Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How Thankfulness Is Expressed! - Psalm 100

How Thankfulness Is Expressed! - Psalm 100
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 25, 2007 AM

For some people being thankful is kind of like the story told about a 4-year-old daughter and her mother who were strolling through an open-air market. As the little girl stared at a large pile of oranges. A generous vendor took one from the pile and handed it to the little girl. “What do you say to the nice man?” the mother asked her daughter. The little girl looked at the orange, then thrust it toward the man and said, “Peel it!” Often, thankfulness is something we learn and grow into. How easy it is for us to respond to God’s graciousness like that 4-year-old. An attitude of being thankful is a mark of a maturing faith.

This time of year we are reminded to be thankful. What are some of the personal memories you have about Thanksgiving? Are they good ones? Perhaps we need to pause and remember what it means to truly be thankful. The Psalmist gives us a beautiful song of thanksgiving directed towards God that teaches us an example of how thankfulness is expressed.

READ: Psalm 100

I remember waking up early on Thanksgiving Day and finding that my mother had been up for hours. She would be busy heating the oven, preparing the turkey, making pies, and fussing over this and that. Dad would try to steal some tidbit of food and get his hands slapped. Ed and I would run around like the wild pagans we were. And, Laili would listen to her rock music until she was called several times to dinner. These are a few memories I have of Thanksgiving. The Psalmist teaches us that…

I. Thankfulness Is Expressed Through A Relationship With God!
1. The Psalmist recognized who God was: “It is He who made us.” David understood that “You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be..” (Psalm 139:13-16) God made us!
2. The Psalmist further recognized his relationship to God: “we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” When he understood that God made us, the Psalmist realizes that this means we have a special relationship with Him. Jesus related, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Isaiah understood that God “tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11) What a beautiful picture of the relationship we enjoy with our Creator!
3. The Psalmist understood that thanksgiving also comes from knowing “that the LORD is God.” John would declare: “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20) Jesus prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) Thankfulness is expressed through a relationship with God!
EXAMPLE: Someone once said that “It’s not what’s in your pocket that makes you thankful but what’s in your heart.” Growing up, my family never had much. So it was with great anticipation when we celebrated Thanksgiving. Often, there would be very lean times but when Thanksgiving rolled around, there was always found plenty of food on the table! I never worried about it much growing up, I just knew everything would be okay. That’s what a relationship of trust does! Like the Psalmist, you are thankful because of your personal relationship with God!

Knowing about God is one thing, but knowing God is quite another truth entirely. Jesus said that you would know those who knew Him personally. (John 13:35 & 14:15) The “love” that we show the world is in how we live for God. Thankful actions come from the love that overflows in us from God Himself through Jesus Christ. The Psalmist would agree and tell us that…

II. Thankfulness Is Expressed Through Our Praise!
1. The Psalmist was willing to demonstrate his thanksgiving vocally! He asked that the whole world “shout for joy!” Psalm 32:11 tells us to “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” Over and over we are exhorted to “shout for joy” to the Lord in the Psalms. The word “towdah” in the Hebrew was usually used in reference to a choir singing loudly. It is kind of like when we would shout: “Ta-dah!” It is the recognition of God being in our midst!
2. The Psalmist asked his readers to “Enter [God’s] gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” Notice that this is a conscious choice on the part of the worshipper. They are being asked to “enter” with the perspective of “thanksgiving and praise” on their lips. It is so easy in our day and age to enter into worship with an improper attitude. Many want something from God, the worship leader, or the pastor’s message. Worship can only begin when God is recognized as the focus of our being there – and not ourselves and our needs or desires. God is worthy of our thanksgiving!
3. The Psalmist also asked that all people would “Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Again, this is reflective of where our heart is and it calls for personal active participation. When God truly fills His people, it is with joy and gladness. Yes, there are times when we are called to worship Him in repentance and sorrow – but when it is a time of thanksgiving – it is always to be done with joy and gladness! Paul would say, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Why? Because “The Lord is near.” (v. 5) God draws near our thankful praise. Thankfulness is expressed through our praise!
EXAMPLE: Our Thanksgivings were full of laughter, talk, and fun. Of course there was lots of food! I grew up in a very demonstrative family. We hugged, we cried, we sang loudly. We enjoyed each other’s company. Do you know what I believe? I believe there will be a few surprised people in heaven when the rejoicing begins. Too often our worship reflects a funeral dearth rather than a wedding feast! Our actions reflect who we love. Our worship should be full of “shouts of joy,” “praise,” and “joyful songs” of thanksgiving to God our Father! Our actions speak about who we love. Thankfulness is expressed through our praise!

