Wednesday, February 3, 2010
I write today with the absolute certainty that my dear mother is having the time of her life. She entered into the joy of her Lord early Thursday morning (Feb 25). Having honored her request, the Lord graciously called her home to the Father's house. For that we rejoice! The words of the Psalmist "This is the day that the Lord hath made,: we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) were so appropriate for her passing.
A special thanks goes out to all for your prayers,visits, flowers, cards,e-mail, calls and food. The expression of concern has been heart warming and humbling to say the least.
Now, enough about us, let's dig into God's word as we continue our study of the 23rd Psalm.
I) The Path of Righteousness.
As has been discussed there are seven (7) actions of the Good Shepherd on behalf of His sheep found in the Psalm. Last month we dealt with "He restoreth my soul."
There are times when every child of God needs restoration to the Lord's flock. A shepherd restoring a "cast" sheep has one thing in mind. Once found the shepherd makes sure the animal is brought back among the herd and is pointed in the direction he is leading the flock.
The spiritual progression is quite clear here. We are restored in order to be led and guided in the path of righteousness.
I can save you the time and trouble searching the secular dictionaries for a meaning of righteousness. It should come as no surprise that the humanistic definition of the term is quite nebulous. We could say the word has no secular connotations because righteousness is foreign to the mind of fallen men. We must go to the textbook for a proper definition.
Genesis 7:1 is the first mention in scripture of the word righteous. Noah was a righteous man. In Genesis 15:1 we read of Abram who "believed in the Lord; and He (the Lord God) counted it to him for righteousness."
The Hebrew root is tsaw-dak' which means to be made right. Scripture views the word from the standpoint of being right judicially, morally and ethically; depending upon the context. The word is often stated causatively in the original Hebrew. This rule of grammar recognizes that neither man became righteous through their own efforts. They were declared righteous by the Lord God himself. Such with you and I.
There are only two kinds of righteousness. First, there is the righteousness of human achievement. This is the state where a man deems himself in right standing before God based upon his own merit and achievement. The Scribes and Pharisees of the Lord's day are the quintessence of those who believed their human efforts surely satisfied the Lord's standard.
Human achievement has a synonym: It's called RELIGION.
The only other state of righteousness is what we call divine accomplishment. This is what David has in mind here. This is the path that he was being led down. The path of righteousness provided by the God of Glory. We believe, as did David, that unworthy sinners are declared innocent before God based upon the merits of the shed blood of an acceptable sacrifice. We know that sacrifice is the Lord Jesus Christ. He divinely accomplished our righteousness with His death at Calvary. This righteousness is freely given to those who by faith trust Him for their salvation. We are declared judicially innocent by the Judge of Heaven.
So David paints a picture of the shepherd leading his sheep down the path. That path for the Christian is the path of righteousness. But there is much more to this verse. Let's dig a little deeper.
II) The Purpose of Righteousness.
Volumes have been written regarding the purpose of true righteousness. Let's take the words of David and unpack, apply and illustrate them in our hearts. So what is David really getting at? Let me summarize : If you are being led down this path, you will be living up to His name. After all, what is written focuses upon His name and His sake.
The word "sake" in the Hebrew (ma'an) connotes purpose. We could read it; we are being led in the path of righteousness on account of and for the purpose of His name. Obviously, the emphasis is upon His Name.
I conclude that the God of Heaven is very concerned about His name. He is equally concerned that those who name the name of Jesus live up to His name. Would you not agree?
Let's consider three (3) areas of truth that speak to His name. They yield the true purpose of righteousness in our lives. Applied in our lives we can be certain that we are living up to His name's sake.
1. The Character of His Name.
For the daily walk of the Christian, no subject is more vital than our character. I saw a church sign in Chattanooga years ago that read: Have character, don't be one. Your character is the real you when no one is looking but God.
Daily, the formation of character in your soul will manifest itself as we shall see in a moment. It takes the silent and secret work of the Holy Spirit in a yielded heart to produce Christ like character. Let me suggest two simply ways you forge character:
A) Imitate the Lord.
Paul encouraged the churches to be followers of himself and of the Lord. Eight times he uses the word where we get our English word mimic. A mimic imitates another. He wrote "Be ye followers (mimics) of me, even as I also am of Christ." I Cor 11:1
Charles Barclay, former Auburn and NBA star; the round man of rebound, once told the American public that he was not a role model and did not want to be. That's OK Charles; we found a better model anyway. His name is Jesus. Jesus is our supreme example. To imitate Him will form inner Godly character.
B) Mediate on the Word.
What we know of the character of God, we learn from His word. Psalm 86:15 is a favorite of mine where David wrote "But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth."
We also learn from the Word of God of His kindness (Psalm 117:1); His joy when sinners repent (Luke 15) and His love (I John 4:8). All of these speak to His character.
So it is quite logical, in fact vital, that we spend time in His Word.
This Word will change your character. Period! That statement needs practicing more than it needs preaching. Meditate on the Word.
Regardless of the sport, coaches unanimously agree on one key principle. You play as you practice. When the week of practice and preparation has been good, the football team will almost without except, perform well.
If you meditate in the Word of God it will permeate your character. It will change you from the inside out!
2. The Honor of His Name.
David lived in a honor/shame culture. This typical Middle Eastern mind set exists even today. In David's day, a person of real character would do nothing to bring shame and disgrace upon his family name. The objective was to honor the name; not to disparage it.
Hank Jr captured this thought in a song he wrote back in the 80's. A line he penned went like this "I am very proud of my daddy's name, although his kind of music and mine ain't exactly the same." He went on to write "I'm just carrying on an old family tradition."
If the true character of Christ is being formed within you, you will be proud of your Father's name. You will reverence His name and bring no shame on the blessed name of Jesus.
