Saturday, October 27, 2007

The King of Glory - Psalm 24

The King of Glory - Psalm 24
October 28, 2007 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

Looking up a family’s history has become quite an obsession for many today. Whole web sites are devoted to it and there is even a myriad of software you can purchase for you to investigate your own family’s history. Why? I believe sometimes it is because we are so dissatisfied with our own lives that we look in other places to discover some meaning. Perhaps lost royalty, a past President, bandit, or Indian chieftain that we can cling to that would bring some kind of a sense of importance to our existence. Sadly what we find is just a whole lot of reality. Now before you get your historical buns in a snit, I am not saying it is necessarily a bad thing researching your ancestors, because knowing where you come from can help in knowing who you are.

The Christian has a rich heritage indeed. We do not have to look very far afield to discover our royal roots. In fact, we soon find that we are all adopted and the lost children of the King of Glory. Who is this King of Glory? Well I am glad you asked! When we look at the Shepherd’s Psalm, Psalm 23, we often forget to go any further and read the next one in line. Here in these 10 verses of David we find our heritage and discover some wonderful truths concerning the King of Glory as we ask a few specific questions. Let find out what the answers are as we look at the King of Glory.

READ: Psalm 24

Our world today hardly recognizes anything past its own wants and desires. Life is encouraged to be lived for the moment rather than thinking about the future consequences of our present actions. When we focus on ourselves to the point where we forget whose universe this is in the first place, we will remain stunted in our worldview. David dared to ask the question…

I. Who is the King of Glory? (vv. 1-2)

1. The One in which everything belongs! The one who owns everything has exclusive rights to do with it as He wishes. David makes it plain that “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it!” Far too often we, as His creation, forget the fact that God alone “founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” David reminds us of the basis for all that exists, whether it is created physical things like planets or plants, animals or stars, mankind or moons! Herein is the intrinsic truth that in all things that exist, God’s ownership is indelibly stamped! “The King of Glory” is the not just the owner, He is the Creator of all things! The very last words Jesus left us with was His pronouncement that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18) Jesus taught His ownership is complete in that “All that belongs to the Father is mine.” (John 16:15) and we learn Jesus was “appointed heir of all things, and through whom [God] made the universe!” (Hebrews 1:2) All things then are Christ's, in respect of creation: “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made;” (John 1:3) and in respect of sustaining all things: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3a) Who is the King of Glory? The King of Glory is Jesus Christ and everything belongs to Him!

EXAMPLE: It is said that Chrysostom, suffering under the Empress Eudoxia, tells his friend Cyriacus how he armed himself beforehand: “I thought, will she banish me? 'The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.' Take away my goods? 'Naked came I into the world, and naked must I return.' Will she stone me? I remembered Stephen. Behead me? John Baptist came into my mind,” and thus it should be with everyone who claims Christ as their Savior and Lord. If He indeed is Lord of your life, then He has the rights to it. He owns it like everything else He has created. It is His alone to do with as He desires. The believer finds rest in Jesus when they realize that they are “not their own,” they are “bought with price!” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Christians therefore must honor God with all that they are (v. 20)! Who is the King of Glory? The one who paid the price, created you, and owns all that there is – Jesus Christ!

How can one whose life is so full of filth even dare enter where a Holy God abides? The stark reality is even more arresting than that. What we might dare ask, if we were to consider the truth of our lives and the purity of God, is like David did so long ago when he asked…

II. Who can worship the King of Glory? (vv. 3-4)

1. Only those who have a right to be in the throne room! David asked two perplexing questions that the “common man,” who dares not enter into the presence of true royalty, often asks. Here it refers to the Temple: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place?” Who indeed? The Jews would sing this as they slowly walked up the hill to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, knowing that deep down inside they were not really worthy to even walk on the road that lead up the hill where they would worship God! The answer, perhaps echoed back in response by the priests, is that only one whose conduct is “pure” and whose worship is faithful. “Clean hands” refers to right actions, and a “pure heart” refers to a right attitude and will. Only the one “who does not lift up his soul to an idol” by corrupting their worship or those who would dare “swear by what is false!” Praise God that Jesus reminds us that “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” (John 3:13) He has gone before us! Hebrews relates that “After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3b) Paul would write that “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12) Who can worship the King of Glory? Only those who have a right to be in the throne room! Guess what? You have that right if you know Jesus as the King of Glory!