I honestly remember the first time I had to write a letter to Denise. It was one of the toughest yet satisfying things I ever have had the privilege to do. Here’s why – I was able to tell her just how much I cared for her. The Psalmist also teaches us that --

III. Thankfulness Is Expresses Through Our Recognition of God!
1. The Psalmist knew that God was “good.” God is good because He always seeks the best for His people. He is good because He is always holy. It is not a question of magnitude where we might ask, “Have you been good today?” Rather it is a statement of fact. God is good. That’s who He is.
2. The Psalmist knew that God’s “love endures forever.” More than being good, God also is love. And that love endures or lasts forever. Unlike our love that is quite often fickle, His remains the same and constant. The Psalmist knew that God’s “faithfulness continues through all generations.”
3. The Psalmist knew that God’s truth endures! The KJV states: “the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.” God’s truth is sure. In fact Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) How marvelous to know that everything else is passing away, but God’s truth remains the same! Thankfulness is expressed through our recognition of God!
EXAMPLE: Did you ever pause and ask yourself, “What do I have to be thankful for?” In our day and age when you may have a tough time finding anything to be thankful for, you can always remember God’s character and be thankful for it. We all can get so caught up in the storms of life we forget the words: “Fear not, it is I.” We can get so concerned for the worries of unpaid bills we forget the words: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” We can be so overcome by the sadness of the moment we forget to “Cast all (our) anxiety on Him because He cares for (us)!” As we remember God and what He has done for us, we can be thankful! Thankfulness is expressed through our recognition of God!


A Slice of Life, by Edgar A. Guest

Dear Lord, accept our humble prayer
Of thanks for all thy watchful care;
For yield of field and vine and tree
Our hearts give gratitude to Thee;
Now lies the frost upon the vine,
We see another year decline;
But through the pain and strife and woe,
Thy blessings manifestly show.

Dear Lord, for laughter and for song
Which have been ours, for righted wrong,
For steps of progress we have made,
For all the works of art and trade,
For science which has conquered pain
And given hope where hope seemed vain;
For all that helps mankind to live,
This day to Thee our thanks we give.

Dear Lord, despite its pain and strife
We thank Thee for our richer life;
This is a better world for man
Than when this closing year began;
We who have suffered still can find
Proof of Thy love and mercy kind;
In all our works thy hand we see
And bow in gratitude to Thee.

The Psalmist knew how thankfulness is expressed: Thankfulness is expressed through a relationship with God! Thankfulness is expressed through our praise! Thankfulness is expressed through our recognition of God!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Three Areas of Christian Life - Colossians 4:2

Three Areas of Christian Life - Colossians 4:2
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 18, 2007

How would you say goodbye to someone that you wanted to impart some good advice to before they left? You know what mean, kind of like when a parent sees their child off to college for the first time. What “wisdom” do you send them off with that you hope will stick in their minds for more than a nanosecond? In the verse we will look at this morning we find Paul doing just this. He is summing up his letter to the church at Colossae and wants to impart some kind of wisdom that would stick with them afterwards.

Jesus does this as well with His disciples. Jesus gave them the foundational truth for salvation and how they were to live as Christians. In a grand summation to the Pharisees, who wanted to entrap Him by asking, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus responds, not with a specific “command” but with a condensed summation: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…’ and the second is… ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments!” (Matthew 22:37-40) The Old Testament develops these two points of loving God and loving others! Meanwhile, we discover that Paul gives us a wonderful summation in three areas of Christian life. Let’s discover what they are…

READ: Colossians 4:2

Succinctness does not necessarily mean simplicity. While this verse is short, it carries with it a tremendous amount of discipline for the believer. The first area of the Christian life should be…