We have seen the inconspicuous, the famous and the prominent within the body of Christ fail miserably to live up to His name . These provide object lessons in character traits, issues and faults that dishonor the name of Jesus. Their failures are isolated; they are not meant to be replicated!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Honor His Name!!!!!!! Stand up for His name when it is being profaned!
3. The Glory of His Name.
Christian character and honor will bring glory to His name. This is the ultimate purpose of being on the path of righteousness. It is the Lord's intent for you from the get go! He leads us for His name's sake. And we always come back to this subject of bringing glory to His name.
You can't put God's glory in a box, nor can you nail down a definition of His glory, but we recognize it when we see it. Is there anything more beautiful or beneficial to mankind than a Christian of character and honor living up to His Lord's name? You can say without hesitation; that person is on the path of righteousness. That person brings GLORY TO THE NAME OF JESUS!!!!!
Jesus' own words of Matthew 5: 16 is the bookend to Psalm 23:3
Our Lord spoke these words "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Your light shining............that's the character of Christ lighting your soul
Your good works.............that's character producing honor for Christ in your life
In order to do what????????? Glorify your Father.
These two verses are indeed bookends. "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake (His character; His honor; His glory.)
As we close this month, the words of Joseph Gilmore come to mind:
"He leadeth me, He leadeth me
by His own Hand He leadeth me."
Amen, and see you next month, Lord willing
Saturday, January 23, 2010
I appreciate all of you who pray for and study with us. I have found writing to be very challenging. This form of communication is more difficult for me than preaching and teaching.
It has always been my desire to provide insight and inspiration to those who read along with us. As we return to the 23rd Psalm our prayer is you will be edified in the few minutes it takes to read this month's post.
"He restoreth my soul." (Psalm 23:3).
Before we get into the exposition of this verse, let me remind you that this statement is made by one who knows the Lord as His Shepherd. This statement is for believers. That means that restoration of the sheep presupposes that you belong to the Shepherd. If you do not know the Lord Jesus you don't need restoration, you need what theologians call "regeneration". Simply put you need to be born again; you need to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord. You need the
Good Shepherd to become your shepherd. I just feel impressed to add this to our discussion.
Now on to the text itself.
This statement is the third of seven actions of the Good Shepherd that benefit his sheep. David writes "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul."
From the tranquility of green pastures and sufficiency of still waters, David focuses upon another vital action of shepherding: "Restoring His Sheep". Lets explore what David is really saying.
II) The Definition of the Soul.
Let me give you a simple definition of the soul. The soul of man is the immaterial and eternal essence each possess. Our soul is uniquely conveyed by personality. If Jane and Jan are identical twins in appearance, they present discernable and distinguishable differences through their personalities----their soul. They are identical and yet individual because of their soul!
The Soul then is that invisible part of you that is made up of the mind, the will and the emotions. We discussed this to some extent in the earlier blog of verse 1 "I shall not want." Your soul is a triad: the rational (mind); the volitional (will) and emotional. Genesis 2:7 says of man alone "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
The Lord's breath of life made Adam and all who follow a living soul. It is that given by God that makes us who we really are.
III) The Condition of the Soul.
"He restoreth my soul."
David writes as a shepherd so we must look at this through the shepherd's experience. If you tend sheep, restoration is a constant activity of the shepherd. You might say, it is a constant task.
Sheep by their nature, wander away from the flock. Even more so, sheep are prone to be cast down. Unlike other animals, when they repose it is quite easy for their weight balance to shift and a sheep will find itself on its back. It cannot roll over and restablish itself. While a dog or cat rolls onto its back and quickly regains mobility, a sheep cannot. They will remain on their back and they are in essence stuck. Shepherds would call this a "cast sheep."
A lamb in this predicament must have help to regain mobility. It will lie there with all four legs pointing towards the heaven, totally helpless. If prolonged, shepherds tell us that the digestive system in this animal will in essence back up, causing immense problems. A cast sheep is in danger; if left alone it will ultimately die.
Thus, a good shepherd every morning would survey his flock and get them on their feet. If an ewe was cast down, he would go to it and gently roll it over and then straddle the animal. He then puts his arms underneath and centers them between the legs and lifts up the fallen one. As the animal is made to stand, the shepherd would not release his position until the blood flow strengthens the legs and the sheep is able to walk again.
There are many spiritual implications. Just as a sheep may become cast, so do our souls. Psalm 42:5 states "Why art thou cast down, O my soul." It is the imagery described above of the sheep. Psalm 43:5 repeats this question verbatim "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?"
It is a spiritual predicament every honest Christian can identify with. How do we get cast down?
Let me suggest three ways:
#1. Sin. Unconfessed and unforgiven sin in the life of a Christian will cause you to lose your spiritual equilibrium. Sin produces guilt and fear that are residues long after the sin has been committed. Just as a sheep gets upside down so to speak, so do we. Sin just does that to us.
#2. Self. Only one person can occupy the throne of a believer's heart; Self or the Savior. There are no other choices. When self rules the throne we can invariably expect to be cast in much the same way the sheep do.
A sheep was intended to stand on its four legs and graze. When the ewe is cast down it is on its back looking toward heaven which is quite unnatural. When a Christian is cast down he/she gazes downward. That is quite unsupernatural if you will allow me to state it that way. God intended for His children to stand and look upward to the heavens. That is the normal position of a believer. To be preoccupied with self causes our gaze to be out of whack! In essence the focal point of our lives is blurred.
As strange it may seem, shepherds tell us that the sheep's wool can cause it to be cast down. When left unsheared, the wool becomes a hindrance to the sheep's balance. While wool is naturally grown by the sheep and quite beneficial to man, good shepherds will not let the coat of wool become an obstacle to the well being of the animal.
