Saturday, October 31, 2009

Christian Discipleship and the Current Political Situation in the United States

Dual citizenship

I have a dual citizenship. By this, I don’t mean that I am both an American and British citizen, or anything like that. Instead, I mean that I am both a citizen of the kingdom of Jesus Christ and the United States of America. All true Christians have this kind of dual citizenship. Jesus recognized this situation when he said, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and give to God the things that are God's.”

Seeking the welfare of the city

What should our attitude be as Christians toward the earthly nation the Lord has placed us in by the first birth? I lean heavily on these familiar verses from Jeremiah 29, when God’s people were exiles or pilgrims away from their true home:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
As believers we should “seek the welfare” of the place the Lord has determined for us and “pray on its behalf” as we make our way to our true home above.

Salt and not losing saltiness

Another key set of verses, which speaks of our responsibility to the earthly city is found in the Sermon on the Mount:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Here Jesus compares his people to salt. Salt had an important preserving effect for certain foods in that culture. Jesus seems to say that his people can have a good effect on society if they retain their salt-like quality. What does this mean? It means that Christians must live out their identity in Christ. Christians must live out what they truly are in Him without hiding their identity before others.

The danger Jesus warns about is living lives inconsistent with who we are as Christians. To be salt means to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. While it is true that all of us fail the Lord miserably, our failures should grieve us, and cause us to humble ourselves in continual repentance, and renewal through faith in Christ. Even our sin and shame, if accompanied by repentance and faith, can lead us to become more like Jesus of whom we learn, who described himself as “gentle and lowly in heart.”

Holding to the Word as both law and gospel

As Christians we hold to the Word of God, and we believe that this Word contains both law and gospel. The law gives us a standard of righteousness---it reveals the character of the God who gives it. The gospel tells us how God can be merciful to us through his Son, who fulfilled the law with his perfect righteousness, and bore its penalty through his death on the cross. Part of being salt in society is faithfully speaking both the law and the gospel to the world around us.

John the Baptist is an interesting case study for us in speaking both the law and the gospel to his contemporaries. He pointed to law and the need for repentance, but he did not stop there. He also pointed people to the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Yet the gospel did not nullify the law for John. To Herod, a political leader who had taken his brother’s wife and was in the midst of this scandalous sin, John boldly proclaimed the law, and was beheaded because of his stand for righteousness.

Thus, these are some of the principles that guide our interaction with the society around us: seeking the welfare of the nation we live in, living out what you are in Christ, faithfully speaking the law and the gospel to others. In the rest of this article, I would like to apply these principles to our present situation as dual citizens of both God’s nation and this earthly nation, the USA.

Freedoms under attack in the present situation

First, I want to show how our basic God-given, constitutional rights and freedoms are under attack through contrasting quotes from the founding fathers of America with people who are, either in, or close to the current administration. This contrast will focus on five areas of freedom:

The right to property

James Madison: “That is not just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal [possession] . . . liberty is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the less.”

Van Jones: “No more broken treaties. No more broken treaties. Give them [Indians] the wealth. Give them the wealth. Give them the dignity. Give them the respect they deserve. No justice on stolen land. We owe them a debt.”

The president and many people in his administration are on record that they desire to redistribute wealth. The problem is that this redistribution is not in accord with the constitution or the basic right to property the Lord envisions for the human race.

The right to bear arms

Thomas Jefferson: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

Cass Sunstein: “Almost all gun control legislation is constitutionally fine. And if the court is right, then fundamentalism does not justify the view that the second amendment protects an individual right to bear arms.”

If Sunstein and others don't like this particular freedom/right, then they need to remove it from the constitution. This would be the honest way to change, rather than twisting the plain meaning of the constitution.

The right to a free press

Thomas Jefferson: “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed.”

Robert McChesney: “Any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.”

It is hard for rank and file Americans to believe that anyone would want to get rid of a free press. But steps are being considered and taken to this end by the administration. Mark Lloyd's proposal to seize radio stations and give them to others through unpayable government fees is chilling.

The right to freedom of speech

George Washington: “The freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”

Mark Lloyd (FCC diversity “czar”): “It should be clear by now that my focus here is not freedom of speech or the press. This freedom is all too often an exaggeration. At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other community policies.”

Mark Lloyd is on record as looking to Hugo Chavez as a model for the U.S. to emulate in Venezuela's takeover of the media.


George Washington: “There is no practice more dangerous than that of borrowing money; for when money can be had in this way, repayment is seldom thought of in time, the interest becomes a loss, exertions to raise it by dent of industry cease, it comes easy and is spent freely, and many things [are] indulged in that would never be thought of if [they were] to be purchased by the sweat of the brow.”

Joe Biden: “Now, people when I say that --- [say] what are you talking about Joe? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt? The answer is yes, that’s what I’m telling you.”

In just this last year, the current administration has run up a 1.4 trillion dollar deficit. The national debt is now 343,000 per citizen. It is difficult to see how a financial collapse is not looming in our future.