EXAMPLE: We often hear of the salvation Jesus provided when He died for our sins, yet little is said of His continuing ministry of prayer for us! Just as Jesus prayed for Peter in a time of severe temptation (Luke 22:31-32), so also He intercedes before the Father's throne on our behalf! Robert McCheyne, a beloved Scottish minister of the 19th century, wrote, ‘If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me!’ I must confess that during a deep personal crisis, I realized the truth that “Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:26-27) It was profound. When Satan seemed to be attacking me on every side, I asked Jesus to intercede for me. The very next moment the problem was resolved, and I knew it was the Lord's intervention. Never before had I been so conscious of the Savior's high-priestly ministry! Who can worship the King of Glory? Only those who have a right to be in the throne room!

The wonderful truth of salvation is not just found in the future of an eternal home. It is discovered most graciously in the here and now by our need of Him. And David most wonderfully gives us a glimpse of this beautiful truth as he asks…

III. What can we receive from the King of Glory? (vv. 5-6)

1. Only those gifts the King wants to freely give us! David promises us that “the generation of those who seek” the King of Glory, who truly “seek” His “face… will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior!” Jesus told His disciples to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well…. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 6:33; 7:7-8) This is not some “name-it-and-claim-it” sloganeering, but the eternal truth that the King of Glory desires to give His children the blessings He has promised! Jesus told us to “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) and that “my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40) Paul would say, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) James tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) What can we receive from the King of Glory? Only those gifts the King wants to freely give us! We receive the “blessing” of eternal life and the “vindication” of our sins from Jesus Christ!

EXAMPLE: What is the best gift you could give a child? That is a different question than, “What would you leave your children?” or “What is the best gift you have ever received?” It speaks to us of future generations. Some think that by being good stewards of the earth, we will leave an unpolluted environmentally friendly future for our offspring. Others think that by investing wisely with the fortune we have acquired will insure our inheritance will be used by those who come after us. Still there are those who think that by passing down bits of wisdom or education, that this will insure a wise and knowledgeable foundation for instructing future students. While all these are worthy of consideration, only one choice remains the definitive answer and hope for the world and its human inhabitants. Only that gift which the King of Glory has given us will have eternal significance for all time. It is truly a matter of life and death for millions of our unborn progeny. It is the gift of eternal life. What can we receive from the King of Glory? Only those gifts the King wants to freely give us! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Conclusion:
When we answer the questions: Who is the King of Glory? Who can worship the King of Glory? What can we receive from the King of Glory? With David we can truly sing:

7 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is He, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
He is the King of glory.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Sinner’s Song – Psalm 32

The Sinner’s Song – Psalm 32
by Pastor Lee Hemen
October 21, 2007 AM

The music known as “the blues” they say was born out of struggle and pain. If that is true, then King David was the one who invented “the blues,” because we discover in his music the struggle he endured and the pain it caused. I believe that is why so many can relate to David’s songs as found in the book of Psalms. They are at their core “the blues.” The Blues emerged here in America with African-American communities from their spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and also the rhymed English and Scots-Irish narrative ballads. The use of “blue notes,” notes sung or played at a lower pitch than those of the major scale, and the prominence of call-and-response repetitive patterns in the music and lyrics are indicative of “the blues.”

David, in this little Psalm of his, teaches us several important things about life’s “blues.” Let’s discover them for ourselves this morning as we read the sinner’s song.

READ: Psalm 32

My buddy and I had one rousing fight. So much so the neighbor lady had to come out and beat us both apart with a broom as we wrestled around in her driveway. Unwilling to admit what my “problem was,” I huffed off home. How could I tell my best friend we were moving? Instead I got angry with him. Usually that’s how sin works. We want to blame others, our parents, circumstances, but never the real reason. As we look at this “blues” Psalm of David’s we find that…

