Tag Archive | Psalm

In the shelter of the Most High

Sunday morning in church we were looking at Luke chapter one and my attention was drawn to verse 35.  The angel said to Mary, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”1

This phrase brings us to Psalm 91 verse 1: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. “

If we go on and read the entire Psalm.  We have some serious food for thought regarding the present situation we are in regarding COVID.

“For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease” (v. 3).

“Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness” (v. 6).

“No plague will come near your home” (v. 10).

“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me” (v. 14).

There are many other promises in this powerful Psalm but the one regarding disease and plague stands out. These promises are contingent on sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty.

So does this mean no true believers in the Almighty will get COVID?  We know this is not true.  Many believers have contracted COVID and been healed—100% recovery rate.  Some recovered on this planet in this time and space and others are now experiencing the ultimate recovery and healing—instant healing—in eternity.  In thinking of a friend with COVID, he will be healed; it is a confirmed fact, one way or the other he will be healed. The Almighty has said so—Psalm 91 ends with the final and ultimate shelter: “and give them my salvation”.

So what does it mean to shelter in the shadow of the Almighty? To me sheltering in the shadow of the Almighty means being always conscious of God’s presence and “shadow” around me.  He is always there and by faith, I see His shadow.  He has said, “I will never live you nor forsake you.”

Isaiah put it this way, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God in the eternal Rock” (Is. 26:3-4).

To abide in the shadow of the Almighty means to have our heart, minds, and faith fixed, fastened securely to the promises of the Almighty.  Not fixed ultimately on medical science, our insurance policy, the government, our diet and health regiment, a vaccine,  but fixed on the Almighty.

My prayer for all of us this season will be that we are sheltering under the Almighty—not mainly sheltering in place but under the shadow of the Almighty.

1 Using the New Living Translation for all of this.

 

Justice and the Just One

I was considering the word and concept of justice today so I looked up the definition of “justice.” The search returned a few definitions that stuck to me: “moral rightness,” “the quality of being just,” and “moral principle determining just conduct.” To understand or seek justice then, we need to have an idea of what it means to be “just” or “moral.” We have to have a “moral principle” whereby we can measure “just conduct.”

In America today we have calls for justice. Justice is right and good. Christians especially are called to do justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8). Do the majority of Americans, however, know what “moral principle” we are basing our measurements of “just conduct” on? Do most Americans believe that there is a “moral principle” that guides us? If so, can most Americans articulate where our “moral principle” comes from?

It seems to me if the foundation for “moral principle” has eroded then justice does not have a foundation upon which to stand. Thus, I say this not because I am not for justice, I say this because I am for justice.

Perhaps with our calls for justice in America, we should also consider the foundation of justice: moral principle. Perhaps we should consider if justice can have a steady place on which to perch.

Perhaps we should also hear calls to return to moral principle and the bedrock of truth. Without truth, calls for justice ring empty.

I believe there is a basis for justice. Because I believe there is truth.

Jesus Himself actually said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus is truth made tangible. He lived and walked justice. He is in reality what everyone should be and live.

I believe in justice and that we have a “moral principle determining just conduct” because the LORD has given it to us. Because He is righteous and “He loves righteous deeds” (Psalm 11:7) and “hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5).

“O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”(Psalm 10:17-18).

All His Benefits

“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2-5).

If we are to rightly praise the LORD then we must know the LORD. We must know things about Him. We must know things about what He has done. We must know and not forget all His benefits.

“All His benefits.” I like that phrase.

When someone is thinking about taking a job they consider what the benefits of the job are. “Will I get enough vacation? Is the health insurance good enough?”

Yet the Lord gives “all His benefits” for free! Not as payment for work. The LORD heaps benefits on all those “who fear Him” (v. 11) because God is a God of “steadfast love and mercy” (v. 4).

God does not pay us for our sins as we deserve (v. 10). If He did that would be bad news and we certainly wouldn’t get all the benefits we enjoy. Just like a good Father, however, God shows great compassion and care to all who fear Him (v. 13).

