it in two ways, two kinds of fear. The first fear is like a tyrannical fear, a fear you might have of a dictator or somebody who wishes to do you harm. That’s not what the Bible is talking about. The Bible is talking about a different kind of fear. It’s the fear of awe and reverence and an understanding of authority and position underneath that authority. That’s the kind here.
One of my favorite things I do with Thomas, my little boy, almost every day (it’ll probably happen tonight)… When I say “favorite things,” I mean it’s cute but it also gets under my skin. Parents, can I get an “amen”? I have that in my house. Every single night, I put Thomas down. I take him up to his room. We’ll brush his teeth, get his pajamas on him. He gets in bed. We’ll sing a song, read a book, or pray, something like that, and I’ll ask him, “Hey, buddy, what are your rules?” and he’ll say, “Stay in bed. Don’t get out of bed.” Do you think he ever stays in bed? No.
So, I’ll give him consequences. “If you get out of bed, we’re going to do this tomorrow,” but he always gets out of bed anyway. I need to raise the consequences, apparently. What happens is our house has… He’s up in the loft. He has a bedroom, and there’s a loft, and there are two flights of stairs up into this loft that’s in the middle of our house. You can come up through the front room or you can come up through back where our bedroom is to make it up to the loft.
I almost always take the same flight of stairs to go put him back in bed or to watch him to make sure he doesn’t get out of bed. Two nights ago, I decided to switch it up on him a little bit, and I came up the other flight of stairs. What was fascinating is I got to see his whole little routine of how he gets out of his room. He super quietly opens the door. I’m just watching him. He doesn’t think I’m there. He gets the gate, and he moves the gate.
Then there’s a place where I could see him if I was on the other stairs. He knows where I usually am. He kind of peeks out. I’m over here just watching this whole thing. He sees that I’m not there, and he kind of prances over, and then he’s home free. You just saw confidence overcome him. “I’m outside. I’m by my toys and my train, and here I am. I’m going to be free. I’m going to get to play.” And he bumps into me. He looks up at me and goes, “Hi, Daddy. What are you doing up here?” That’s a fear of the Lord.
My son knows I’m not there to punish him. I’m not there to hurt him. I’m not going to bring him harm, but he also knows, “My dad asked me to do something, and I didn’t do it.” There is this sense of reverence, a sense of, “I understand that this is Dad and I am son.” That’s what the psalmist is talking about here, this idea that we begin to realize we have a position under God, under his authority that should lead us to repentance.
Here’s what I want to talk about for a second. I think one of the biggest obstacles to you and I seeking repentance is our moral outrage. You see, the first point is that we look to God, not self, but if you look to self for your redemption, you’re also looking to self for moral authority and moral superiority. All you have to do if truth is in yourself is open up Twitter, open up Facebook, or go to one family reunion to realize, “There are people who are worse than me.” Right?
If you just open up Twitter, open up Facebook, there are people you are morally outraged about, because they are, perhaps, worse than you, if that’s your scale and that’s your standard. But if your standard is the fear of the Lord, it’s a lot harder to express yourself in outrage and a lot easier to understand biblical repentance.
So here we are. We’re sitting in a room full of sinners. If you were to just look around this room, there are people who are worse than you but also better than you, but that’s not the moral standard. The moral standard is a just, holy, and right God. Here’s what I’m trying to get you to see: moral outrage is birthed out of a moral superiority, and moral superiority has no need for repentance.
If you are the standard, your life is characterized by rage. If God is the standard, your life is characterized by repentance. Hear me say this: rage is not a fruit of the Spirit. It’s not. Rage is also not a substitute for repentance, but if you get enraged at somebody else’s immorality, it feels like you’ve repented. It feels like, “I’m in the right because I’m not them.” What the Bible is trying to tell us is that if our standard is external, our response isn’t rage; our response is repentance.
The church has a real opportunity here. You realize we’re living in a cultural rage machine right now, right? All you have to do to demonstrate your virtue is be angry with somebody else, to be angry at something, but the Bible is inviting us to something far more beautiful: not rage but repentance, and to have a culture of repentance where we get to repent to one another. Let me ask you this question: When was the last time you repented? When was the last time you were enraged?