I. This sinner’s song teaches us about our real condition! (vv. 1-4)

1. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God! David would understand this completely. This is why he immediately states that “Blessed is he whose” sins are “forgiven,” “covered,” not counted “against him,” and in “whose spirit is no deceit.” It is clear from the text that an individual can know what they are pardoned from! Sin, and sin is an abhorrent thing to a holy God. The Bible graphically describes for us that God’s “wrath” burns against any kind of sin in a person’s life. If we do not take serious our personal sin and off-handedly think, “I’ll be okay, even though I keep sinning,” the Bible tells us that “The LORD will never be willing to forgive” and “His wrath and zeal will burn against that man.” (Deuteronomy 29:20) Why? Because we dare not take our sin for granted. This is why we are reminded to “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.” Because God’s anger at our sin can “flare up in a moment.” (Psalm 2:11 & 12) Notice that when the Psalmist kept quiet about his sin, his “bones wasted away,” he groaned “all day long,” because “day and night” God’s “hand was heavy upon” him and his “strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” Yet, “blessed” (happy) is the one whose sins are forgiven and covered by God! Where could he find this happiness? This sinner’s song teaches us about our real condition!

EXAMPLE: Hank Williams sang, “Lord I went to the doctor, he took one look. He said the trouble with you ain't in my book. I'll tell you what it is but it ain't good news! You've got an awful bad case of them low down blues.” I understand this kind of feeling, do you? When nothing seems to cure the hurt that ails the human soul. It speaks about our real condition. I remember feeling “lower than an earthworm crawling in the dirt” because of how I had treated my friend. I knew what I did was wrong, but would I admit it? Not on your life! My pride got in the way. And that is usually what keeps us from truly discovering for ourselves our real condition in life. Our problems are not the fault of circumstances or others, no matter how often we hear this excuse from the ungodly world. Our real condition is our sin. Our willingness to never admit we need forgiveness. David struggled with this until he was confronted right where his pride was by Nathan the Prophet. Are you willing to admit your real condition? This sinner’s song teaches us about our real condition!

Yes this song of David’s teaches us about our real condition but as we have seen it also tells us so much more. The shepherd poet is not finished. As we read this psalm we discover that…

II. This sinner’s song teaches us about the restoration we can enjoy! (v. 5)

1. If we confess our sins God is faith and just to forgive us our sin! David realized that no matter how deeply he went into his lifestyle of sin, God would offer forgiveness if he was willing to accept the cleansing God gave. However notice what he writes that was required of him personally, because sin costs, it has a price: He says “Then I acknowledged my sin to You.” Meaning, to God alone he had to confess he was in sin – a sinner. Nothing good was in his life. This is hard for people to do because we all like to think that there is some good in us, maybe not the next guy, but certainly in us! David would sing, “Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:3; 53:3) Paul, being a Jew, would echo David and say the very same thing in Romans 3:9-18. In fact he would ask, “Are we any better?” The answer is “NO!” David knew he could not “cover up” his “iniquity” before a holy God. He says, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD!” Not just some, but ALL of them. When he was willing to do that he sang not the blues but a song of joy because God “forgave the guilt of [his] sin!” Nothing is better than a soiled soul that is cleansed! This sinner’s song teaches us about the restoration we can enjoy!

EXAMPLE: Hank Williams continues singing, “I've got the mean old miseries in my soul. I went to the river, but the water's too cold! I've walked the floor 'till I've wore out my shoes! Lord they're killin' me, I mean them low down (d) blues.” Hank wants what every person wants: relief from the “mean old miseries in my soul!” What Hank sought can be freely found. I knew what I needed to do, yet my foolish pride kept me from going and confessing. When I finally drug myself over to my friend’s house, knocked on the door, and openly asked him to forgive me – it was like the weight of the world was lifted off my fourteen-year-old shoulders! This song teaches us about the restoration we can enjoy!