I. Prayer!

1. We discover that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1) Was prayer important to Jesus? I believe so. Jesus prayed at every major point in His life: At His baptism (3:21) and when choosing His disciples (6:12). He often prayed alone (5:16; 9:18) and also with others (9:28-29). He prayed for Peter (22:32), and in the garden before His betrayal (22:40-44). He even prayed on the cross (23:46)! So important was prayer to Jesus, He reminds His followers, “When you pray…” 1) Do not be like a hypocrite, 2) Do it in all humility realizing that it is a personal and private conversation with God, and 3) Do not “babble” on and on with vain words that carry no meaning for you or for God! (Luke 6:5-8) John was so impacted by Jesus’ teaching on prayer, he would write: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Jesus taught persistent in prayer. Christians are to “seek,” “ask,” and “knock” in prayer! In fact, like a determined widow who seeks justice, Jesus asked, “Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night... He will see that they get justice, and quickly!” He continued by asking, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Meaning, will His “chosen ones” be in prayer? (Luke 18:6-8) Christians may not know exactly what to pray, but Paul teaches us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” and “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express!” (Romans 8:26) This is why later Paul would admonish his readers to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) The Christian life should be one of prayer.

EXAMPLE: Rather than prayer seekers, too many believers are prayer “plotters.” We are guilty of plotting our prayers to gain our wishes. Kind of like what James describes when he wrote, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) We live in a society that is motivated by what it wants rather than seeking first the kingdom of God. Selfishness rules the lives of many Christians. When I first became a believer, I wanted to be like the great Christians of the past who had made an impact for God in the world. So, I asked the Lord to make me like them. It sounded like a noble request, but I began to realize it was actually a self-centered prayer. I began to look where God was working and asking if I should join Him there. This is not an unusual thing for us to do. Often when we are young and immature we desire the prowess of others we want to emulate. It is sad however when all we desire from our prayer life is for God to become our personal. Requests for health, healing, success, or even spirituality are not wrong, but they can become selfish prayers if they do not flow from a heart determined to “seek first” His “kingdom and righteousness.” Seeking what God desires enables us to fully experience His presence as we pray. The Christian life should be one of prayer.

In this verse, Paul relates that the second area of the Christian life should be found in…

II. Being Watchful!

1. Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. (Matthew 26:41) One of Jesus’ last requests was for His disciples to “watch and pray,” and sadly they could not and they fell asleep. It is a poignant moment but it also carries with it the reason why Christians are to be watchful. Evil desires a foot hold in your life. Jesus warned that “false prophets” would come in “sheep’s clothing,” looking and sounding good but in reality are like “ferocious wolves” on the inside. (Matthew 7:15) In fact, He related, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4-5) Christians are also admonished to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come!” (Matthew 24:42) Which is the idea of us being aware of your faith walk and mindful that Jesus can return anytime and you “do not know the day or the hour!” (Matthew 25:13) But you are also to “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” (Luke12:15) because the things of this world can keep us from following Jesus. We are to “watch” ourselves concerning sin, especially if it influences others! We could cause someone to stumble and it would be better “to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around” our “neck” than to do so! (Luke 17:1-3) This is why Paul would say that as a Christian you should “Watch your life and doctrine closely,” (1 Timothy 4:16) because you can influence others with your words and actions! The Christian therefore should be watchful of their lives in Christ.

EXAMPLE: Too few Christians today stand guard over their lives. I recently asked our youth a simple question that involved physics: “If I take a roll of tape and drop it, what will happen?” I got several silly answers, until I told them to “be serious” and I continued to ask the same question over and over. Presently several of them related, “It will fall to the ground.” In fact, the law of gravity tells me that this is true. No matter how many times I dropped that roll of tape, it will fall to the ground. Some philosophers that will try to convince you that there just might be a time when it will not or that what you see is not actually what is taking place. However, no philosophical reinterpretation of the law of gravity negates the effect it has on objects. The same kind of nonsense is often tried by those who are not careful with their faith walk. Any excuse will do for them to explain their weak walk with God. This is why Jesus warned: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” when He will return. We are to “Be on guard! Be alert!” Because we “do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33) While we wait, Peter reminds us to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) The Christian therefore should be watchful of their lives in Christ.