Applying biblical principles to the present situation

Let’s apply the three biblical principles of seeking the welfare of the society, living out our identity in Christ, speaking law and gospel, to this current situation:

First, seeking the welfare of the society the Lord has placed us in. I don’t believe that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Nor do I believe the founders were all Christian men. The best studies seem to show that only 10% of Americans at the time of its founding even attended church! Many of our founders were deists and deeply influenced by the rationalism of the day. Jefferson even rewrote the New Testament eliminating all of the miracles.

But there is no doubt that the idea of limited government and basic freedoms and rights are consonant with biblical truths. Scripture warns us of the awful power that government can wield and damage it can do if unchecked. Surely, limited government and checks and balances are very much in accord with Scripture. Freedom is always better than slavery in the Bible, and the lender is always in a better position than the borrower. Therefore, for the welfare of our society Christians are right in extolling freedom and warning about the dangers of total government and big debts.

Second, being salt or living out what we truly are in Christ. At the heart of discipleship are two things: 1) submission to the Word of God; 2) repentance and faith. I find these two fundamental requirements in these words from Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Christians have compromised or lost their saltiness in both of these matters of discipleship. Christ’s yoke involves his rule through his word. But large portions of Christendom no longer believe in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. We refuse to hear the Word when it challenges us or reproves us. For some, the Word of God is neglected year after year as it sits on the shelf. Is it any wonder that the salt has lost its saltiness, and therefore, our culture continues to increase in corruption?

With regard to repentance and faith, we also fail to live out the meaning of our baptism to die with Christ in his cross in repentance, and to be raised with him through faith in his resurrection. We so easily countenance our sin. Where are those who mourn over their depth of their sin, but rejoice in the height, depth, length and breadth of God’s grace to us in Christ? Again, we have lost our saltiness.

Third, we must speak the law and the gospel, first to ourselves, and then to those around us. The law brings God’s judgment. The gospel brings God’s salvation from that judgment.

Sometimes the law can be discerned in the difficulties we face personally and in our nation. God often sent slavery to his people to get them to repent and call out to him in faith (this is the pattern in the book of Judges). God often sent debt, cultural chaos, and inept political leadership as a sign of his judgment, i.e., the threat of the law. But the law is intended to cause us to repent. The law is intended to drive us to the gospel.

It seems to me that the difficulties our country is facing are God’s shout of the law to us! He is forcefully telling us of our need to repent and turn to him once more for mercy. And, even if our culture is deaf to that message, you and I as Christians should not be. We should hear these great difficulties our nation is facing as his warning to repent and come to Him through His Son!

I know I need to repent and seek the Lord with all my heart! Won’t you join me? Won’t you come with me to humbly kneel at the foot of the cross to hear the Father’s word of forgiveness for his Son’s sake? Won’t you then wait with me there, humbly asking the Lord Jesus Christ to raise us up to a new life by the Spirit? Let’s not ignore the word of the law and its judgment that we are hearing in this nation. Let’s use that word of the law to drive us to the wonderful gospel of grace. Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dismantling America

This article nicely sums up why we are at a critical time in the history of the United States of America. Do you love the rights and freedoms you have in America as a gift of God? Then please pay attention and speak up before we all lose them

Dismantling America

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Casting Our Burdens on the Lord --- Psalm 55, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 55 (English Standard Version)

Cast Your Burden on the LORD

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David.

1 Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
2Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
and in anger they bear a grudge against me.

4My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
5Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
6And I say, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
7 yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;

8I would hurry to find a shelter
from the raging wind and tempest."

9Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
11ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its marketplace.

12For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
14We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
15Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

16But I call to God,
and the LORD will save me.
17 Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he hears my voice.
18He redeems my soul in safety
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.
19God will give ear and humble them,
he who is enthroned from of old,

because they do not change
and do not fear God.

20My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
he violated his covenant.
21His speech was smooth as butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords.

22 Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.

23But you, O God, will cast them down
into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.


This is a long psalm, so I want to concentrate on just one verse:
22 Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
In this psalm, David is a man overwhelmed by fear and burdens. Verse 5 is an example of his fear:
5Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
Verse 2 is an example of his burdened soul:
2Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan . . . .
What are the causes of his fear and burden? In general, the answer is his enemies:
I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
3because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
What is the good news of the psalm? The answer is:
God . . . who is enthroned.
Because God is enthroned, and because he is good (he is the redeemer in verse 18) I can find help. Our Father and his Son are strong enough to help us, and good enough to help us! This help is not necessarily immediate deliverance, but rather a promise from the Lord to sustain his children until deliverance comes:
Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you
As believers, like David, we too have enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. These enemies are all bitterly opposed to Christ. The world in its anti-Christ apathy and hatred, and its love for pleasure, profit, and power, is always trying to seduce us away from our devotion to Christ. The flesh (the sinful nature or old man) is that enemy within us that opposes the new work of the Spirit in us. The devil is that personal being who is the unseen power behind the world’s deceit and sin’s power.

These enemies bring fear and many burdens into our lives. They are too strong for us. Therefore, our only hope is to look to the Lord and cast our burdens on him. Jesus Christ is our justifier, therefore, no one can condemn us. Jesus Christ is our sanctifier, who renews us into his image as we look to him by faith.