Admitting our sin has become difficult in our day and age for several reasons: 1) We have a false idea that because we have learned “God is love,” that He winks or will excuse our sinful condition. And, 2) we have a hard time grasping that God never condones sin: “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate… iniquity.” (Isaiah 61:8) David knew that while he still walked this earth he needed to get his life right with God. In fact…

III. This sinner’s song teaches us about where we can go when we do sin! (vv. 6-11)

1. Our help comes from the Lord! Thank God He has not left us on our own! He has provided for us a way we can come to Him when we do sin. David sang: “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found!” A time will come when we can no longer pray for forgiveness, but that is not today! Even if “mighty waters rise,” they will not reach the ones whose “hiding place” is in the Lord. God will “protect” us and “surround” us with “songs of deliverance!” God literally sings the blues for us when we go to Him with our sin! When we are open and honest with Him, He provides a place where we can go to find forgiveness. Stop being stubborn “like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding,” David would tell us. David sings, that “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’S unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him.” There is no sin known to man that God cannot forgive if you are willing to come to Him. “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) And that “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37) This sinner’s song teaches us about where we can go when we do sin!

EXAMPLE: Hank Williams finishes his song by declaring, “Lord I never knew a man could feel so bad! I never knew livin' could be so sad! All I do is set and cry, Lord I'd have to get better, before I could die.” WOW! How depressing is that? Hank does not give an answer to his “blues” problem, but the Bible gives us the answer for our sin problem: Jesus Christ. As great as I felt when I went and asked my buddy to forgive me, the greatest burden of my life was lifted from me when I asked God to forgive my sins through Jesus Christ! If you look closely at this “blues” psalm of David’s you too will discover that this song teaches us about where we can go when we do sin. Have you come to Christ for forgiveness?

Conclusion:

David’s “blues” reflect our own discordant lives and we soon discovered several things from his sinner’s song:
1) This sinner’s song teaches us about our real condition. 2) This sinner’s song teaches us about the restoration we can enjoy. And, 3) this sinner’s song teaches us about where we can go when we do sin. No one needs to sing the sinner’s blues anymore!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

When People Want to Harm You -- Psalm 43

When People Want to Harm You -- Psalm 43
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 14, 2007 AM

The question of why do bad things happen to good people has been around since the garden of Eden. Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was imprisoned by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Once set free, he wrote Man's Search For Meaning, which became a perennial bestseller. In it, Frankl shared an all-important lesson he had learned from his suffering: “There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one's life.” Here in this passage of Scripture we find the writer asking why bad things are happening to him. Was there meaning to his life, when there were those who sought to murder him if they could? Let find out what he discovered shall we?

READ: Psalm 43

What do you do when others seek your destruction? Do you fuss and fume, begin to draw up alliances with those you count as “friends,” or do you trust in the Lord? We discover that life has not changed much in several thousands of years, and we also discover that God has the answer for us if we are willing to listen to the words of this little Psalm. It will help you when those around you seek to harm you. So, through this Psalm, you can discover that when people want to harm you the best thing to do is to…

I. Ask God for help! (vv. 1-3)

1. The question remains: Whom do you depend on? The Psalmist saw God in several ways here: 1) As his vindicator (judge), 2) As his lawyer (advocate) where he could plead his innocence, and 3) As his rescuer, the One who could deliver him from his trials and tribulations! We find that he wanted vindication from his “enemies,” who were ungodly “deceitful,” and “wicked.” He asked God to plead his cause right in their presence. His unusual request is based on what he intrinsically knew about God. That the Lord was indeed his “stronghold” someone whom he could trust. God was the One whom he could ask for “light” and “truth” to “guide” him when he could not find answers anywhere else. “Light” in the Old Testament represented Godly understanding and life, and “truth” here represented God’s faithful Word by which the Psalm writer would find guidance. He awaited God’s expression of love for direction. It has been ultimately expressed by “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” the “light of the world” Jesus Christ! “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus!” (1 Timothy 2:5) In fact, “we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1b) We can go directly to God and ask for help!

EXAMPLE: We often want to run and hide away when people want to harm us either physically or emotionally. It is a natural response. But we find that God’s people do not have to live in fear. “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) Paul would ask, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And then he would make a tremendous declaration: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you,” (Matthew 7:7) and yet we do not. We know we should ask for help yet we think we can either handle it on our own or that it will simply go away if we ignore it long enough. Both are founded in pride. The Psalmist discovered that when people want to harm you the best thing to do is ask God for help!