Wool so reminds me of the self life. The self life is always present in the believer. It was not eliminated at your conversion but it must be kept in its proper place. It must constantly be sheared, just like the wool,in order to produce vibrant and mature Christians. Left unattended, the self life will produce all manner of obstacles to our Christian walk.
#3. Sorrow. As noted above, the psalmist twice asks the question, "Why are thou cast down, O my soul?" One experience of lost and saved alike is sorrow. It originates within the soul. There is both natural and unnatural sorrow for the Christian.
Sorrow is an issue of the soul. The emotions of grief, for instance are normal. Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that "Blessed are they who mourn" (He's referring to our sins). We should mourn over our sins; we should mourn over the wickedness of our land. We mourn over the death of loved ones. We should lament over lost souls.
There are other emotions that distress the soul to the point of sorrow that are unhealthy. Constant worry, anxiety (that often leads to depression) and regret are just a few of the emotions that will cause our souls to be cast down. These prey upon our joy and skew our ability to comprehend and communicate with the Holy Spirit within.
#4. Suffering. Often a Christian who experiences suffering will become discouraged. A discouraged Christian can easily become a "cast down" Christian. Peter in his first epistle, Chapter 3 takes up this discussion. Each of us would be edified by studying what the fisherman had to say about suffering. Suffering is a cause that sometimes cast us down, make no mistake about it.
To be "cast down" demands attention; in particular the attention of the Good Shepherd: the sheep must be restored.
IV) The Restoration of the Soul.
"He restoreth my soul."
What a tremendous promise, what a precious truth these words are. Note David says it is the Lord who does this. Just as the shepherd must personally do this in his flock, so does the Lord for His own sheep. He restoreth my soul. Amen
What does that say to us? Well, let us look at what we said previously about the reasons our souls become cast down.
#1. Sin. You know the provision for your sin. It is the provision of cleansing. I John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That could not be more explicit.
Ford Motors used to have a commercial slogan that said "Quality is Job One." Heaven says confession is Job One. And that begins with honesty over our sins.
When we confess He will restore. Is that simple enough?????I believe it is. Confession is received because of the Cleansing Blood of the Lord Jesus.
So cleaning for our sins begins the Restoration process.
The only remedy for the self life is Calvary: death to the self life . "I die daily" Paul wrote. Just as crucifixion was not intended to be an instanteous death, our old nature does not die by waving a magic wand. It is a constant and conscious act of dying to self.
We don't really know if sheep experience sorrow. Experts debate that subject in the various species of animals. However it seems right to believe that the cast sheep is sure glad to see the shepherd arrive and restore it to its proper place.
There is no debate about sorrow in the human soul. While many well meaning professionals treat soul sorrow with therapy and drugs there is a surer remedy for the "sheep of His pasture." Our good shepherd provides comfort to His own when we are cast down. Someone well said, "You don't know Jesus is all you need, until you reach the point that Jesus is all you have."
Scripture time and again points us to the fact that our Lord is the God of Comfort. He certainly restores our souls. Just try Him. Embrace His comfort. Note that David has already touched upon the truth of comfort: "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."
No shepherd worth his salt wants to see his sheep suffer. He will go to extra ordinary lengths to protect his sheep and restore those sheep on a daily basis.
While human suffering is inevitable, The Good Shepherd of our Soul went to Calvary and suffered there in ways no mere mortal will ever understand. In doing so, He drank the cup of suffering for every man. He can say I have been where you are. Suffering is experiential with Him and not something He has to guess about! James S. Stewart preaching on this subject of suffering once said; "Your sufferings are His Sufferings, your sorrows, His sorrows."
Thus, He can and does restore our souls when suffering comes our way. What a shepherd, what a savior is He.
Are you cast down in your soul? Cry out to Him. He is the Good Shepherd.
He is the Great Restorer of our Souls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I apologize that our posts have been non existant the past few months. I made a decision to continue my seminary education back in August. That pursuit has involved a lot of additional study, class time and writing. Our blog ministry had to take a back seat for a while but hopefully we can resume our normal frequency of postings.
We have a new e-mail address: email@example.com
Feel free to contact us anytime and continue to pray for this ministry. Share our blog with your saved and lost friends.
II) Green Pastures and Still Waters.
Psalm 23 verse 2 reveals the first two truths of the shepherd's care for his flock. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters."
These words from the shepherd king of Israel lead to the thought of Satisfaction. In shepherd language that is the scene depicted: The repose and refreshing of God's people.
A) Myths regarding Satisfaction.
A myth can be described as a morsel of truth enveloped in a husk of lies. Here's an example:
There is a myth that says all people ultimately go to heaven. The truth is there is a heaven and some people will go there. It is a myth to say all go.
There is equally a myth regarding satisfaction. The myth states that you can find satisfaction for one's soul in the temporal and material realm. In other words, you can satisfy the spiritual dimension of man (his soul) with material and temporal things. You can't.
John D. Rockerfeller was one of the world's richest people. One day he was asked how much money would it take to satisfy him? His answer was simply "One more dollar." He had made a lot of money, dollars meant to bring satisfaction to his soul. But in essence they brought more dissatisfaction.
B) The Truth of Satisfaction.
Satisfaction by definition is an acknowledgement of need met by the fulfillment of that need. In the language of our text, David says that every need of hunger and thirst has been met. Thus, satisfaction is achieved.
1.The Good Shepherd satisfies Soul Hunger.
Hunger is not an acquired desire. It comes standard equipment in mankind. As a shepherd David had learned how to satisfy the physical hunger of his flock. But he is speaking of a deeper reality here.
Humans, as living souls have spiritual hunger. It is placed in our souls by our creator. It is of far greater importance to satisfy this hunger than one's physical cravings.
