Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Sola Panel | Best preaching lessons

The Sola Panel Best preaching lessons: "Best preaching lessons Sandy Grant
If you're a preacher of God's word, what's the best preaching lesson you've ever learned? See if you can jot down your answer before you read on, and then perhaps share it in the comments section.
It was Russell Moore's absolutely excellent post a few weeks ago that caused me to reflect"

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

A New Home Means a New Heart --- Psalm 61, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 61 (English Standard Version)

Lead Me to the Rock

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.

1Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
3for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

4Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!

5For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!

7May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

8So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.


Where is your home? Where do you live? Most of us would answer the question with an address here on this earth. “I live at 7809 S. 99th Street in LaVista, Nebraska, USA.” But I wonder if our actual answer as Christians should be, “My home is in heaven, where Christ is. My true home is not below, but above with my Lord Jesus Christ.”

Psalm 61 piles up images of David dwelling with God. In verse 2, even though he is far from Jerusalem and the temple, David goes in prayer to the Lord, and asks to be led into His presence. In verse 3, God, himself, is described as a refuge and a strong tower. Such places are places where a person dwells, at least for a time. In verse 4, David asks to live in the Lord’s tent or sanctuary/temple, not just for a brief time, but forever. He also calls the Lord a shelter. In verse 5, David says that he has been given a “heritage,” a word used to refer to the land. But David uses the word metaphorically to point to something higher. David points to a dwelling place he has already been given that is higher than his earthly residence of Palestine. Like so many of the Old Testament saints, David understood that the land of Israel pointed to a heavenly homeland:
"These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be
called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus teaches his disciples that their true home is with Him in heaven. When the disciples first encounter Jesus, they ask him a strange question: “And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"” (John 1:38). But as John’s Gospel progresses, the disciples learn that Jesus always stayed with his Father. He was from above, and he lived with his Father above, even as he walked this earth below. Jesus’ home was above with his Father, but he expected his disciples to have the same heavenly home, when he said, “You are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world” (John 15:19).

Two more verses from John’s Gospel point to the fact that we are to live right now in our heavenly home with Christ. The first comes from John 12:26, when Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.” Where is Jesus right now? He is at the Father’s right hand in heaven!

The second verse comes from John 14:2-3:
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Christians through the centuries have tended to interpret these verses as referring to Christ’s return at the last day. But I believe Jesus is talking about his return via the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. How does Jesus keep his promise in John 12:26, that where he is, his servants will be also? He does it by sending us the Holy Spirit, who can dwell both in us and in heaven. By faith the Spirit lifts our hearts to heaven, so that we may dwell with Christ already in heaven, even as we walk this earth below.

Does any of this make a difference in how we live our lives? I have to think it does. As the familiar saying goes, “Home is where the heart is!” A new home means a new heart, and isn’t that the message of these words:
“Since then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Have You Been Conquered by the Gospel? --- Psalm 60, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 60 (English Standard Version)

He Will Tread Down Our Foes

To the choirmaster: according to Shushan Eduth. A Miktam of David; for instruction; when he strove with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and when Joab on his return struck down twelve thousand of Edom in the Valley of Salt.

1O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
you have been angry; oh, restore us.
2You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;
repair its breaches, for it totters.
3 You have made your people see hard things;
you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger.

4You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
that they may flee to it from the bow.

5 That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer us!

6God has spoken in his holiness:
"With exultation I will divide up Shechem
and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
7 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet;
Judah is my scepter.
8 Moab is my washbasin;
upon Edom I cast my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph."

9Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go forth, O God, with our armies.
11Oh, grant us help against the foe,
for vain is the salvation of man!
12With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.


I would like to focus our attention on verse 11:
Oh, grant us help against the foe,
for vain is the salvation of man!
In this psalm Israel is asking the Lord for help as their armies go out to battle. David realizes that if the Lord does not fight for them, they will go down to defeat before their enemies. The Lord’s favorable presence is the key to victory.

The people had a promise of victory from the Lord. In verses 6-8, the Lord promises victory over the surrounding nations. Moab, Edom, and Philistia are mentioned in the promise as three enemies that will be defeated. But despite this promise of the Lord's favor, at least for a time, circumstances seemed to militate against his favorable presence (v. 1-3).