Our writer continued his questioning of God from the previous Psalm. Many think that both Psalm 42 and 43 should be one Psalm. If not, they were probably written around the same theme as the writer struggled with people who sought to “get” him. What would he do? How could he continue to seek God and be in worship? As you look into this passage you soon discover that when people want to harm you the best thing to do is to…

II. Praise God for the answer He will give you! (v. 4)

1. The question remains: Whom will you praise for your deliverance? The Psalmist was quick to say he would “go to the altar of God.” This is interesting because it brings up several issues that we must address. 1) Not just anyone could approach the altar of God, 2) Only a priest could offer a sacrifice, and 3) You had to be willing to pay the price of the sacrifice involved! You went to God’s altar to confess your sins and offer a sacrifice for them! Notice that the Psalmist calls God “my joy and my delight!” It is evident therefore that he had already confessed his sins and was now ready to praise God: “I will praise you with the harp!” He is ready to praise God for the answer He would give! He knew that when he went before the Lord, God was ready, willing, and able to answer his prayer. He had paid the price, he had made the sacrifice, and he had confessed his sin—he was ready to praise God for His answer! How sad when we hesitate to praise God for the answer He desires to give us. We are often like the man with leprosy who “came and knelt before [Jesus] and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said.” (Matthew 8:2) God is always willing, but we often are not. He has made the sacrifice for you through Jesus, all you have to do is praise God for the answer He will give you!

EXAMPLE: The problem is we may not like the answer we get. I find it humorous when someone asks for my advice and I later discover they have gone to several others as well. I once asked someone why they did this and they responded indignantly, “many advisers make victory sure.” (Proverbs 11:14) So I quoted back, “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.” (Proverbs 10:21) Often we ask for advice from many people not looking for an answer but for justification for our own foolish decision. God knows the plans He has for us, plans that will prosper us and give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) We may not like the answer, but God always has our best interest in mind. When people want to harm you the best thing to do is praise God for the answer He will give you!

It is hard for people to learn that happiness is a fleeting thing. One day we are on top of the world and the next we find ourselves in the dregs of despair. Why is that? I believe it is because we are emotional creatures. From Eve, finding delight in a forbidden fruit, to our day where we seek emotional hope in the things of this world. However, if we have matured, we discover that placing our hope on emotional anchors is a sure way to be on a collision course with reality! Yet, like the Psalmist you can discover that when people want to harm you the best thing to do is to…

III. Remind yourself where your hope is placed! (v. 5)

1. The question remains: In Whom do you place your hope? A question that has vexed mankind for centuries the Psalmist gives voice to when he asks the duel lament, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” We all have wondered this when faced with life’s circumstances. It is the same dual question he pondered in Psalm 42, verses 5 and 11. However, the Psalmist does what every warrior of God learns to do when faced with difficulty in life: Pray. Spurgeon wrote that “Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God.” Prayer is the reminder of where the believer is to go when faced with life’s difficulties. Notice the tri-fold response the Psalmist comes away with each time he prayed: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” He will hope in the Almighty. There he finds comfort enough to praise his Savior and his God. He is reminded where his hope is placed! The same is true for you as well. When people want to harm you the best thing to do is remind yourself where your hope is placed.

EXAMPLE: In Whom do you place your hope? People place their hope in a lot of things: Work, money, houses, family or in friends. Yet none of these things are truly lasting in life. David would write that his hope was in God alone (Psalm 25:1; 39:7; 62:5; & 71:5), in God’s law (Psalm 119:43), and in God’s Word (Psalm 119:74, 81, 114, 147; & 130:5). The Lord was the total source of his hope. Paul would say we are to “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God… And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:2, 5) The Christian’s hope is not based on a wish. When we were at Disneyland standing in line I overheard a young girl of about six say to her Dad, “I hope this ride is not too scary!” When believers pray they are not wishing upon a star or hoping that things will go okay, their confidence is certain and sure. Like Paul who steadfastly commented, “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) In Whom have you placed your hope?