The third area of the Christian life should be found in…

III. Being thankful!

1. You are the light of the world…. let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16) Christians are to be the light in a sin darkened world. We do this through our attitudes and actions by allowing God’s Spirit to live through us. Paul would admonish: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15) If Jesus’ peace rules your life, thankfulness will be evident in everything you do. “All this is for your benefit,” Paul would say, “so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God!” (2 Corinthians 4:15) Our entire life should be one that brings glory to God and praise to His name. When the Christian is outwardly thankful and generous with their lives, they receive a harvest whereby they are “made rich in every way so that [Christians] can be generous on every occasion” which “will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:11) In fact, in the life of a Christian there should not be any “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving,” (Ephesians 5:4) Paul knew that when an attitude of thankfulness permeated the life of a Christian, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6) A Christian’s life should be one of thankfulness.

EXAMPLE: Many want others to be thankful to them, but few are truly thankful of the blessings they receive from others or the Lord. Thankfulness is an attitude of the heart that is a choice a person makes. You decide if you are going to be thankful or not. No one else can make you thankful nor can God change your thankless attitude unless you allow Him to. I always laugh when I read the final chapter of Jonah. In a sulky huff, Jonah goes and sits down east of the city of Nineveh that he wanted to see destroyed, but in His mercy God rescued. The sun is hot and Jonah is in discomfort from its heat, so God in His kindness grows a vine for Jonah for shade. “But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live.’” How pathetic is that? God reminds Jonah he has no right to be angry over something he did not create. How ungrateful! Yet, we are too often like Jonah. Angry with God and others that we did not get what we thought we “deserved.” In reality, we should be thankful for what God has given us. Our thankfulness should be expressed in all we do, think, or say. A Christian’s life should be one of thankfulness.

The Christian should be found in prayer, the Christian should be found being watchful, and the Christian should be found being thankful. Are you?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thanks—giving! - 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Thanks—giving! - 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2007 AM

Thanksgiving is about so many things in our lives. We carry with us the memories of family, friends, and loved ones whom we have spent the years with over mega meals of turkey, potatoes and gravy, and candied yams. Yet, for the believer, there is so much more to this holiday than a mere holiday feast. It should bring us to where we remember what the holiday was truly about in the first place: Thanking God for what He has done in our lives. It should be a day of thanks---giving for the Christian.

Within these few verses we will look at today is such a rich teaching on what Christianity is all about that I almost hesitate to begin. It is a daunting task but one that is sorely needed in our day and age. We live in an era whereby churches have become nothing more than emotional way stations for the unregenerate where they can come to feel good about themselves. Church is to be more than a spiritual pep rally! It should be a place whereby God’s people come together and are transformed by the renewing of their minds and are encouraged to live their lives for God. More getting than giving occurs within the walls of the average church building on Sundays. Christians have forgotten what thanks—giving is all about. Let’s find out what Paul taught on the subject…

READ: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Have you heard the maxim that relates: “You get as good as you give?” Well, that little ditty came from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. It is an age old adage that you reap what you sow in life. This is true of your work ethic, school, family, and your spiritual life as well. There are many who think that their spirituality comes full blown when they come to Christ. This is simply not true. While a person is completely saved when they come to Christ, they are not completely trained to walk in Christ. In this, Paul teaches us an important lesson concerning thanks—giving.

I. In thanks—giving, we get out of it what we put into it (v. 6)!

1. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously! The idea of reciprocity runs throughout Scripture and is a core biblical teaching. We find Jesus telling His disciples, Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) This idea is found in not just giving your tithe, but also in your willingness to forgive others (Luke 6:37) and Psalm 37:21 tells us that “the righteous give generously!” Paul understood this principle and knew that a person who sows with a generous nature, reflects the love of God in their life. They will therefore “reap generously” from the respect of others and from the Lord. The motivation comes from a heart devoted to God. Christians are to “announce”” their giving, but in humble generosity give so that not even “your left hand know[s] what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3) Giving is not to be seen as bill paying, or as a “debt owed,” but rather a act of praise to God. If it bothers us to give regularly , perhaps we have gotten out of it what we have sown? Paul teaches us that in thanks—giving, we get out of it what we put into it!