Many people struggle with the warfare element found in the Old Testament. It is not an easy problem, but one thing that eases the problem is to realize the theology behind ancient warfare. Battles between nations were seen by ancient near eastern cultures to be battles between the gods. The losing side was to adopt the gods of the winning side. Warfare was a form of evangelism in the ancient near east.

The truth, however, is that there is only one true God, the Lord, the God of Israel. When the surrounding nations were defeated, the idea was that these nations were then to adopt Israel’s Lord as their own. So when the Lord says, “Moab is my washbasin; upon Edom I cast my shoe; over Philistia I shout in triumph,” not only is God’s justice displayed toward his enemies, but also his grace!

When we come into the New Testament, Jesus ushers in the fullness of grace! “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The apostle Paul also speaks of this time of grace when he says, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

In this new covenant era, spiritual warfare has replaced physical warfare. No longer does the Lord’s army fight with swords, but with the message of the gospel. Just as people were conquered by the sword in the Old Testament because God fought for Israel, so now people are conquered by the gospel message as God accompanies his message with power. Jesus gives us a promise of divine authority and power, when he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . ” (Mat. 28:18-19).

What lessons may we apply from this teaching? Here are a few:
  1. Only the triune God can conquer a soul, including yours and mine. Jesus Christ is the true evangelist. We must trust him and ask him to work in our own lives and the lives of others, for “vain is the salvation of man!”
  2. Prayer is vital. There is no such thing as independence or human autonomy. The reality of our situation in a God-created and God-sustained universe is that we are dependent on him at all times. We cannot change our own hearts, let alone the hearts of others.
  3. Let’s be careful not to trust in ourselves or our methods or even our prayers. Our God is sovereign, and he works as pleases, when he pleases. As Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
  4. Despite God’s sovereignty over his own work and timing, let’s believe that he desires to work in our lives and in the lives of those around us! He has promised the nations to his Son! “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8). He has given us the promise of the gospel: to forgive our sins and give us the gift of the Spirit. The Lord wants to do a good work in our lives, and use us so that he may work in the lives of others too! The gospel is the promise of a favorable God, despite appearances to the contrary! Let’s believe the promise!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Making Lists or Learning to Observe while Studying God's Word --- Psalm 59, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 59 (English Standard Version)

Deliver Me from My Enemies

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me;
2deliver me from those who work evil,
and save me from bloodthirsty men.

3For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
fierce men stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD,
4for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
Awake, come to meet me, and see!
5You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
spare none of those who treacherously plot evil.

6Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
7There they are, bellowing with their mouths
with swords in their lips—
for "Who," they think, "will hear us?"

8But you, O LORD, laugh at them;
you hold all the nations in derision.
9O my Strength, I will watch for you,
for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

11Kill them not, lest my people forget;
make them totter by your power and bring them down,
O Lord, our shield!
12For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter,
13 consume them in wrath;
consume them till they are no more,
that they may know that God rules over Jacob
to the ends of the earth.

14 Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
15They wander about for food
and growl if they do not get their fill.

16But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.


Sometimes it is helpful when studying the Bible to make lists like the lists below. There is quite a contrast between the wicked and the righteous, who are personified by David, in this psalm. May the LORD make us more like David (and his greater Son!) and less like David’s enemies, or the enemies of Jesus Christ, whom David foreshadowed.


1. praying (1-2)
2. depending (1-2)
3. attacked: life threatened (3), verbally (3)
4. innocent (of charges brought by enemies v. 3-4)
5. friend of the LORD (“come to meet me” v. 4)
6. trusts in God (9-10)
7. hopes in God (10)
8. loves God’s justice (10)
9. desires the best for his/the LORD’S people (11)
10. desires that enemies might know the LORD as sovereign (13)
11. servant of the LORD (13)
12. satisfied with God in his strength and love (14-17)
13. lives in God --- “fortress” idea
14. worshiper of the LORD (17)

David’s enemies:

1. oppose God’s anointed king (1-2, et. al.)
2. work evil (2)
3. stir up strife against David (3)
4. unreasonable (3-4)
5. plot evil (5)
6. speak harmful words (7)
7. godless in their thoughts (7)
8. little strength as compared to God (8)
9. destined for condemnation and defeat (10)
10. proud (12)
11. speech characterized by pride, cursing, and lies (12)
12. objects of either condemnation or blessing if through repentance they come to
know that God rules (13)
13. dissatisfied (14-15)
14. alienated from God (16-17)
15. don’t know God as one’s home/fortress (16-17)
16. not a worshipper of God but of something else (themselves or their own power?) (16-17)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Learning to Apply the Psalms to Ourselves --- Psalm 58

Psalm 58

God Who Judges the Earth

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David.

1Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
2No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
your hands deal out violence on earth.

3The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
4 They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
5so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.

6O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!
7Let them vanish like water that runs away;
when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
8Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
9Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11Mankind will say, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
surely there is a God who judges on earth."


When we read the psalms it is important to understand who the main characters are and how they apply to us. So, for example, in Psalm 58 we have the following groups of people:

  1. The “gods,” which is a reference to human rulers. Scripture sometimes refers to human rulers as “gods” because of their authority to render verdicts, which are supposed to reflect the justice of the one, true God.

  2. “The wicked,” which is a reference to all people who are estranged from the true God.

  3. “The righteous,” who are those who have entered into a relationship with the true God through covenant and sacrifice by the means of faith.

In Psalm 58, wicked human rulers are described in verses 1-2. The wicked, including the wicked human rulers, are described in 3-9. Finally, the righteous are described in verses 10-11.

As Christians, we would put ourselves in the category of the righteous, rather than the wicked. So, does this mean that those verses describing the wicked have nothing to say to us? No, because there is a sense in which we too are still wicked even as Christians. We have an old sinful nature that continues to live within us. This sinful nature is sometimes called in Scripture, the old man or the flesh or the old self. These descriptions refer to original sin --- that anti-God tendency that still lives within even the most holy of Christians, and won’t be removed from us completely until we enter heaven. This old Adam or sinful nature must be put to death daily, so that we might rise with Christ daily to live a new life in fellowship with the Father and the Son by the Spirit.

With this in mind, there is a lot for us in Psalm 58, as we learn to put to death the old nature within and live a new resurrected life with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verses 1-2:

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
2No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
your hands deal out violence on earth.

The first point I would make from these verses is this: Ideas have consequences! These wicked rulers devised wrongs. They came up with false ideas. They believed lies and told lies, and the result was violence. People got hurt on account of these wrong ideas.

It is so easy to forget that ideas have consequences in the lives of people. Neitzche told the lie that God was dead and all that mattered was the will to power. The Nazis ran with Neitzche’s wrong ideas and the result was millions of deaths in World War II and in the concentration camps. The communists in Russia told the lie that it was ok to steal from the rich to give to the poor, and the result was the loss of property and an impoverished nation that ended with bankrutcy and bread lines. Evolutionists tell the lie that human beings are just animals and are not created in the image of God. It is not surprising such a view leads to the cheapening of life, a shockingly high murder rate, and a lack of respect for one another, in the western societies that have bought this lie. Ideas have consequences!

This past week in America, a Muslim extremist murdered thirteen people and injured many more. Many in the military knew of this man’s radical Muslim views and his sympathy for terrorists, but no one said anything. Why? Because in America we are afraid to state the truth when the truth may be politically incorrect. The result of our wrong and false ideas, i.e., political correctness, is that 13 American soldiers are now dead. Ideas have consequences.

What is the solution to the false ideas that bring so much damage and violence to human lives? There is but one answer, and that is truth from our Creator and Redeemer. Lies only cease when truth begins. Jesus Christ is the truth, who brings us life, not death. Devising wrongs---false ideas are never harmless. They are the reason for the violence in our world. The only solution is the truth God reveals to us in his Word.

In verses 3-5 we read:

3The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
4 They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
5so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.

The wicked have three attributes in these verses:

  1. They are estranged from the Lord.

  2. They speak lies, which are likened to a deadly poison.

  3. They cannot be controlled.

From these three negative descriptions, we should learn three things:

  • First, our greatest need is to be adopted into the Father’s family. We need to end our estrangement from God by coming to the Father through believing the Son he sent for our salvation. The Father has done everything necessary for us to be reconciled to him. He has sent his Son, who became flesh and suffered and died in our nature so that we might be forgiven and adopted into his family. We no longer have to live as orphans. We can live life as a son of God.