In all of this we can do nothing, for we cannot justify ourselves or change our sinful hearts. Therefore, we ask Jesus Christ to send forth his Spirit to brood upon the wild sea of our hearts and bring forth a new creation. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Sola Panel | The community gospel part 1: A powerful and dangerous formula

The Sola Panel | The community gospel part 1: A powerful and dangerous formula

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Living "Coram Deo" at all times --- Search the Scriptures, Psalm 54

Psalm 54 (English Standard Version)

The Lord Upholds My Life

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, "Is not David hiding among us?"

1O God, save me by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
2O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
3 For strangers have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life;
they do not set God before themselves.

4Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.

5He will return the evil to my enemies;
in your faithfulness put an end to them.
6With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
7For he has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.


I want to focus on this sentence found at the end of verse 3: “they do not set God before themselves.” Here are how some other English versions translate these words: “
They care nothing for God.” --New Living Translation

“They do not care about God.” --New Century Version

“people without regard for God” --Today’s New International Version
Who were these people who did not set God before themselves? And, who would be their modern day counterparts, people who are without regard for God?

The Psalm’s setting is the time when David was running for his life from king Saul, who was trying to kill him. The Ziphites, who were part of the tribe of Judah, knew of David’s whereabouts and gave that information to Saul. Saul, then, came and was about to capture David and his men, when an urgent message came to Saul to return at once because the Philistines were raiding the land. Through this stroke of providence, the Lord once again saved David’s life. It’s no wonder that David says in verse 4, “God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder (or sustainer) of my life.”

So, who are the people who did not set God before themselves or cared nothing for him? They would include Saul, the men in Saul’s army who were chasing David, and the Ziphites.

Why did these people slander (the evil in view in verse 5 can be translated as slander) and wickedly pursue the life of an innocent man? What caused this wicked behavior? Quite simply, it was their lack of regard for God. It was because they did not set the Lord before their eyes. Their ungodliness led to wickedness.

Who would be the modern day counterparts of Saul, his men, and the Ziphites? The answer is not hard. It would include all those who care nothing for the God revealed in the Old Testament and most fully in Jesus Christ. In love, God has sent his beloved Son into the world. He came to die for our sins. He came to bring us forgiveness. He has been raised to the place of all authority over heaven and earth. Not to come to the Father through the Son, and to recognize Jesus as our Lord, is to commit this sin of caring nothing for God.

But before we let ourselves off the hook as professing Christians, isn’t it true that we can go through great chunks of the day with no regard for God? Isn’t it true that we can live for hours, and even days, without setting the Lord before us? Instead of living moment by moment coram deo, i. e., before the presence or face of God, we live our lives as practical atheists, hardly ever considering the God we are called to love with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

O, how we need to repent of our independence from our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer! We live as though we have no need of him, when the truth is, we cannot live without him.

I write this to challenge myself as well as you. We live in a secular world that mistakenly thinks that such independence from God is good, when it is, in fact, the essence of sin. As Christians raised and enveloped in this secular mindset we need to be sanctified and renewed. We must learn to do just the opposite of our culture. We must learn: to set God before ourselves; to care about God; to have regard for God at all times. He is now our Father because of Christ. In any difficulty his name is powerful (v. 1). At all times his name is good (v. 6). At all times, whether good or bad, he deserves our sacrifices of praise and thanks (v. 6).

Monday, October 19, 2009

A good word on word studies from Bill Mounce

I thought this was a good article about word studies and how far they can take us. --Bill

ψαλλω and Musical Instruments (Monday with Mounce 45)

Someone asked me the other day about the precise meaning of the Greek word ψαλλω and any relationships it has, if any, to the ancient debate of musical instruments in worship.

I hesitate to blog on this because I am sure there has been much discussion in the Worship Wars literature about this and I am not aware of the pitfalls lying in wait for me. (Can pitfalls "lie in wait" or am I mixing my metaphors? Oh well, you understand.) My books on worship are at school and I can't get to them. So much for disclaimers.

But the person mentioned that some lexicons support one position, and others lexicons support the other. Let's see.

The latest version of BDAG gives this meaning to ψαλλω: "to sing songs of praise, with or without instrumental accompaniment." The suggested glosses are "sing, sing praise." The cognate noun ψαλμος is defined as "song of praise, psalm and is used in the NT as a reference to the Psalms or more generally to a hymn of praise."

It is interesting that Liddell and Scott give these meanings for classical Greek: "to play a stringed instrument with the fingers; later, to sing to a harp, sing, N.T. Louw and Nida agree. "to sing songs of praise, with the possible implication of instrumental accompaniment."

Both words are used in the LXX to refer to the Psalms, which were often sung with musical accompaniment. However, the word can be used just of singing apart from mention of an instrument (Ps 33:2).

ψαλλω occurs five times in the NT, none of which specify anything more than the voice (Rom 15:9; 1 Cor 14:15 (2x); Eph 5:1; James 5:13). The noun occurs seven times, four times in Luke-Acts of a psalm, the books of Psalms, or the entire section of the Jewish canon also called the Writings (Luke 20:42; 24:44; acts 1:20; 13:33). In Paul they are used of a song sung (1 Cor 14:26; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).