The LORD forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies, and strengthens (v. 3-5). The LORD is merciful and gracious and slow to anger (v. 6). The LORD’s love is vast beyond comprehension. It is high—higher than the heavens, it is vast—further than the east is from the west, and it is long—from everlasting to everlasting (v. 11, 12, 17).

So, praise the LORD! Praise the LORD because He shows mercy and withholds the punishment we deserve. Praise the LORD because He shows grace and heaps on all sorts of blessings we don’t deserve. Praise the LORD because of who He is and all He has done.

The Resurrection

“I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”
                           —Ps. 16:8-11/Acts 2:25-28 (cf. Acts 2:22-32)

Peter refers to this Davidic Psalm in Acts chapter 2. He said: “Fellow Israelites, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us today” (Acts 2:29). In short, David’s dead and his body rotted. David did, however, as a prophet tell us that one of his descendants would sit on his throne (v. 30). So, David seeing that in advance “spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: ‘His body was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay’” (v. 31).

Paul says it a little differently. He says King “David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption” (Acts 13:36). King David saw corruption. His body decomposed. So, David is not the “Holy One” that the Psalm refers to.

Paul goes on to say, “But He whom God raised up did not see corruption” (v. 37). Ding, ding, ding! Jesus is the Holy One! He is the long-awaited Messiah and forever King!

David knew that the LORD would place one of his descendants on the throne. How did he know this? Because…

Read More…

Jesus is Forsaken

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”
                             —Ps. 22:1-3

Jesus is Forsaken

On the cross, Jesus cries out and quotes Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God,[1] why have Thou forsaken me?!”[2] This is especially pungent because Jesus, unlike all other humans, did not deserve to be forsaken.[3]

Jesus’ forsaken cry comes at the end of three hours of darkness (Matt. 27:45). This is in great contrast to other momentous occasions in Jesus’ life. At Jesus’ birth, the star led the way and angels announced His arrival (Lk. 2:8-14).[4] At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens were torn open and a voice from heaven said, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). At Jesus’ transfiguration “a cloud overshadowed them,[5] and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to Him’” (Mk. 9:7).

Yet, when Jesus is on the cross crying out His forsaken cry the sky is dark and there is no voice from heaven.[6]

However, it is through Jesus being forsaken by God that a gentile centurion[7] says, “Truly this man is the Son of God” (Mk. 15:39). It is through Jesus being forsaken by God that the temple curtain is ripped in two (Mk. 15:38)[8] and we can now, through Jesus Christ, boldly go to God our Father (Heb. 9:2–3, 12; 9:24; 10:19–20).[9]

Jesus cried His forsaken cry so that all who trust in Him will not have to for all eternity.[10] Jesus died in agony, crying out, “My God, my God! Why have You forsaken me?!” so that we could die in peace. The voice that called out to Abraham to not touch Isaac is silent for the Son of God so that we too could be spared. 

Later on, the psalmist says: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death” (Ps. 22:14-15 cf. 69:17-21).

That too was Jesus’ experience. He was forsaken by God. His life was poured out like water as He drank the cup of God’s wrath and suffered severe thirst. John 19:28 says, “Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’”[11] And so we see, the One “who had made gallons of wine for a wedding party, who had spoken of living water that would quench all thirst forever” was dying with a parched tongue and the sour smell of vinegar on His beard.[12]

Jesus died in the dark. Thirsty. Forsaken by God.

Yet it is through Jesus being forsaken that He opens the way for whosoever will to come to God through the way that He made. Jesus is the way, He is the gate (Ps. 118:20; Jn. 14:6).

Reflections

  • It’s helpful to realize in the midst of suffering that God takes our suffering seriously. In fact, “God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself.”[13]
  • Jesus, because He Himself suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:18). Jesus was “made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God” (v. 17). So, as you struggle and strive in this fallen world, remember Jesus sympathizes with your weaknesses, because He was tempted in every way that we are, yet He never sinned (Heb. 4: 15). 