David says that the "Good Shepherd" maketh me to lie down in green pastures. This pictures sheep who have grazed and are completed satisfied. Their fears are quelled, friction within the flock has disappeared and they fret about nothing. They repose. All because of the Good Shepherd.
Jesus affirms that real hunger originates in the soul. To try a material/physical substitute for the soul's longing will never bring fulfillment.
Think of it this way; if you were to the point of starvation, any food would do; even spinach. Yet for the soul's hunger there is only one absolute and satisfying source: The Lord Jesus.
Satan tempted Jesus in the realm of hunger. "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. To which Jesus replies; "It is written, man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:3-4)
To put this truth in the context of shepherding; the only way we find genuine satisfaction to the soul's hunger is in the Lord Jesus and His Word. We find true satisfaction in the spiritual food that originates with Him alone. After all "He is the bread of life." He gives true nourishment and fulfillment to our soul.
2. The Good Shepard Satisfies Soul Thirst.
David says that the Lord "leadeth me beside the still waters." Some Hebrew scholars have translated this "leadeth me beside the waters of refreshment." The quiet, placid, tranquil waters are exactly what sheep need. The same can be said for our souls.
Philip Keller in his marvelous book on the 23rd Psalm notes that sheep will not drink from roaring waters. Rushing water and fast currents frighten the sheep. It spooks them, it causes them to turn away. It is equally true to say that sheep have limited discernment and will often drink from contaminated potholes or mudholes that prove to be detrimental to their own well being.
A shepherd truly concerned for his flock would often go upstream and damn up a rushing stream to provide a pool of calm and tranquil water where the sheep would come and satisfy their thirst. He would lead them away from places he felt were contaminated.
In poetic language David speaks of the thirsty soul fully satisfied by the Good Shepherd. The Lord Jesus supplies His sheep with water for the soul. It is not roaring or rushing nor polluted. Rather, it is the pure and clear water that quenches the thirst of a seeking soul.
Water is metaphorically used throughout scripture as doing for the soul what literal water does for the body. As sure as water is essential to the body, the living water from above is essential to your soul.
The Samaritan women Jesus encountered in John 4 found living water that was not a stream but rather a fountain or a well springing up within her soul. Everyone who by faith invites the Lord Jesus into their life finds the thirst of the soul met on a daily basis.
Is this not what He promised on the Sermon on the Mount? "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. (satisfied) (Matthew 5:6)
The Psalmist of Psalm 107 states the same truth "For he (The Lord) satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." (Psalm 107:9)
C) The Choice of Satisfaction.
Built into the statement "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters" is the principle of choice. Shepherds can lead their flocks into green pastures and quiet waters but they cannot make them eat or drink. They must chose. Like the old adage, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink.
Choice is a biblical principle upheld from Genesis to Revelation. Man is called upon to make a choice. Everyone choses where he/she seeks satisfaction in life. You can chose to be like Esau of old and settle for a bowl of soup or you can be like David and find true repose and rest in the Good Shepherd; the Lord Jesus.
Satan parades before mankind the myth that fame and fortune; glitz and glamour; success and power will prove ample satisfaction for life. People are taught to emulate and imitate those who present themselves as successful and fulfilled. In the bestselling book Uncommon, Tony Dungy hits upon this very issue. His take that being is so much more important than doing is right on. The temporal system says what you do will bring you satisfaction. Scripture teaches time and again the issue is who you are!
There was a time when the highest suicide rate in the U.S. was found among teenagers. A recent study however, sees that trend reversed. Today, the highest suicidial rate in America is among those 60 years and older. That is an alarming fact. It tells me that there are multitudes of older people who have never experienced peace, purpose and contentment within. Could it be that many have found that satisfaction is harder to find than an honest politician in Washington?
The #2 Rock N Roll Song of all time according to Billboard Magazines begins with these words "I can't get no, satisfaction. I can't get no, satisfaction." Although written as a somewhat protest to the culture of 1965 their words have proven prophetic.
There is no satisfaction for the human soul apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. He will satisfy any one's hunger and thirst who calls upon His name for Salvation. He's been doing it for a long time now. And He still offers Himself as the Bread of Life and the Source of Living Water.
Most businesses strive for customer satisfaction. I have never found one person who has complained about the satisfaction they have received from the Lord Jesus. He has a perfect customer satisfaction rating.
May I remind you again: Satisfaction by definition is an acknowledgment of need met by the fulfillment of that need. It involves a Choice. It's always been a Choice. I trust you have or will make the right Choice and find true satisfaction for your soul. He provides Green Pastures and Still Water for those who trust HIM!!!!!!!
I wish you a Happy New Year.
Until next time.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
We return to our study of the most familiar passage in the Old Testament: Psalm 23.
Psalm 23 is presented from the standpoint of a shepherd and should be expounded accordingly. David considers himself as the sheep, Jehovah as His shepherd. His personal shepherd. What a wonderful role reversal.
So let's dig in.
II) The Sovereign Shepherd.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
While we do not know definitely when David was inspired to pen these words, one truth is certain. David had surrendered the sovereignty of his life to the Good Shepherd. He had done what anyone who becomes a real Christian does; he ran up the flagpole of his heart the white flag and surrendered to the God of Glory. The one who is sovereign over heaven and earth is worthy of our surrender.
Let me pause here and mention this Doctrine of the Lord's Sovereignty. It should be apparent to all bible students that the Sovereignty of God is wound through the revelation of His word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22: 21. He reigns, He rules. While many have resisted; disobeyed and defiantly shook their fist at the God of heaven, He will have the final say in all matters.