So what can we conclude? It appears that the word has shifted somewhat in meaning, since originally it clearly referred to playing an instrument, but by NT times it could be used more generally of human singing. I suspect the lexical data will not take us any further than that.

But it does point out an important lesson for all young Greek translators to understand, and that is that words change their meaning.

They can widen in scope, narrow in scope, or shift altogether. I suspect the question that engendered this blog was because the Classical Greek definition and the Koine are somewhat different, and the person asking did not realize that Liddell Scott cannot be compared directly to Koine lexicons like BDAG.

But does this mean that the "songs" in the NT were unaccompanied by musical instrument. Absolutely not. The New Testament inherits the culture of the Old Testament, and the later was full of instrumentation.

The burden of proof would lie on the person assuming that instruments were not used in New Testament worship, and then it would have to be proven that the absence is normative for all worship of all time.

The lesson for us is to watch the dating of the references, realizing that words shift meaning from Classical to Koine. And also realizing that word studies don't necessarily solve debate. They may give us the range of possible options, but other factors usually determine which option we choose.

As for me and my house, we will use any means available to praise God for who he is and what he has done.

Saying "No" to God --- Psalm 53, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 53

53:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
there is none who does good.

2 God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

3 They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

4 Have those who work evil no knowledge,
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon God?

5 There they are, in great terror,
where there is no terror!
For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you;
you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.

6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.


This psalm, with the exception of the last part of verse 5, is a verbatim repetition of Psalm 14. This fact, in itself, is illuminating. Apparently, the Lord wants us to get the message of this psalm, and so he repeats it for us. Good teachers repeat things that are important for emphasis. The message contained in this psalm about the universality of human sinfulness is an important message the Lord would have us learn!

It is a difficult message for us to learn. Sin is deceitful. It is so easy to fool ourselves about our true nature. One of the sad effects of sin is that it blinds us to even its very presence. The only thing that will expose our sinful hearts is the law of the Lord and his holiness.

It was only when Isaiah caught a glimpse of God’s glory that he saw himself as a great sinner. He cried out, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” The same was true of Peter, who caught a glimpse of Christ’s holiness and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). The same thing happens to all of us who are convicted by the Holy Spirit of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11).

We will never appreciate God’s grace until we come to an understanding of our sin and its heinousness. If we don’t know and hate the sin that lurks in our hearts, then we cannot love the grace of God shown to us in Christ. As I often say, if we will but meditate on the cross, we will see both what our sin deserves, and the undeserved grace the Father offers us in his Son.

Verse one of Psalm 53 also has the potential to show us our sin, if the Holy Spirit takes it and illumines our heart. The first line of the psalm literally says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘No God.’” In other words, there is something in our hearts that simply does not want God to be involved in our lives. If you know your heart at all, then you know that in all of us there are areas where we simply say no to the Lord.

As sinful human beings we long to be in control of our lives, and so we resist the Holy Spirit’s design to have us surrender to the Father and his will for our lives. Those areas of control vary for each heart, but they are there, and as Christians we will fight a battle to give over these areas to the Lord until he takes us to glory.

The Spirit calls us to come to Christ and die to ourselves and our control in every aspect of our lives. This is why Jesus spoke so often of denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following him. The way to live is to die to ourselves and our own control. O that we would simply learn the first part of the first question of the catechism:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong---body and soul, in life and in death---to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
We are not our own. We belong to Another, therefore, let us not say no to him in any aspect of our lives. Saying yes to the Lord, instead, who owns us through his redemption, will bring us true joy and comfort when we give him his rightful place.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ahimelech or Doeg? Saul or David? Antichrist or Jesus Christ? --- Search the Scriptures, Psalm 52

Psalm 52 (English Standard Version)

The Steadfast Love of God Endures
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, "David has come to the house of Ahimelech."

1Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
2Your tongue plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
3You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right.

4You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
5But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.

6The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
7"See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!"
8But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
9I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.


A Cultural Observation

As an amateur observer of our culture, I’ve noticed how little doing the right thing is discussed or even considered in our time. If you watch the political news shows, invariably the politics of a situation is discussed. How can this politician get his way? What spin must he use to succeed? What do the polls say? Questions of pragmatism and sociology are in vogue, but, sadly, the question, “What is right thing to do?” is simply no longer part of our society’s discussion.

Recently Rush Limbaugh was part of a team that tried to buy a pro football team. Regardless of how you feel about Rush Limbaugh, it is clear that people maliciously lied about him, manufacturing out of thin air racist and sexist quotes --- things he simply never said. Eventually the “team” trying to buy the football team dumped Limbaugh so that they would have a better chance of securing the bid. Did these people do “what is right” in dumping Limbaugh, succumbing to the lies told about him, or did they simply do the pragmatic thing --- what was best for their short term interests?

Psalm 52 talks about these sorts of issues. It talks about doing “what is right.” It talks about “lying,” a “deceitful tongue,” and people who are skilled at plotting the destruction of others. It talks about ultimate issues, like trusting in self/power or trusting in God’s enduring love. Psalm 52 has a needed message for people in a culture like ours, who have placed their trust in themselves and what works, rather than in God’s love and doing what is right no matter how it hurts ourselves in the short run.