Asking and answering that question can give you a picture of where your hope is and what you think the moral standard is and where you think you fit on that moral standard. There are competing visions of Christianity that are saying the enemy is outside and the solution is inside, but Calvin is saying and the psalmist is saying and Luther is saying if you have true knowledge of God and true knowledge of self, you don’t respond with rage; you respond with repentance.
Martin Luther says it this way. Ninety-five Theses. This was a very important document he wrote that helped spark the Reformation. The very first thesis of the 95 says, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ’Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” When was the last time you repented? When was the last time you were enraged?
The life of the redeemed is characterized by eternal hope, not temporary comfort. Look at verses 18-19. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” I want to say this as clearly as I can: the prosperity gospel is a gross distortion of the biblical gospel.
I know most in this room would agree with a statement like that, but I want us to consider if we’ve slowly and unintentionally imbibed some of the teachings of the prosperity gospel. Listen to this.The message of the prosperity gospel is that God will give you more than you need if you place your faith in him, but the message of biblical Christianity is that God is all that you need.
The message of the prosperity gospel is that Christ came to alleviate sickness and bring prosperity and health, but the message of the biblical gospel is that Christ came to alleviate God’s wrath toward sin so you might experience eternal hope in Christ.The message of the prosperity gospel is that God helps those who help themselves; the message of the biblical gospel is that God saves those who could never save themselves.
The message of the prosperity gospel is that if you take away my wealth and my health you’ve taken away everything; the message of biblical Christianity says you can take everything away, including my health and my wealth, but if I still have God I have everything. The message of the prosperity gospel teaches that God will give but never take away; the message of biblical Christianity is that God will give and God will take away, but he will never take himself away.
There’s a movie out called American Gospel. It’s a documentary. Our pastor Matt is actually in it. He’s interviewed in it. You should all watch it. Please go watch it. I’m trying to give a full endorsement of you going to go watch this movie. You can watch a 40-minute version of it on YouTube or you can rent a two-hour version of it through iTunes. It is incredible. It explores the history of the Word of Faith movement, how the prosperity gospel is distorting the Bible and distorting the teachings of Christ.
I’m not sure if you know this. The prosperity gospel is the fastest growing religion in the world. We are exporting it in world missions. It’s going everywhere. This is not something God takes lightly. False prophets, false teaching, bad shepherds bring judgment on God’s people. What the Bible is saying here is not that God has promised us a life free from affliction; the Bible is saying that God will bring us through affliction.
One of my greatest problems with the prosperity gospel is not that it promises too much. The prosperity gospel doesn’t promise enough. Its promises aren’t far too big; its promises are far too short and earthly and worldly. Do you realize distortions of the gospel don’t add to the gospel in a way that makes it better, they add to the gospel in a way that makes it worse?
The prosperity gospel isn’t promising too much; it’s not promising enough. But the Bible gives us good news this morning. Are you brokenhearted? The Lord is near. Are you crushed in spirit? Do you have afflictions? The Lord will draw you through. He will bring you through. This is not the end.
Finally, look at verse 22. “The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.” I’m not sure why this is the case, but in evangelical gospel presentations, what has happened over the last few years is that our language of guilt and condemnation has taken a back seat to language of brokenness and wholeness, flourishing.
We spend a lot of time talking about what is broken will become whole, and that is definitely true, but we cannot forget this beautiful gospel truth: we who were once condemned, rebellious, enemies of God, have been brought near through the blood of Christ. There are people who still stand condemned in front of a just, holy, and righteous God and who will be condemned outside of the work of Jesus Christ.
Apart from Christ we are condemned, but in Christ we can stand redeemed. The gospel, the good news, is that God has taken those who stand condemned and given us redemption in Christ. The psalmist is telling us, “If you are in Christ, there is no condemnation.” Paul picks this language up in Romans 8:1 when he says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” You can be redeemed because Christ was condemned.
The gospel is not about temporary comfort. It’s not about health or wealth or momentary prosperity. It’s about eternal hope in the kingdom of Christ, having our hearts transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. It’s not about just getting through this illness or getting through this sickness. Believe me. I believe God heals. I believe God does miracles, but what I’m saying is he also brings afflictions, and he’ll bring us through those afflictions.