EXAMPLE: We forget that Jesus spoke more on giving as it applies to stewardship, than anything else except heaven and hell. In fact the Bible speaks more about personal stewardship than any other subject. Don’t believe me? Let’s put it in today’s language. Scripture speaks to God’s people about ecology -- the wise use of land and animals, recycling – reusing what God has given us by meeting the needs of others, and investing by being wise with what we have been given in life. Denise and I determined a long time ago that we would give to God first. In fact, we decided we would try to increase our giving each year until we reached a place where we knew God would want us to be. I went from earning over $50,000 to $60,000 a year to earning less than $12,000 a year, after entering the ministry, but we never missed our giving to the Lord first. In our lives we have reaped what we have sown in this area. Missionaries have been able to go to the mission field, our church has been able to pay its bills on time, and we have been able to do ministry in the community. We both have learned that in thanks—giving, we get out of it what we put into it. Have you?

There are too many people who call themselves “Christian,” or consider themselves part of the “church,” yet they never give to further God’s work through His church. Fewer than 3% of regular “church attendees,” consistently tithe to the Lord. And yet these same people will want the church to provide individual ministries to them, their families, and their communities. There is no one who claims Christ that should not be giving back to Him! Why is that? Paul teaches us that…

II. In thanks—giving, grace should motivate our giving (v. 7)!

1. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver! The idea here is following up on the previous verse. Our cheerful, literally “hilarious,” attitude comes from God’s own gracious heart! How is that? The Bible teaches us that our inner motivation for giving should come from God’s mercy to the point that “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (Proverbs 25:21) Grace should always proceed our giving. God’s tender mercy has been richly extended toward us, how much more could we give in return? Therefore, we are to give to those in need, without announcing it or expecting any thanks for doing so. For what you treasure in life, that is where your heart will be. (Matthew 6:2-3, 21) Proverbs reminds us that anyone who takes credit for giving to God, when actuality they do not, is “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give.” (Proverbs 25:14) Jesus reminded His disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) What we acquire in this life is nothing compared to what God has given us! This is why Jesus reminds us, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Our joy should be made complete in our giving. We are to give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and in thanks—giving, grace should motivate our giving!

EXAMPLE: I have often said that “I have never met a dynamic vibrant Christian, that does not give to the Lord first. Never.” I have met people who have claimed they know Christ, but rarely give, begrudgingly give, or give out of guilt – and these usually are weak in their faith, struggle with their bills, only once in a while read the Word of God, and rarely pray except to ask God for some need. Harsh? I suppose, but true. I am often reminded of one elderly lady who wanted to give a gift to the church that I thought was way too much for her to give. In my “pastoral” thinking I wanted to protect her from giving more than she “could afford.” She put me right immediately and I never forgot what she told me: “Pastor, never take from someone the right to praise God through their giving. God has given me so much, what little I can give to His work is a tremendous blessing to me!” She taught me something that day I have never forgotten. It is the same thing Paul teaches here, that in thanks—giving, grace should motivate our giving.

This little lady learned something early on in her life that needs to be taught anew to today’s transitory Christian. Steadfastness in your walk with Jesus reaps rewards that the world can never measure. In fact, Paul teaches us that…

III. In thanks—giving, we receive a blessing that cannot be measured (v. 8)!

1. God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work! Is Paul talking about good deeds that save us? NO! Jesus tells us that we are not to “work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6:27) In fact we discover that “God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’” (Romans 2:6) Paul asks, “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) and the answer of course is “Yes, He will.” Notice that here in the verses I just quoted and in verse 8 in our passage today, the word “all.” “All things… at all times… having all that you need… [God] graciously gives us all we need!” WOW! And you ask, “Why giving so important to the Lord?” It reminds us of how much God gave us: “For God so loved the world that He gave...” (John 3:16) and it also reminds us how much God continues to give us each day: God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) Oh how we so easily forget! In thanks—giving, we receive a blessing that cannot be measured!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever noticed that when you go to the beach, sand gets into everything? On your feet, in your clothes, on the dog, in the car, in your hair, and in places we sometimes cannot mention! What if we took all of that sand that has accumulated in all of those places and counted each grain of sand. I wonder what it would come to? Would you accept a dollar for every grain found and counted? I know I would! What if you picked up a handful of sand, placed it in a plastic bag and counted each grain -- would you accept a penny for each grain? Of course you would! Yet in all of the sand, on all of the beaches, in all of the oceans of the entire world, the amount of grains does not measure up to the blessings we receive from God when we follow Him with our lives. Those who do not, do not understand. Those who do, do. Why? This is why God told Abraham He would bless him like “sand on the seashore,” and David would be blessed “as sand on the shore,” and Israel would be blessed as “sand on the shore.” It was not just about the number of offspring each would have, but the magnificent promise of God coming true in Jesus Christ. All the blessings of heaven and earth are accumulated in Jesus. And when know Him, we enjoy every one of them! This is why Paul teaches us that in thanks—giving, we receive a blessing that cannot be measured!