When I use the words culture or society I am not excluding churches. It is sad to see how pragmatic we are in our churches. How few decisions are made on the basis of pleasing the Lord and obeying his Word. Instead, we follow the business model of following the bottom line. For businesses, the bottom line is profit, not doing the right thing. For many churches, the bottom line is the “profit” of numbers and not offending the “customers” . . . ummmmm, I mean, church members.

The Context of Psalm 52

The context of Psalm 52 is interesting. The title of the psalm takes us back to the time when Doeg, the Edomite, first lied about, and then murdered 85 priests and all of their families at the command of king Saul. Saul, in Scripture, is a warning to us about the unlimited evil that rulers can do. Saul, along with Pharaoh, Nebuchednezzar, Herod, and others in Scripture, show us the beastly quality that governments can exercise (In the 20th century these beastly rulers had names like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, et. al.). But this beastly quality of governments is greatly furthered by people like Doeg (and societies), who are willing to lie, practice deceit, and destroy (libel is destroying the name of a person) in the name of pragmatism and “what is best” for the society.

The Difference the Lord Makes

But some will object to doing what is right because who can really say what is right? Who really knows what is the right thing? The answer to this question is also unpopular in our day, because the answer is that the Lord knows. The Lord who created us is the One who tells us what is right and what is true.

The Lord is also the One who makes it better to do the right thing, because He brings about justice and his love lasts forever. Doeg, I’m sure, experienced short term gain through his lies and oppression. He gained favor with Saul. He probably increased in wealth. By trusting in political power (Saul’s kingdom) and looking out for his short term advantage, Doeg did pretty well.

Sadly, we live in a culture of Doegs, who are looking no further than their short term advantage, with no thought given to the justice and love of the Lord. But soon the Lord would remove Saul from his throne. Soon the Lord would require Doeg to answer for his pragmatism, lies, and murders.

On the other hand, we live in a culture with just a few Ahimelechs. Ahimelech was the priest who was murdered along with his family. Ahimelech did the right thing in helping David and in telling Saul the truth. For his truth telling and doing what was right, Ahimelech suffered the worst short term disadvantage imaginable, as he, his family, and city, were brutally put to death.

But I want to suggest that Ahimelech and his family fared, and continue to fare, far better than Doeg! Look at these two contrasting verses:

5But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.

8But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.

Doeg, and probably his family, was destroyed forever, according to verse 5. Ahimelech and his family are olive trees in the house of God, according to verse 8, where they are enjoying God’s love, and will continue to enjoy his life and love forever.


Psalm 52 is teaching us a valuable lesson about siding with the Lord and his Anointed One, the greater David, and his enduring love. It teaches us that the short term benefits of wickedness will be very short-lived. It teaches us that even if we have to endure great disadvantages and suffering in this life for following Jesus Christ and doing what is right, such disadvantages will be worth it. What we do for Christ will not be forgotten, even as what Ahimelech did for David was not forgotten by the Lord. “The steadfast love of God endures all the day,” and that love makes it more than worth it, even if we suffer in this life. As Psalm 63:3 says, “your steadfast love is better than life,” therefore, let us say with Psalm 52:8, “I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” Amen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Sola Panel | So what does the gathering look like? (Part 4)

The Sola Panel | So what does the gathering look like? (Part 4)

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The Sola Panel | So what does the gathering look like? (Part 3)

The Sola Panel | So what does the gathering look like? (Part 3)

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The Sola Panel | So what does the gathering look like? (Part 2)

The Sola Panel | So what does the gathering look like? (Part 2)

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The Sola Panel | So what does the gathering look like? (Part 1)

The Sola Panel | So what does the gathering look like? (Part 1)

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The Sola Panel | So why do we gather?

The Sola Panel | So why do we gather?

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Things that Please God --- Psalm 51, Part 4 --- Search the Scriptures

Psalm 51:9-19 (English Standard Version)

9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.


The first part of Psalm 51 deals with reconciliation to God; the second part deals with transformation. What we need is a new heart! Therefore, David prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God (v. 10)”.

But what does a new heart look like? What are the attitudes of a new heart? We can see the answer to these questions in verse 17:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Here is what a clean heart looks like! Here is what a renewed heart looks like! A clean and renewed heart is a humble and repentant heart. The man who is grieved over his sin, is the man who offers a pleasing sacrifice to God. The man who humbles himself under the authority of the Lord and his Word is the man who offers the Father a pleasing sacrifice. Humility and repentance are the evidences of a heart recreated by God.

Yet, we should remember that even our sacrifices of a humbled and repentant heart, are only accepted by the Father because the Son has offered the Father the sacrifice of a perfect life and death. As the Father testified to Jesus, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased!” First, and foremost, God is pleased with his beloved Son! Our sacrifices of a broken and contrite heart are only accepted because Jesus Christ has offered the sacrifice of his perfect life and death on our behalf. Even our repentance must be repented of and is only accepted because Christ’s perfect sacrifice enables the imperfect sacrifices that flow from our faith to be accepted by the Father.