  • Second, we need to hear truth from our heavenly Father. This truth is found in his Word, the Bible. This truth was made incarnate in his beloved Son. In Jesus Christ we find the truth to counteract the venomous lies the wicked so easily believe, devise, and speak.

  • Third, we need to live for the Father as obedient children. We should pray to be controlled by the will of God and the Spirit of God. Verse 4 describes a deaf adder that won’t hear the voice of the charmer. The wicked won’t hear the Word of God or be controlled by it. We must pray to be different. We must learn to be obedient children who desire to know and do our Father’s will. We must pray for the Spirit to empower us to obey the will of our Lord Jesus Christ once we know it.

As we listen to Psalm 58 describe the wicked, we know this describes the enemy still within us, namely, our old Adam. The old man must die, so the our new man might rise to live a life of righteousness and fellowship with the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sola Scriptura

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All of Us Need Protection from Destruction --- Psalm 57, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 57 (English Standard Version)

Let Your Glory Be over All the Earth

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
2I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.

God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
4My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
6They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves.

7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
8 Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
9I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!


As I read and re-read Psalm 57, verse one stood out to me, and I want to focus on this single verse:
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
In the context of Psalm 57, the “destruction” David fears comes from Saul and his men, who were seeking his life. David sometimes hid in a cave with his men from the menacing king (1 Samuel 22 and 24). It appears that during these times in the cave David’s mind would go back to that first Passover night, when the people of Israel were kept safe from the destruction of the firstborn of Egypt as the angel passed by those houses marked with the blood of the lamb. In a similar way David would be kept safe from the destruction of Saul’s avenging army as it passed by, for David sought refuge in the Lord.

One of the truths little understood today is that all of us need protection from destruction. Every human being is under the sentence of condemnation because of sin. Scripture teaches that “God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32).

We see that that all people deserve destruction in the Old Testament. The Passover brought destruction to Egypt, but why was Israel spared? Was Israel spared because they did not deserve this destruction themselves? The fact that Israel put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts shows that they too deserved the same destruction from the Lord.

The same truth appears in the sign of circumcision. When Israel was about to enter the promised land on the other side of the Jordan, the whole assembly had to be circumcised. This circumcision showed that Israel deserved to be cut off from the land and judged even as they were about to be the instruments of cutting off the Canaanites from the land and bringing the Lord's judgment upon them.

When we come to the New Testament, both the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper teach us that we deserve destruction because of our sins. Baptism is a sign that signifies death and judgment. Yes, that death and judgment is borne by Jesus Christ through the cross, but our baptism shows that we deserve this death and judgment ourselves. If Christ does not bear the waters of death and judgment for us, then we must bear it ourselves.

The same lesson is taught in the Lord’s Supper. The bread signifies Christ’s body broken in death. The wine signifies his blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins. But our participation in this remembrance of his death says that apart from our union with Jesus Christ, we too deserve destruction. Our sin deserves death and judgment from a holy God. No one is righteous. All of us are disobedient and are under the sentence of death from God. Our only hope lies in the mercy of God, who sent his beloved Son to die our death and bear our judgment.

Knowing what we are saved from such destruction makes verses like Psalm 57:1 so very sweet! Listen again to David:
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
Our salvation is sheer mercy. We deserve nothing from the Lord except destruction from his holy hand. Our sinful nature and sins are a great offense to him. We have not trusted and loved him above all else. His will has not been the rule of our lives. We deserve destruction from his hand, and we acknowledge this truth whenever we remember the Lord in our baptism and partake of the Lord’s Supper.

And yet, even as we mourn our sin, we are also comforted. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We are comforted by the amazing grace and mercy of God that would find a way to protect us from his own holy wrath and destruction. That way meant that the Lord himself would humble himself to take to himself our human nature, and go in that nature to the cross. There Jesus died in our place and bore the destruction we deserved. What a God we have! What a Savior, who loves us to this degree! Gladly, I will hide myself in the shadow of his wings! Gladly, I will make this God my refuge and my life! Amen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Sola Panel | Delightful whispers from the Psalms

The Sola Panel | Delightful whispers from the Psalms

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Learning to Change our Emotions and Overcome our Fears --- Psalm 56, Search the Scriptures

Psalm 56 (English Standard Version)

In God I Trust

To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.