Conclusion:
When people want to harm you the best thing to do is to 1) Ask God for help! 2) Praise God for the answer He will give you! and 3) Remind yourself where your hope is placed!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Psalm 23 – When God Is Our Shepherd

Psalm 23 – When God Is Our Shepherd
October 7, 2007 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

Many folks in our day and age say they “believe in God,” but what that actually means for their lives tells the tale of what they actually believe for their lives. We can say a lot of things but just because we say them, does not necessarily mean we actually believe them. It is kind of like when you ask someone, “How are you today?” Most people will respond with the innocuous platitude of, “I’m fine.” What they say may not be actually how they feel nor what they truly believe. Kind of like when you say, “Man, I am dog-tired!” Well, how tired is a dog? How tired can a dog get? Are you actually saying that you are a mutt of some sort? Of course we realize that these are simply phrases people use to express themselves, and this brings me back to my opening point: Many folks in our day and age say they “believe in God,” but what that actually means for their lives tells the tale of what they actually believe for their lives.

Herein this Psalm we see David declaring something that many have falsely taken for granted. Namely, that “the Lord is my Shepherd.” In fact, God is not anyone’s “Shepherd” unless they have been chosen by Him as one of His sheep. This brings me to what this sermon is all about. When God is our Shepherd we discover that there will exist in our lives certain spiritual truths that define whose we are, who we are, and what we believe. Let’s discover this morning what it means when God is our Shepherd.

READ: Psalm 23

When an individual comes to Christ, God does more than save them from an eternity of damnation. He saves them for His purposes. This is hard concept for many of us to understand. All throughout the Bible we discover that God saves His people for a purpose. His purpose and not ours. Throughout all of history, I guarantee you no dumb sheep ever chose their shepherd! It is the shepherd who chooses the sheep and not the herd. In our day and age we have totally misconstrued what it means when God is our shepherd. David understood that when God is our Shepherd…

I. He will be Lord of our entire life (v. 1)!

1. Sheep do not chose who their master is! Why would I say this? Notice what David immediately states right after he declares God is his shepherd: “I shall not be in want.” You cannot be in “want” or literally “fail” if God is Lord of our life! We need to take a little closer look at exactly what this means. By this statement David is telling his readers that if the Lord is Shepherd of your souls, you will not lack anything in life! You have the Shepherd. Those whose Lord is their shepherd will not “yoke” themselves to ungodly relationships, the world, or anything that would compromise their faith. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) So, how can David make such a declaration? The qualifier here is in David’s use of the title “Lord.” In the NIV it is printed in all caps (LORD). It means that David recognized the God of all creation was in control of his life! God had chosen him from all others out of the flock of men. The actual word is the Hebrew “Yahweh” (YHWH). The name for God. It is a tetragrammaton since Hebrew does not have vowels. The personal name of God is invoked when the writer wants the reader to understand that it is God Himself who is your Shepherd! When God is your Shepherd, your life is in His care completely because He has chosen you for His own! If not, then He cannot be your Shepherd. Sheep do not chose who their master is.

EXAMPLE: “Follow me!” was the invitation given by Marshall Applewhite, self-appointed leader of the Heaven's Gate cult. He promised to those who would become his disciples that he would teach them how they could move on to a higher level of life in a new world. Sincere but gullible men and women heeded his call. They left families, friends, homes, and jobs to live and work together and to obey their leader's teachings. Those 38 disciples followed him even when he told them to commit suicide. He said they would be liberated from terrestrial bondage and enter into an exalted state of being. In March 1997 they followed their leader to death and eternal loss. Jesus chose His followers with the invitation, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19). In fact, Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16) Who chose David? God did. The one true God who created all things! David therefore understood that he either followed God obediently, as any sheep would, or he would be in rebellion. If he followed God he would not fail. He would not be in want for the true things that matter in life. God would be the Lord of his entire life, not just a Sabbath day experience. When God is our Shepherd, He will be the Lord of our entire life.

You can tell who are part of God’s flock or not. Not by the words they use, but by the actions they display. They respond to their Master’s voice. This is not found in a guilty response to try and do “acts of kindness,” but rather it is out of the overflow of a life given over to one’s Shepherd. David understood this and sang that when God is our Shepherd…