As those who are accepted in Christ, what pleasing sacrifices should we offer the Father through the Son?
  1. The pleasing sacrifice of faith. Especially in verse 7, David expresses confidence in the Lord. He expresses his confidence by saying, “I shall be clean . . . I shall be whiter than snow.” We must believe God’s gospel promise to forgive and cleanse our hearts. It is sinful unbelief that refuses to trust the Lord’s word of pardon. As the Heidelberg Catechism says, the gospel proclaims “to all believers, each and every one, that, as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith, God, because of what Christ has done, truly forgives all their sins.
  2. The pleasing sacrifice of prayer/petition. David asks the Lord for a changed and renewed heart. He uses the word create in his petition. When David says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” the word create is the same word that’s used in Genesis 1:1. David is asking the Lord to do something that only He can do. Mark Futato writes:

    “In the Old Testament this verb (create) is used exclusively for divine activity. David is asking God to do for him something that David cannot do for himself. Only God can make the internal changes that David needs. It is David’s responsibility to plead with God for these changes, but only God has the ability to effect the change.”
    Let’s also remember to pray with faith! As Jack Miller says, “Believing is to expect God to be with you and change you and to change others.”
  3. The pleasing sacrifice of humility. Humility is intimately connected with authority. The humble person is the person who submits to God’s authority, which he mediates through his Word. If we ignore, mishandle, or defy the Word of our King, we cannot be humble. Isaiah wrote that the humble person “trembles” before God’s Word. The Lord is speaking in Isaiah 66:

    “But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word.”

    What is your attitude toward the Bible, the Word of God? Are you exercising humility toward the Lord and his Word?
  4. The pleasing sacrifice of grief over sin. The sacrifices of God are not only brokenness, but also contrition---“a broken and contrite heart.” What causes this grief? Of course, it is the Holy Spirit who causes us to mourn over our sin, but the Spirit uses the truth of God’s Word to bring about this grief. More and more I am grieved by the condition of the human race. When I see the lies, the oppression, the hatred, the murders, the injustice, and the lack of godly fear in our world, I am grieved. But I am grieved because I am a part of this sinful, human race. I share the disease that infects all people. “There is no health in me,” we confess in the Book of Common Prayer

    But if I will just look at the cross of Christ, I will be given more than enough proof of the grievous nature of my sin. Look at what my sin (and yours too) did to the holy Son of God. The cross exposes the anti-God hatred of my heart, and it is a grievous thing.

The good news is that the Lord blesses those who mourn over their sin. The sacrifices of a broken and contrite heart are pleasing to him. If I lack a broken and contrite heart, the Lord will hear my request for such a heart, and he has the power to create in me a new heart of humility and repentance.

Some may not like this emphasis on humility and repentance. Some may think that this is too morbid an outlook on life. But the truth is that there cannot be true life and joy without God’s favor --- his blessed countenance upon us. The way to that favor cannot avoid the cross of Christ, nor a continually humble and repentant heart.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Superficial Confession=Superficial Joy; Deep Confession=Deep Joy --- Psalm 51, Part 3 --- Search the Scriptures

Psalm 51:1-9

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.


I want to focus on verses 3-5:
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
I want to make two points, the first, dealing with David’s confidence in God’s words. The second dealing with the heinousness of our sin.

First, David’s confidence in the words of God. I draw this point from verse 4, where David says, “so that you may be justified in your words.”

Today, so many people scoff at the idea that the Lord could actually speak to us. Our postmodern society has no confidence in words and their ability to communicate. So how, then, could God speak to us?

The Bible, on the other hand, takes it for granted that the Lord speaks to us. From the Bible’s viewpoint, it is only worthless idols who cannot speak, but the true God is the God who speaks to the creatures made in his image. The Lord spoke the world into being, and his speech continues to be the way he relates to his creation, and relates, especially, to human beings.

David is our model in verse 4. He has confidence that God’s words are faultless. David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ, also had confidence in the words of God. He said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He said, “Not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Mat. 5:18). He makes himself equal with God when he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mat. 24:35).

If the One we call our Lord, Savior, and God has such confidence in the Word of God, how then can his disciples have any less confidence? True faith, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, believes “that everything God reveals in his Word is true” (H.C. Q. 21).

Second, the heinousness of sin. The word translated transgressions in verse 3 means rebellion. Rebellion against a king or nation in the ancient world was worthy of death. The Romans used crucifixion to bring the harshest possible message about the heinous nature of rebellion.

This is man’s essential sin. We are guilty of rebellion against the Great King, our creator, the ruler and sustainer of the universe. No worse sin is imaginable than rebellion against this God.

In my own life, I know the difficulty I have with my own heart. A day does not go by when I am not guilty of daily, or even hourly, rebellions against my Lord. I want to control my own life. I do not want to be ruled by him or his laws. Do you not find yourself fighting these same rebellions?

But the news of our rebellions/transgressions actually gets worse, because this rebellion has conditioned our whole way of living from the moment of our conception. As James Mays says, David’s problem according to verse 5 was “a whole life conditioned by sin from its beginning.” We sin because we are sinners. Our sins flow from a sinful nature---a nature at enmity with God. As David confesses, "In sin did my mother conceive me."