I don't believe in the "Fickle Finger of Fate"; a statement popularized on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In TV show of the early 70's. I do believe however, in the Lord's Sovereignty David did also. Through all of life's trials, (And he had more than his share) he could say The Lord is my sovereign Shepherd and because He is; "I shall not want."
That brought contentment to his soul. I have found from personal experience that when a soul will surrender the control of their life to the Almighthy, contentment of the heart comes as a result.
III) The Sufficient Shepherd.
There are seven (7) phrases in the Psalm that speak to the sufficiency of the Shepherd. We will look at each of them in greater detail but for now we lump them together and hold to the fact that our Shepherd is sufficient for the needs of His sheep.
As a shepherd David knew first hand the sacrifices, difficulties, privation and hardships that came with tending sheep. Yet he boldly declares "I shall not want". The original Hebrew is even more emphatic "I want nothing."
Oh that you and I might get to that settled place of contentment that this man enjoyed.
Many Christians really struggle in this culture of materialism and self centeredness with contentment. As Dr. Rogers put it one time "We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't even like. We try to keep up with the Jones, but when we finally catch up with them, they refinance." How true.
Please realize that contentment is a state of the soul and not the body and can only be found by surrendering our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. He is sufficient for all our needs.
I would suggest three areas of our souls that properly surrendered to the Lord Jesus will bring contentment to our soul. Let's briefly look at each one.
1. A Settled Mind.
For those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord you can have a settled mind. As you grow more mature in Christ you become more settled about eternity as well as the present. As I have grown older things that disturbed me greatly in my youth have become less significant now.
It is a proven fact that you can only think one thought at a time. Your brain works somewhat like a computer and your processor might be quicker than others; but it's still one thought at a time.
We are taught time and time and time again to fill our minds with the Word of God and the Word will certainly settle our thought process. I have a favorite verse for this and it might help you when you battling the virus of double-mindedness: Isaiah 26: 3 "Thou will keep him (that's you; that's me) in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed (locked onto would be an adequate description) on thee."
2. A Surrendered Will.
You have the ability to rationalize, you also have the ability to make decisions based upon your intellect. With decision in place, our will is surrendered to that decision. That is called the volitional portion of your soul.
Perhaps you will agree that you vocationally do some things you don't enjoy doing; but being fallible and fallen human beings, we have too. For example; I sometimes fore go that piece of pecan pie when I would really like to have it. But I surrender my will to pass on the calories.
A Surrendered will in the spiritual realm always promotes contentment in our soul. Always. Look at David as an example. David did not write many psalms like the 51st Psalm. And why is that? Psalm 51 was written as a direct result of his disobedience to the Will of God. You might want to read it sometime. This was a time in his life (some scholars believe at least a year) when he tried to cover up his sin but it could not be swept under the carpet. I would definitely conclude he had no contentment during this period. And neither do we when we get to places like that in our lives.
A Surrendered Will to the Lord Jesus lets us say "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing"
3. Secured Emotions.
Have you noticed yet, the mind; the will and now the emotions? That is the triad of your soul. You are a triad being: body/soul/spirit. Yet your soul is triad as well: rational/volitional/emotional.
You can only think one thought at at time; you can only surrender you will one decision at a time; but the emotions, well that's totally opposite. Have you ever been an emotional wreck ?How about being burnt out/stressed out/bent out of shape? They come on like an avalanche,
There were many battles of the Civil War. The greatest battle that history remembers is Gettysburg right? Our emotions are our Gettysburg. Emotions are thieves that rob us of contentment.
How do we stop our emotions from reigning havoc throughout our soul?
Go back for a moment to the two other compartments of our soul. The mind/the will. When things have gone totally haywire with our contentment we must go back to our mind and settle it on our Lord. We must go back to our will and surrender it afresh and anew to Him. That will
begin to reverse the process. That will begin to bring calm where there were storms. It will work. It has worked for countless other Christians and it will work for you. You can have contentment again in your soul.
You can say and mean it; you can say and experience it: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
He is my Sovereign Shepherd; He is my Sufficient Shepherd.
Till Next Time.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Today we begin a series of studies originating from Psalm 23, the most famous passage in the Old Testament.
As you study along with me on this blessed Psalm , keep before you at every verse the basic premise that the 23rd Psalm, rightly understood, must be looked at through the eyes of a shepherd. Keep in mind it was written by a shepherd.
As a sidenote, I would recommend anyone taking the time to read Phillip Keller's books , A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23 accompanied by A Shepherd Looks at The Good Shepherd and His sheep. (Taken from John's Gospel, Chapter 10.)
Sheep and shepherds are favorite metaphors in Scripture.
Most Christians are familiar with "The Parable of the Lost Sheep" in Luke 15. In Isaiah we read, "All we like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6). Psalm 100 reminds us "We are his people and the sheep of his pasture." (Psalm 100:3) 6 times in the New Testament Jesus makes the statement "Sheep which have no shepherd". Ezekiel 34 looks to the future when the true shepherd of Israel will fully care for his own.
Some of the greatest men of the Old Testament tended sheep at one time. Abel is the first shepherd of record; Jacob, Moses, Amos were all shepherds. And then there is David, often referred to by theologians as the shepherd-king.
It is an arresting fact that shepherds played such an unsual and important role at the Birth of the Lord Jesus:
It is to shepherds that the announcement of the birth of the Christ child (Luke 2:8-11) first comes.
It was these shepherds who came first to see the Christ Child (Luke 2:16) Dr. Luke records "They came with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger."
These shepherds became the first evangelists preaching the Gospel of the Christ Child. Dr. Luke emphatically records "And when they had seen it, They made known abroad the sayings which were told them concerning this Child." (Luke 2:17)
This whole episode is an irony of irony's indeed. Here's why.