In thanks—giving, we get out of it what we put into it (v. 6)! In thanks—giving, grace should motivate our giving (v. 7)! In thanks—giving, we receive a blessing that cannot be measured (v. 8)!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

How Sin Affects God’s People - Psalm 6

How Sin Affects God’s People - Psalm 6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 4, 2007 AM

David was a man that was often vexed by troubles from his enemies. He often felt persecuted and sought to understand why this occurred in his life. We discover that David was not always the holy person God desired him to be. In fact, many of his problems were caused by his own stubbornness and guilt when he was caught in his own sin. David discovered that far too often, like most of us do, God does not like it when His people sin. We may wonder, like David did, where our grief, anger, or even frustration comes from and cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” However, if we take a close look at our own lives, compare it to this Psalm, we soon discover how sin affects God’s people.

What happens and what should God’s people do when they are caught in sin’s grasp? Too few people in our day understand the consequences of their sin and what sin will do in their lives. They shrug it off not realizing who they harm and what havoc they create in their lives and the lives of others around them. Here in this Psalm we discover not only what sin creates, but the answer for our lives when we are caught up in sin. Let’s take a closer look and find out how sin affects God’s people.

READ: Psalm 6

One thing I have discovered for my life that seems to be true for everyone: Sinning is easy, living a holy life is a lot tougher. Why is that? I believe it is because we hate to admit that we sin, and especially we hate to admit it to God! We fear what God might think. Here’s some news: God already knows! David gives us insight into how we all dread how God views our sinfulness, yet in David’s words we also find hope. David helps us to see that…

I. God’s people should turn back to God when they commit sin! (vv. 1-5)

1. “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning!” Paul bluntly states. (1 Corinthians 15:34) Interestingly, in the Hebrew David actually says to God, “In Your anger, do not rebuke me or in Your wrath do not discipline me.” David fears what God thinks of his sin. This is a necessary thing for us if are truly seeking God in our lives. David’s words emphasizes the manner of the punishment. If God’s wrath against David were to continue, he could not survive. This is why he quickly asks, “be merciful to me… heal me!” Only in the “agony” of his sinful “anguish” could David find God’s mercy. We often have to look up and cry, “How long, O LORD, how long? Before we understand just how much God loves us! David then gives two reasons why God should answer: 1) The LORD should rescue him because of [God’s] unfailing love, and 2) Who praises [God] from the grave? The fact is “No one remembers [God] when he is dead. It is too late! When we sin we fear what God thinks about it, but He offers us mercy and forgiveness when we ask! David reminds us that God’s people should turn back to God when they commit sin!

EXAMPLE: “When will you learn?” was all my uncle asked me. I knew what he meant. I was on “parole” for not following through with what I had promised to do. I had not kept my word, even though others had. But more than that, I had mouthed off. Now I was suffering the results of my verbal and physical rebellion. And that is what sin truly is: rebellion. Saying “I will not” to God, and sometimes far worse: “Who are you to tell me what to do?” That’s’ what I had done. Just as my discipline came quickly, so does God’s. We wonder why these things are happening to us? “It’s not my fault!” we whine. Yet, He will not be mocked. We often wonder like David, “How long, O Lord, how long?” When we know what we should do all along. God’s people should turn back to God when they sin.