This is why in Reformed and Lutheran churches we not only confess our actual sins --- the sins we actually commit, but we also confess our original sin --- the deep anti-God tendency toward rebellion that remains even with Christians until the day of their deaths. This confession from the Lutheran Hymnal of 1941 is typical:
“Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto Thee that we are by nature sinful and unclean and that we have sinned against Thee by thought, word, and deed. Wherefore we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy,
seeking and imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dear friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ, until we see the heinousness of our sin we will not enjoy the sweetness and wonder of sin forgiven. If our confession of sin is superficial, so will our be our joy in the gracious gospel of forgiveness. Don’t be afraid to confess your sins/rebellions before God as well as your sinful nature! God gives his grace only to the humble, and his joy to the contrite of heart.

How We View God Determines How We Relate to Him --- Psalm 51, Part 2 --- Search the Scriptures

Psalm 51:1-9

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.


Mark Futato has a wonderful insight into the first verse of this psalm. He writes:
“Our moral failures will keep us from ever approaching God unless we are fully persuaded that he loves us. It is significant that the psalm does not begin with
‘my sins’ but with ‘have mercy.’ In fact, the opening line piles up the language of love before ever mentioning sin: “Have mercy . . . because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion.’ How we view God determines how we respond to him. God is just, to be sure, but he is love. Because he is love, we dare to draw near to a just God.”
This idea that how “we view God determines how we respond to him” is an important truth. Because God is holy and we are sinful, our natural reaction is to hide from God. This is what Adam and Eve did in the garden, and it is what we all do until we realize that it is safe to return to God because he sent his Son in love to take our judgment at the cross.

In Luke 19 Jesus tells a parable. The parable has four characters. As in all parables, each main character stands for someone or something. Before explaining the parable and its relation to our view of God, let’s first hear it:
As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12He said therefore, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, 'Engage in business until I come.' 14But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.' 15When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16The first came before him, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.' 17And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.' 18And the second came, saying, 'Lord, your mina has made five minas.' 19And he said to him, 'And you are to be over five cities.' 20Then another came, saying, 'Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.' 22He said to him, 'I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?' 24And he said to those who stood by, 'Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.' 25And they said to him, 'Lord, he has ten minas!' 26'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.'"
First, who is the nobleman who goes to a far country to receive a kingdom and then return? That is Jesus who received the kingdom after his death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father’s right hand.

Second, who are his ten servants? The servants stand for professing Christians who are called to work for him in this world between his ascension and return. Most of his servants are rewarded generously for their faithfulness here on earth.

Third, who is the wicked servant who refuses to work for Christ and sees him as “a severe man?” This is the professed disciple who is unfaithful to Christ.

Fourth, who are the enemies of Christ? These are people who refuse his rule over their lives.

It is the third of these I want to focus on. What was the wicked servant’s basic problem? His problem was his harsh view of the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father. Is Jesus or the Father really severe? Absolutely not! God the Father and his Son are extremely loving and gracious to the human race! This is Futato’s point above. How we see God will determine how we respond to him. David came to the Lord despite his adultery and murder, because he knew the Lord to be incredibly gracious and merciful. This is how we should see the Lord too!

What is the evidence for the Lord’s goodness and grace? May I suggest a few evidences or reasons to trust in the Lord’s grace and mercy toward you and me:
  1. The creation testifies to the goodness of God. God gives us our daily bread. He sends his sun and rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike. His creation is filled with evidences of his goodness to all his creatures, as he gives us life and breath and good things.
  2. The very fact that we are still alive is an indication of the Lord’s patience with us. The Bible teaches us that it is appointed for man to die once and after this comes the judgment. But until our deaths, the Lord is patient with us giving us time to repent and come to him for forgiveness and eternal life.
  3. If we are baptized, we have a promise given to us by name that the Father longs to be our heavenly Father if we will but come to him through his Son. Baptism does not automatically save anyone, but it is a personal promise made to us by name that if we come to Christ as our Lord and Savior, he will not reject us, but accept us as his pardoned and justified children.
  4. The incarnation and cross are the greatest evidences of God’s great and generous heart! Who could imagine the Creator humbling himself to take upon himself our human nature and then going in that nature to the cross to bear the just punishment his creatures’ rebellion against him! If this won’t convince us of the “abundant mercy” of our triune God, what will?

The Sinful Heart, Postmodernism, and "the Truth" --- Psalm 51 - Part 1, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 51:1-9

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.


I want to spend a few days with Psalm 51, so this will be the first in a series of devotions on this psalm. Mark Futato has an excellent introduction to the psalm: “
Psalm 51 grips our hearts as it exposes our need that results from our moral failures in life. Our moral failures are not simply a matter of what we do. They are a matter of what we do because of who we are. Our need is for something outside of ourselves to make a radical difference within ourselves. Our need is for God---but not for just any god. Our need is for the God who will speak in truth about our desperate condition and who will act in love for our salvation.