Shepherds were considered the outcasts of their society. They were at the bottom of the bottom of the social totem pole. Jewish shepherds were deemed to be ceremonially unclean. They were ostracized from traditional Jewish life; barred from temple worship and other privileges of Judasim.
The Egyptians really told us how they felt about shepherds. In Genesis 46:34 we read that the Egyptians considered them to be an abomination to society.
Outside of their own circle, shepherds were not endearing to the masses; could never expect to have any privileges in life and most often lived in virtual solitude from mainsteam society.
So what is the point? Several points really. (As a sidenote, have you ever known of a preacher to have only one point?) Not very often. I have several.
Jesus would one day take up the metaphor of shepherding during His ministry. "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep." John 10:11
Peter calls Him "The Chief Shepherd" I Peter 5:4
The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus "That great shepherd of the Sheep." Hebrews 13:20.
I find it quite ironic that Jesus saw Himself as our Shepherd because He brings outcasts into His family. He is the champion of the ostracized. We who are indeed unclean, He makes clean.
What is equally amazing is that the Lord Jesus takes up the role of Shepherd at His own personal expense. He was not unclean, He was sinless. He is King of Kings, God of gods and Lord of Lords and yet He humbles Himself to the role of being our Shepherd. He treasures this because He treasures us.
The second point is this. Return to the shepherds for a moment. The announcement, their coming to Bethlehem and their subsequent sharing the good news of Christ's birth set a precedent and principle. The Heavenly Father could have dispatched the angelic host to the throne of Caesar Augustus, Cyrenius or King Herod. The news could have been broken first to the High Priest of Israel, the Sanhedrin or others in the religious hierarchy, or to the arisocrats of that society.
But the amazing, earth shattering, once in a lifetime event was heralded to those society would call low lifes.
This might seem paradoxical to us , but it was God's way of stating that His Son would be Savior and Lord to all and for All. Jesus was born in the most humble of circumstances and the revelation of His coming was given to those who shared this commonality. Had He been born as a normal infant king; common folks like myself would question is He really Lord of all, or just Lord of the privileged. He is Lord of All. A Clear message to that fact is established at His birth.
A third thought emerges with the shepherds as well. Since they were deemed unclean by the Law of Moses it reinforces the simple fact: The Law of Moses was never meant to save anyone ; it was meant to do the exact opposite. It was intended to drive mankind to their need of the One who would indeed be their Messiah, the One who would and could forgive their sins based upon His own merit. The law was intended to show that we are all unclean and in need of the true Sacrifice for our sin. As Paul wrote to the Galatians "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24
This thought comes into bold relief when Jesus began His earthly ministry. He confronts a whole generation of people who held to the belief that keeping the Law of Moses outwardly rendered them fit for heaven. Sadly many today hide behind many forms of legalism, or fabrications of religion meant to touch any part of their being except their heart.
This is just my opinion and take it for what it's worth, but I believe that the flocks these shepherds were tending were destined for sacrifice at the time of the Passover. These sheep were in the sheep fold at the spring of the year awaiting the Passover. How provocative is it to think that the shepherds left their sheep to worship the One who years later would be declared as the "Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29 They came to worship the one whose ultimate sacrifice would indeed pay their sin debt. And yours, and Mine.
And a final thought. A sheep or a flock of sheep without a shepherd would be a disaster just waiting to happen. I see first hand every day individuals whose lives fit this description because of one reason: They have no shepherd. Everyone who lives, who ever lived or will ever live on this planet needs the Good Shepherd. No exceptions.
How appropriate that shepherds were so intimately involved at the birth of the Good Shepherd.
Now, on to the Psalm itself.
II) The Structure of the Psalm.
David begins "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." He ends the psalm with this statement "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
I want you to notice what is said between v2 to v5. There are seven (7) activities of care that David sees the Good Shepherd conveying to His sheep. In order they are:
#1. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
#2. He leadeth me beside the still waters
#3. He restoreth my soul
#4. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
#5. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me
#6. Thou preparest a table before me
#7. Thou anointest my head with oil
Bullinger considers the number seven (7) as the great number of spiritual perfection. I would add that the seven-fold care of the Shepherd for His Sheep is the perfect care. As you take each one individually, and that's the way it was intended, you will begin to focus clearly on the Shepherd's real care for His own.
It is my intent to share each of these seven (7) activities of care in greater detail. But to a final thought as we return to Verse 1.
III) The Personal Shepherd.
Our culture has popularized all kinds of personal relationships. It's common for a person to have a personal physician. Those into physical fitness have personal trainers. Some in Hollywood even have personal cosmetic surgeons. In the sports world fans have personal sports heros. On and on we could go.
Yet, you don't often hear someone say: I have a personal shepherd; but David said it. "The Lord is my shepherd. I stand with David on this and say "Jesus is my personal shepherd." I truly hope and pray you can emphatically say the same.
The Psalm opens with these words "Jehovah is my Shepherd." As Christians, we believe Jesus is my Shepherd, for Jesus is Jehovah incarnate.
The idea of incarnate could be understood by the phrase "putting a name with a face" for that is what Jesus did for us. He shows us the Father. The thought of incarnation brings to bear all the character and attributes of God that He willingly makes known to man.
Hebrew linguists tell us that when we speak of God as Jehovah, the Hebrew uses present tense language. Jehovah is outside time/space/matter that confines us. His existance is eternal. There is no need to argue that point. You either believe it or you don't.
He is eternal---------present tense. Past/present/future rolled into one.
David sees Him as the ever present shepherd. David lays out in the psalm His present tense care of His own. We will look at His care found in the remainder of the verses, but for now the point to establish is this: The Lord is My Shepherd.