Being sorry for doing wrong is a far cry from being remorseful for our sinful condition. We are sorry for a number of reasons: For being caught, out of embarrassment, or as an excuse. Remorse carries with it a whole new meaning. David shares with us that…

II. God’s people should be remorseful for their sin! (vv. 6-7)

1. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Paul would wonder. (Romans 7:24) David felt the total effects of unconfessed sin when he tried to sleep at night. Have you ever felt so afflicted? Why does this happen? A godly person feels remorse when they sin. Remorse carries with it repentance. Repentance means turning from our sin and turning to God. Notice that David was “worn out from groaning.” He flooded his “bed with weeping” and his “couch with tears.” He was “weak with sorrow.” We discover the full impact on the life of one who knows what he needs to do, but finds it difficult. We are taught to “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for His wrath can flare up in a moment.” However, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” (Psalm 2:12) Paul would ask his fellow Jews why “do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed!” (Romans 2:4-5) Wow! Repentance for sin must proceed forgiveness. Sin affects God’s people and we should be remorseful for our sin!

EXAMPLE: I could not just feel “sorry” for what I had done, I had to “think about it.” I hated doing that. I still can hear my mother saying, “Young man, since you are not really sorry for what you did, just sit there and think about it until you are.” Sit? Sit! Me? A full-fledged on the go boy, sit and “think” about what he did? While I did not realize what my mother was trying to teach me, I can clearly see now. She wanted me to understand that anyone could be “sorry” because they were caught, but true remorse only comes when a person fully understands the consequences of their sin. I can remember calling out to my Mom every five minutes or so, “Mom! Have I sat here long enough yet?” Her irritating reply was, “Do you understand what you did?” She would not accept my simple “Yes.” That woman knew what lurks “in the heart of a child,” and so does God. Sometimes, only “a rod of discipline” can drive it far from us. God’s people should be remorseful for their sin.

There are times when we can feel like God could not possibly love us or care for us and during these times it is easy to just give into our sin. However, this is simply not true, God does love us. Why then do we feel this way? Because we know the truth. In spite of ourselves, God does care for us, but He hates our sin! David discovered that when God’s people sin, it causes a spiritually stressful condition. Here in this Psalm we learn that sin affects the very core of our being and our immediate fellowship with God. David teaches us to see that…

III. God’s people should feel shame over their sin! (vv. 8-10)

1. “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?” Paul irritatingly asked. (Romans 6:21) For David, his “enemies” represented torment in his life. In reality that enemy was sin. God had “heard [his] weeping,” his “cry for mercy,” and accepted David’s confessional “prayer.” Why? When we view sin as it should be, our destructive “enemy,” then we begin to realize the consequences of our actions. David wanted nothing more to do with sin in his life and prays, “All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.” Evidently David’s foes saw his sin and were laughing at his predicament. Sin was David’s problem, not his other enemies. Sin is disgraced when we openly confess it and feel shame because of it. Only in our shame can we find ourselves cleansed. Sin should be so repulsive that we, like David, see it as the enemy of our lives. So much so that we feel ashamed of our actions and cry out to God for mercy. David would later sing, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17) David had not originally felt shame over his adultery with Bathsheba, but when he was confronted by God, and later lost his firstborn son, he realized the extent and consequences of his actions. Later, his own children would plot to kill him. David’s shame would follow him. How glorious for us to know that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people” and “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all!” (Hebrews 9:28; 10:10) David teaches us that God’s people should feel shame over their sin.

EXAMPLE: “Well, I am not sorry!” I defiantly declared, as I stood with my scrawny arms folded over my chest. (It is amazing how a five year old can be demonic in their rebellious nature.) My bottom hurt as much as my pride, and while my pride was still intact my father knew he had to get his point across. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” he quietly declared, “treating your mother that way. No young man ever treats their mother with disrespect. So, you have a choice to make. Either be treated as a young man, or lose the right.” My mother worked hard packing apples all day. Individually wrapping them to be shipped all over the world. She worked 8 to 10 hours a day in a refrigerated warehouse. It was hard, tedious work and I had made her day a whole lot tougher. I had been rude and was not very grateful for what she had prepared for supper. After being reminded of these “facts” I was ashamed of my actions. I slowly went in and told her so. David experienced the same thing and teaches us that God’s people should feel shame over their sin.

The Bible reminds us that “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23) and that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:8-10) Now, how do you feel about your sin? God’s people should turn back to God when they commit sin! God’s people should be remorseful for their sin! God’s people should feel shame over their sin!