“Our need is twofold: We need reconciliation (51:1-9), and we need transformation (51:10-19). We need justification, and we need sanctification. To experience these, we need repentance, and the way of repentance is set forth clearly and eloquently in Psalm 51.”
I want to begin by looking at verse 4:
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
The sinful human heart does not want to admit its sin. Just as alcoholics (or as the Bible calls them, drunkards) have a hard time admitting they have a problem so sinners have a hard time admitting their sin. In our postmodern age, we even go so far as denying that there is such a thing as truth. Truth is seen as relative. Each community or culture has its own truth. Who is to say whose truth is really true! You have your truth and I have mine. So goes the postmodern argument.

But verse 4 exposes the fallacy of the postmodern argument. There is Someone whose view of things determines what is really true. His name is Yahweh or LORD in the Old Testament and He came to us in the person of Jesus in the New Testament. As Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

So it is Jesus Christ who determines reality. It is the fact of the triune God that determines truth. Notice the progression in verse 4, as the verse moves from “you,” i.e., God, to “your sight” to “your words” to “your judgment.” Truth is determined by its relation to God. His viewpoint (sight) is the true perspective. His words communicate that truth to us. And, one day we will be judged by his perfect understanding and righteousness.

The other thing to see here is that whether we think so or not, we have offended the Lord by our sin. Yes, sin adversely affects other people. David’s sin obviously was against Bathsheba, Uriah (her husband whom David murdered by moving him to the front lines), and the entire nation. But commenting on the words, “against you, you only, have I sinned,” Mark Futato says, “The point is that ultimately and most importantly, sin is always against God, for it is God’s will that is violated when we sin.”

So the first point I want to make for both myself and those who might read these words in the providence of God, then, is this: Accept the Lord’s view of yourself --- of reality. We can foolishly fight against his truth and his judgment of the human race in its sin or we can acknowledge as David did, that the Lord is right in his words and his judgment of our lives is spot on.

A Message of Judgment? --- Psalm 50, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 50 (English Standard Version)

God Himself Is Judge
A Psalm of Asaph.

1 The Mighty One, God the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.

3Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
before him is a devouring fire,
around him a mighty tempest.
4 He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5"Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!"
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge!

7 "Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
10For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
12"If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
13Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
15and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

16But to the wicked God says:
"What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.

19"You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
21These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
22"Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!"


A Message about Judgment?

In verse one the Lord has a message for the whole earth. According to verses 3-6, the message is a message of judgment!

Does that surprise you? How do you react when you hear a message of judgment from the Lord? Maybe you say, as so many do, “Well, that is just the Old Testament. But God is different in the New Testament.” Ah, but listen to the New Testament. Here is what the apostle Peter said in Acts chapter 10. He says, “And he [Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”

The Key Question of the Bible

We may not like to hear it, but from beginning to end, the Bible is about God’s judgment, and this means that the key question the Bible answers is this one: How can sinners avoid this judgment of God? How can sinful people survive the judgment of a holy God?

A False Answer

One solution that simply will not work is to pretend there is no judgment of God. This is the trick that Protestant Liberalism, which is still alive and well in mainline churches and even some evangelical churches, tried. Protestant Liberalism emphasized the love of God to the exclusion of the judgment of God. By pretending that God was too loving to ever judge, the Protestant liberals (some Catholic liberals too!) effectively muted the biblical truth of God’s judgment.

But not only does the Bible testify to God’s judgment of all people through his Son, but even our consciences testify to God’s judgment. Conscience acts as judge and jury, sentencing us even before the day of judgment, warning us to find a way to get right with the God we have offended.

The True Answer

So how do we get right with God? What is the answer of Psalm 50?

The key phrase comes in verse 5, when the Lord speaks of a “covenant with me by sacrifice.” The way to be right with God has always been through a substitionary sacrifice. In the Old Testament those sacrifices were animals. In the New Testament Jesus Christ is the sacrifice in which those sacrifices culminated. Through Christ’s sacrifice, people can be forgiven and have their consciences cleansed. Jesus established a new covenant through his shed blood, which we may participate in through faith in him.

Two Dangers for those who Know the True Answer

But there is a warning here in Psalm 50 for those of us who have come to Christ, and depend on his sacrifice for forgiveness and a right standing before God. The warning is that we live in the light of his sacrifice for us. The warning is that we live lives that correspond to the forgiveness and cleansing we have received.

There are two dangers to avoid for the Lord’s people in Psalm 50:

Avoid the danger of formalism. We see the danger of formalism in verses 7-15. Formalism is going through the motions of worship, but without a true thankfulness for what the Lord has done for you (v. 14). Formalism is going through the motions of worship, but not depending on the Lord to be your all-sufficient life-giving Lord in every circumstance of life (v. 15).

Avoid the danger of hypocrisy. Closely related to formalism is hypocrisy, which we see in verses 15-21. Hypocrisy is saying all the right things about the Lord with your mouth, while at the same time you flout his laws, and defy his commands and way of life.

As Christians we are prone to both formalism and hypocrisy. The way to avoid these sins is not to deny that we fall into formalism and hypocrisy, but to confess that we do, and ask Jesus for forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit, so that we might live lives of thankfulness, dependence, and continual repentance and renewal in the light of his wonderful cross.

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