1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
3When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

5All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
7For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

8You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
9Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
11in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

12I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.


In this psalm David moves from fear to confidence. This change from fear to confidence is not just an intellectual change. It is also an emotional change, for both fear and confidence involve our emotions.

It is typical to hear people say, “I can’t change my emotions,” but apparently this is not true, for David’s emotions were changed in this psalm as he moved from fear to confidence.* What can we learn about changing our emotions and overcoming our fears in this psalm?

David begins in verses 1-3a by acknowledging his problem and his fear. He did not deny his problems or how he felt. He was honest about his emotion of fear:
Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly. . . . I am afraid.
If step one is to be honest about our emotions and our fear, step two seems to be a change of focus. Instead, of looking at our problems or ourselves and our fear, step two involves looking at the Lord through his Word. Notice, how David focuses on the Lord in the Word in verses 3 and 4:
3When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
By faith David focuses on God. Specifically, David focuses on the God who makes wonderful promises to his people in his Word. By focusing on the living God, his power and his promises, trust is produced in David’s heart. Everything changes as David looks at the God who is on his side. Men do not look so powerful in comparison to the all-powerful God. Men look quite mortal in comparison to the ever-living God. The thing that moves David from fear to confidence and changes his emotions is looking toward the Lord by faith.

But if you are like me, you are not being hounded by a nasty king Saul, nor have you fallen into the hands of the Philistines lately! What enemies do you and I have?

As Christians we need to learn that we have four enemies who keep us plenty busy (and fearful)! Those enemies never cease their oppressive attack! Just as David’s enemy (Saul) and his agents never ceased their attack on David (v. 1-2), so the Christian’s enemies never call for a truce. The world, the flesh, the devil, and death all are intent on destroying us. The world has two main weapons, namely, seduction and persecution, including slander and insults. The flesh is that anti-God tendency within us that must die daily with Christ. The devil is that liar and accuser of the Christian, who is the unseen power and prince of this world. And, death is that ultimate threat that has no answer except in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

One of my constant fears (and my sin gives me good reason for this fear!) is that my sin (both original and actual) has somehow disqualified me from the grace and favor of God. I look back on my life and I see a pattern of sin that is so grievous and dishonoring to my heavenly Father. At times, I fear that maybe I am not his. Maybe I have sinned against him to such an extent that there is no hope for me.

How are such fears overcome? The answer lies in looking by faith toward the heavenly Father and his promises to us in Christ. Yes, I am unworthy. Yes, the devil has good reasons to accuse me. Yes, I don’t know of a greater sinner than myself. But I remember the Word of God. I look to the promises of God. I remember the gospel and those words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” I remember that those two little words “for you require all hearts to believe,” and that I sin heinously if I refuse to believe those words are for me, even though I am a vile sinner.

I close with these words from Martin Luther: “
It is of the utmost importance that we highly esteem, honor, and rely upon the holy sacraments, which contain nothing but God’s words, promises, and signs. This means that we have no doubts about the sacraments or the things of which they are certain signs, for if we doubt these we lose everything. Christ says that it will happen to us as we believe. What will it profit you to assume and to believe that sin, death, and hell are overcome in Christ for others, but not to believe that your sin, your death, and your hell are also vanquished and wiped out and that you are thus redeemed? Under those circumstances the sacraments will be completely fruitless, since you do not believe the things which are indicated, given, and promised there to you. That is the vilest sin that can be committed, for God himself is looked upon as a liar in his Word, signs, and works, as one who speaks, shows, and promises something which he neither means nor intends to keep. Therefore we dare not trifle with the sacraments. Faith must be present for a firm reliance and cheerful venturing on such signs and promises of God. What sort of a God or Savior would he be who could not or would not save us from sin, death, and hell?”

*We cannot change our emotions directly, but we can change them indirectly as we focus on the Lord and his promises, which engender faith and different emotions! Such a change comes from the Lord as we look to him in a reliant faith.

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