II. We will respond in Godly ways (vv. 2-3)!

1. Disobedient sheep need commands to follow! Often we see the following words of David as blessings rather than what they really are: Commands that result in blessings. There is a difference. “What is that?” you may ask. Well, you first have to obey the command, then the blessing will come. Just like when sheep are herded they gain food, water, and a place to sleep if they follow their shepherd. Notice the same is true for God’s sheep as well. David says, “He makes me, He leads me, He restores (me), and He guides me!” Like all sheep, God’s herd needs to follow their Shepherd in order to find green pastures, quiet waters, spiritual restoration, and paths of righteousness! Each of these are first a command followed by a blessing. Why? Because we are disobedient sheep and disobedient sheep need commands to follow! The Psalmist would say, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good…. there is no one who does good, not even one!” (Psalm 14:1, 3) And Paul would agree! (Romans 3:10-12) They knew, like David did, that sheep left on their own find ways to get into trouble. If we say we love the Lord God, we will do so with all our “heart, soul, and mind!” (Matthew 22:37) That will result in our willingness to “lie down,” to be lead “beside quiet waters,” be restored in “soul,” and guided “in paths of righteousness!” Sheep do not readily do these things on their own. David understood that if the God is our Shepherd, we will respond in Godly ways.

EXAMPLE: Week after week, all over the world, pastors (which by the way the word “pastor” comes from the Latin for shepherd) stand in front of their congregations reminding their flocks about God’s love and how they need to find green pastures, quiet waters, spiritual restoration, and paths of righteousness. Why? Shouldn’t Christians already know how this is done? It is by reading the Bible and personal prayer with a daily quiet time with God, and through corporate Bible study! See, even David understood simple biblical truths! Many people will say, “I love God,” or “I believe in God,” but few will spend time in green pastures, near quiet waters, in spiritual restoration, or in being guided in paths of righteousness even though it is commanded by God! The sad truth is that people expect God to give them all of these “blessings” without following God’s command to do so! Guess what? It will not happen. When God is our Shepherd, we will respond in Godly ways.

We can remain immature in our faith and never grow past “milk.” Too many Christians today are still feasting on baby food instead of tearing into the meat of God. This is why so many Christians struggle. God has not changed. He is still the Creator. He is still the Lord of all the universe. We think that because we have the Lamb of God in our lives, we can remain baby sheep. This is vile and ungodly and results in weak Christians looking for their next spiritual “fix” rather than spiritual warriors God desires. David, the warrior King, reminds us that when God is our Shepherd…

III. The concerns of life will not influence our faith (vv. 4-6)!

1. This world and its discomforts are not a sheep’s real pen! David understood where his help came from even when he “walked through the valley of the shadow of death,” David had nothing to fear! Think about that for moment, who would fear anything if God is in their life? True believers in God do not fear death, evil, or where their next worldly comfort comes from! God will and does provide! He provides His “rod and staff,” an in your face presence (table) in front of your “enemies,” and He will “anoint” (bless) you until literally your “cup overflows” and you will know without a doubt that God’s “goodness and love” (mercy) will follow you “all the days” of your “life!” In fact, you will know without any doubt that you will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever!” Christians who doubt that God loves them, that He will provide for them, or that He is always with them, do not know God intimately. They are still baby sheep. Immature in the Lord. Life influences their decisions instead of their faith. They follow God through their feelings instead of His promises. The believer is always comforted by the Lord’s presence and protection. Death, evil, and enemies hold no fear in their lives! David realized that the Lord’s good loyal love (h?esed?) would go with him everywhere through all his life. God’s blessings on His people remain with them no matter what their circumstance may be. Never forget that this world and its discomforts are not the believer’s real home. When God is our Shepherd, the concerns of life will not influence our faith!

EXAMPLE: Christians can be either prayer warriors or prayer weenies. What’s the difference? A prayer weenie comes to God this way: “Oh God, why are You doing this to me? Help me with my boss! Make him a better person.” Or, “Oh God, heal John and save him.” However, a prayer warrior sounds more like this: “Lord, you know my boss. You made him and You placed him right where he is. Bless him and help me to make him the best boss possible.” Or, “Lord, I pray for Your understanding in the life of John who is sick and that he will depend on You no matter what happens in his life. I pray for John that he will give his life to Your Son Jesus and that You will use me in any way possible to help John come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.” Did you hear the difference? Babies cry out to God, mature believers walk with God. Death, evil, and enemies have no influence. When God is our Shepherd, the concerns of life will not influence our faith.

Conclusion:
When God is our Shepherd: He will be Lord of our entire lives, we will respond in godly ways, and the concerns of life will not influence our faith!