Perhaps I’ve offended every single person in the room. We’ve taken shots (I don’t think I have; I think the Bible has) at the contemporary lust for self, at the lust for moral superiority and moral outrage, at the contemporary infatuation with health, wealth, and prosperity, but if you’re offended, be offended not hopefully by me but by Psalm 34.
The psalmist is giving us two contrasting visions of what the good life is. Believe me. There is a culture war raging that wants you to say where you should place all of your marbles, all of your hope is to go inward for self-fulfillment. You become your own moral standard; therefore, you’ll be enraged by everybody else who doesn’t meet that standard, and that you should pursue temporary well-being. The psalmist is trying to give us a very different picture of eternal life.
The psalmist is saying, “If you’ve been redeemed by God, if you’ve been set free by what Christ has done at the cross, then you should magnify God with me.” Magnify the Lord if you’ve been redeemed. Don’t magnify self. If you’ve experienced redemption, you shouldn’t respond with radical rage but radical repentance. You should see God as your ultimate authority, not yourself, and we could create a culture of repentance within our churches, not cultures of rage.
Finally, that you should place your hope on things that are eternal, because this life is a momentary affliction that’s passing, but we will be with Christ for the next billion years. Do you know how much time you’ll have with Jesus after you’ve been with him for a billion years? Another billion, and then another billion. Let’s not settle for a temporary hope that is fading.
Here’s the whole point of this sermon. My hope for all of you is that, today, you would just have the simple opportunity to get your eyes up. Stop looking at yourself. Stop looking around. Stop looking at the world. Look up to Christ who has accomplished our salvation. If you’re a Christian in this room, I want to ask you a question, and I want you to do something. I want to ask you this question: When was the last time you repented?
Is there something in your life you need to repent of right now that God, by the power of his Holy Spirit, is drawing to your mind? A realization that, “If I’m not the moral standard and authority, I actually need to go repair that relationship. I need to oust and kill my lust, my judgment of others, my pride, my greed. I need to go have a conversation with that person I was outraged against. I need to repent, and I need to celebrate Christ, because he provided a way for me to repent and receive forgiveness at the cross.” Christians, this morning, you’re invited to repent, and you’re also invited to celebrate.
If you’re not a Christian and you’re here this morning, the first thing I want to say is I’m so glad you’re here. It’s not lost on the pastoral staff, it’s not lost on me or anybody here at The Village Church that it is becoming more and more an anomaly that a nonbeliever would come into a church. I want you to know you’re welcome here, that you’re free to ask us any questions you have. You’re not going to be met with judgment and shame. You’re going to be met with people who want to respond to your questions, and we think we have answers for you, but I’m glad you’re here.
I want you to think for a moment. How is your life working out for you? Is your religion, is your spirituality that contrasting spirituality, the one that is pursuing truth in yourself, that is always looking in? Are you living a life where you are your own moral authority and it’s leading you to a very embittered life of rage, because you are better than the people you choose to look at? How does that feel? Is that healthy for you?
Are you placing all of your hopes and dreams on temporary health? Maybe it’s eating really well or it’s working out all the time, believing that you’re somehow going to be eternal. Have you placed your hope in temporary things? What would it look like for you this morning to turn your eyes to Christ, to look up, and to realize, “I can be redeemed. I no longer have to stand condemned. I can be in relationship with Christ. The blood of Jesus covers all of my sin.”
Just like the psalmist says and just like Paul says, if you are in him, none will be condemned. You can begin living a life of repentance, extending forgiveness to others, just as you’ve received forgiveness from God, and you can have an eternal hope that is unfading and imperishable, saved in heaven for you in Christ. All you have to do this morning is say, “Yes” to Jesus to have an eternal hope, to live a life of repentance, and to magnify God. Let’s pray.
Father, we extend our thanks to you, for you are so gracious and merciful. You’ve been patient with us in Christ. We look to the psalmist this morning as a beautiful picture of what our redeemed life can look like: a life of worship, a life of repentance, and a life that has an eternal hope, not temporary. We pray that your Holy Spirit would be among us this morning, both helping us be convicted of our sin, helping us repent and seek forgiveness, but also helping us to celebrate the beauty of Jesus. It’s in his name we pray, amen.