There's another significant word in the opening verse. It is the simple word "MY". David sees himself in a role reversal. He had been a shepherd. He knew what it was to tend a flock. He sees himself here as a sheep. The role is reversed. Jesus is His shepherd. He is my shepherd.
Catch the emphasis here. Let me illustrate. If my neighbor's house burns to the ground, that's sad, that's reason to jump in and help them. But if my house burns down, that puts it in a totally different perspective, doesn't it?
If my wife has a toothache, maybe to the point of abscess; that's pretty close to home. You want to get her to the dentist for relief. But if the pain is mine, that totally changes the equation.
It is fine to say Jesus is the good shepherd (He is), others say he is our shepherd (He is); I have even heard someone say Jesus is your shepherd, but it is crucial that you can personally say He is MY shepherd. Is He?
Till next time!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Truth by definition is reality stated with nothing hidden.
We hold to the premise that all truth originates with God. Truth can be possessed as well .You do not have to be rich or privileged; you do not have to be born into a aristocratic family nor educated at Harvard. You simply must accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.
By accepting Jesus by Faith you possess all the truth necessary to live a life that produces meaning and fulfillment.
That leads us to our next observation: Truth is to be Expressed.
II) The Expression of Truth.
Jesus said to Pilate in Verse 37 "Everyone that is of the Truth heareth my voice."
Notice the word "heareth". It is "akouo" in the Greek text. Here the tense of the verb is in present indicative. That simply means that the action.......in this case hearing...........is going on at the present time. To put it another way those who Possess the Truth of Christ are continually hearing His voice.
And the word heareth has its own twist here. Jesus' use of the word implies not only hearing but heeding simultaneously. As we hear His voice, we heed His voice.
The late E.V. Hill told of his early childhood in depression stricken Texas. He said that Momma would be on one end of the cotton field and him on the other. When Momma cried "Edward" he said that was my call to get to where she was immediately. He heard and he heeded.
This is the way the "Truth of Jesus" operates in our lives. It is not just that we hear His voice, we do more than that. We heed that call and command. I believe we express this hearing in three ways in our daily Christian lives.
A) We will Love the Truth.
A person will not express the truth of God in their lives until they first come to love the Truth. It must become personal.
We can take the Apostle Paul as a classic example. Before his Damascus Road conversion to Christ he was the greatest enemy of Jesus Christ and the infant church. All through his writings he gives insights into his hatred toward the Lord and His chosen ones.
Dr. Luke's record in Acts 9:13 states Ananias' skepticism toward Saul of Tarsus "I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem." Even those of the Jewish synagogues in Damascus are startled when Saul preaches Christ in verses 20-21. "But all that heard him were amazed and said; "Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came here for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?"
Saul of Tarsus encountered the one who is "the way the truth and the life."..... and he made a complete 180 degree turn. He went from a man who despised and persecuted the Truth to one who with all his being "loved the truth."
While writing of the coming anti-christ in his second letter to the Thessalonians he says of those who will embrace the Satanic one "they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." II Thess 2:10. Lost people do not love the Truth.
While Paul's conversion is unique in church history, your conversion to Christ, will produce the same result: "a love for the truth."
If you are indeed a Christian you will "love the truth." That is an acid test of authentic faith in Christ. When a baby is born, there is no debate about the infant's sexuality. The body parts give us the truth. And I believe it is the same way with a genuine believer. Your love for the truth will give you away.
I frequently talk with people who profess Christ and that's all. They cannot prove their possession of Jesus however, because they show no love for the Truth.
B) We will Learn the Truth.
Jesus said "everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice." Not only will there be an evidential love of the Truth, there will be a yearning to learn the truth.
Are you a disciple of Christ? We define discipleship as a follower and a learner. If a person is a true disciple of Jesus, they will have a desire to learn of Him. We do that by studying His Word. The more we study we more we learn.
The Psalms are filled with this instruction.
Psalms 25:4-5 "Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth (oh, there's our word) and teach me."
Psalm 86:11 "Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth (there's that word again), unite my heart to fear thy name."
On and on we could go!!!!!!!!!!!! Suffice it to say, if you are authentic you will learn more of truth. Make it a life long quest! You will never be disappointed; you will never conclude you were wasting your time.
Learn the truth. We have such resources and more options than did our forefathers. We have no excuse.
C) We will Live the Truth.
"Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice." As I read that statement again, I am struck by the fact that hearing the Lord's voice equates with Living His Truth in our daily lives.
That should be evident in those who really love the truth and are learning the truth. They will and do live the truth. Just as children reflect the behavioral patterns of their parents, Christians in the pursuit of truth will reflect their Heavenly Father.
I refer you again to the 86th Psalm quoted above: "Teach me thy way, O Lord. I will walk in thy truth, unite my heart to fear thy name."
Scripture is replete with this simply principle. It is stated in a myriad of metaphorical premises but always comes back to this principle. If you belong to the Lord, you will live out His truth.
I am keenly aware that I cannot get my arms completely around the subject of truth. No one can, but we are instructed to keep trying.
Let me offer you a challenge. If you read this, take the Lord up on his promise. His phone number is Jeremiah 333. Try it. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." I believe He is speaking of truth!!!!!
Monday, April 13, 2009
Under the cloud of darkness, the traitor Judas has lead the Roman soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus. The soldiers then take Him to Caiaphas, the high priest (Matthew 26:57). The Sanhedrin (the religious hierarchy of Israel) had assembled. In spite of being forbidden by the law of Moses, the Jews hold a night trial to pronounce judgement upon Jesus.
Now, as we turn to John's account in Chapter 18, we see the Jews have one remaining hurdle to cross. Since Judea was occupied by Rome, only the Romans could execute someone. The Jewish hatred of the Romans, at least in this instance, is surpassed by their hatred for Jesus. They must get Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor, and convince him to issue a death warrant. Jewish complicity with the Romans was unheard of, but it fulfills their purpose here.
As we read the account beginning in verse 28 we find Jesus and Pilate face to face. In John's account, Pilate asked Jesus five (5) questions. The questioning begins along the line of the charge they have brought against the Savior. They have accused Him of being an insurrectionist, a rebel against Rome, the leader of a rebellion awaiting the right moment to commence.
Obviously, Pilate sees through the false charges. Jesus is no threat to Rome. But Pilate's fourth question brings us to the heart of our discussion.
"Art thou a king then?" (verse 37). At this point, he turns from the mob's accusation to his own personal inquisitiveness. Are you a king?
Jesus replies, "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born (note that) and for this cause (reason) came I into the world. May I pause for a moment and say that no other human being could truthfully make this statement. No human being is pre-existent ----No one but Jesus.
Jesus continues "To this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.
And then comes Pilate's fifth (5th) and final question in verse 38 "What is truth? "These questions launches us into this discussion of truth.
II) The Definition of Truth.
The question as Pilate stood before Jesus(that's really the way it was) soon progressed from a trumped up political charge to the subject of truth. Not politics, nor philosophy, but truth.
So, to get to the heart of the passage and any study of truth for that matter, we must come up with a workable definition for the idea of truth. Even Pilate wanted a definition. More about Pilate's question next time.
Let me give you a simple definition of truth. The word is "alethia" in the Greek text. The word appears as a noun, or a verb, sometimes as an adjective and even as an adverb according to Vine's Word Study. I would simply define truth as reality stated with nothing hidden. I think that would describe what Jesus means. Truth is indeed reality stated regardless where it occurs. Reality is truth.
An illustration will help. Suppose you have one apple and a friend gives you another apple, you then have two (2) apples. That is what we would call a mathematical truth. One plus one equal two regardless of language, culture, circumstances. Anywhere and everywhere on this planet this is true. We would call that fact TRUTH.
In fact we would call this Absolute Truth. It is not abstract nor debatable. I have two apples. That is a fact, that is Truth.
We would also call this Objective Truth. You might say the guy has three apples, but if he has two friends with him and all three are hungry, then someone won't get an apple, unless you share. That is not subjective, it is Objective. One and one equal two.
You and I did not come up with the concept of truth. Before you were born one plus one equaled two. That was true before you got here, while you are here and will be true long after you are gone.
If you hold to Jesus' use of the word truth, He means that Truth is reality revealed, with nothing hidden. Truth is absolute and objective.
III) The Origination of Truth.
Pilate ask, "What is truth?" He was not only asking for a definition from Jesus, his question implies another vital thought. Where does truth originate?
Where does truth originate? It depends on who you ask, right? Regardless of your answer or lack thereof, I hold to a basic premise that truth must originate somewhere. Back to the apples for a moment. Someone had to determine that one apple plus another one gives you two. Who came up with that? Did Johnny Appleseed come up with that? Nope, it wasn't Johnny.
You could ask another question involving apples. If an apple fell from a tree and hit Isaac Newton on the noggin, what caused the gravitational force that caused an object of weight to descend downward? Newton didn't cause it. But the fact of gravity is Truth, and it had to originate somewhere.
What about morality? Man is a complex being. He is unlike all other species in that he has a built conscience. Standard equipment for all human beings. You may not have a GPS Navigation system in your vehicle, but you do have a moral barometer or compass built into the essence of your being. That fact separates man from all others of the created order. Where did the concept of right and wrong originate?
There is an indisputable, universal moral sense of right and wrong. By their actions, many demonstrate that their view of such is woefully skewered and warped. But that does not change the fact that in each of use, there is a sense of right and wrong. Where did that originate?
I contend that all truth has a supernatural beginning. Truth is outside the material realm, the natural realm and the moral realm. It must begin with God. He is the only source of truth and there is no other logical explanation when you really think about it.
All truth that man has discovered (regardless of the realm) is from the hand of God. Period!!!!!
I have often done business with people for years without meeting them face to face. There have been times when I have been privileged to put a name and a voice with a face. It is a unique human experience for the most part. The ancient Name and Voice of Truth has a face as well. His name is Jesus. And as He tells Pilate "I came..........that I should bear witness unto the truth."
He is the truth. He is "the way, the truth and the life." All truth originates with Him.
IV) The Possession of Truth.
Ponce de Leon came to America searching for the mythical "Fountain of Youth." We know he never found it in Florida or anywhere else on the planet. It does not exist.
There are many today that tell us that Truth ----that which is absolute and objective----does not exist. How foolish to make that assertion . Unlike the fountain that de Leon never found, truth does exist. It exists in the one who is its author.
Jesus proclaims to Pilate "Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice." Our Lord affirms that people can possess Truth. Just as sheep hear and heed the voice of their shepherd, everyone that possesses truth hears and heeds the voice of the Lord Jesus.
Are you "of the truth" ? That is the question that begs to be asked! I think most would agree that Pilate missed his opportunity to possess the truth for himself. History records nothing of him coming to Christ at a later date. For all we know he never was counted among those "of the truth." Are you counted among that group today?
Can you answer the question Pilate asked "What is Truth"? If you are "of the truth" you can. You are of the truth if you know Jesus as your Savior and Lord. If you can't answer that question truthfully, ackowledge that you are a sinner in the sight of God and ask Jesus to forgive you of this state. Surrender your life to Him by faith. You will be "of the truth" because you possess the Truth. Simple, isn't it?
We will come back to our study of truth next month. I hope you can honestly say I possess the Truth. After all, truth is reality revealed; all truth originates with God and His truth can be possessed.
All truth resides in Jesus. Amen!!!!