Prayer

God, we are thankful and amazed that You are mindful of us. But we know that You are. And You even sent Jesus to bear the wrath that we deserve so we could be welcomed into friendship with You. Thank You, God. Be praised by our lives we ask, because You deserve it. We ask this through Jesus our once forsaken Great High Priest. Amen.

Notes

________

[1] Jesus said, “My God, my God” and so we see both Jesus’ personal relationship with God—even though He doesn’t say “My Father, my Father” here since He’s quoting the psalmist—and His continued trust in God (Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 258).

[2] Forsaken me in this context means “to cast off,” “reject,” “to be far from,” “to hide God’s face from,” “to turn in anger from,” “to forget” (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity, 256). “To be forsaken by God means that he has allowed this to happen and does nothing to help. So it is somewhat misleading to say—of the psalmist or of Jesus echoing his words—that he feels forsaken by God as though this were an understandable mistake. What Jesus experiences is the concrete fact that he has been left to suffer and die. God has, in this sense, abandoned him, not merely in psychological experience but in the form of the concrete situation that Jesus experiences” (Ibid., 257).

[3] So, we could read the text: “Why have You forsaken Me, Me of all people?!” We know the truth, however. We know that Jesus knew that it was God’s will that He bear the sins of many.

[4] See Colin R. Nicholl, The Great Christ Comet: Revealing the True Star of Bethlehem.

[5] God’s presence to bless is often seen in atmospheric symbols like clouds. We see this for example in the Exodus (Ex. 13:21).

[6] In Scripture darkness sometimes expresses God’s judgment as well as His nonappearance to bless and protect (see e.g. Ex. 10:21-22; Is. 8:22; Amos 5:20; Zeph. 1:15).

[7] This centurion would have observed many deaths and many crucifixions. And so, he is in a unique position to recognize the purity and power of Jesus. The centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Lk. 23:47), after he saw Jesus call out and say, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” and breathe his last (Jn. 19:30/Lk. 12:46). The centurion must have been amazed by Jesus’ composure and everything else that had taken place surrounding Him. For example, the centurion may have seen the way Jesus treated His enemies (v. 34), His promise to the criminal on the cross (v. 43), His prayer to God (v. 46), not to mention the ominous darkness (v. 44).

[8] “The curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place was an elaborately woven fabric of 72 twisted plaits of 24 threads each. It was 60 feet (18 m) high and 30 feet (9.1 m) wide. No one was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place behind the curtain except the high priest, and he only once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Heb. 9:2–7). Torn in two signifies the removal of the separation between God and the people” (The ESV Study Bible note on Matt. 27:51).

[9] As D.A. Carson has said, “At the very moment when Jesus gives up his spirit (v. 50), Matthew reports, ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom’ (v. 51a). This is not some mere datum of interesting destruction. The destruction of the curtain makes a theological statement” (D.A. Carson, Scandalous, 34).

[10] D.A. Carson, Scandalous, 36.

[11] Yet in Jesus’ thirst, He was given sour wine. So, “What David was offered in metaphor, Jesus was offered in fact” (Kidner, Psalms 1-72, 266). See Ps. 69:21; Matt. 27:34, 48; Jn. 19:28.

[12] Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew.

[13] Keller, The Reason for God, 31. “The cross is God’s act of self-identification with all people in that extremity of the human condition and that heart of all suffering that is the absence of God” (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 267).

The Forsaken

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”
                             —Ps. 22:1-3 (cf. Matt. 27:45-49)

 

On the cross Jesus cries out and quotes from Psalm 22: “My God, my God,[1] why have Thou forsaken me?!”[2] This is especially pungent because Jesus, unlike all other humans, did not deserve to be forsaken.[3]

Jesus’ forsaken cry comes at the end of three hours of darkness (Matt. 27:45). This is in great contrast to other momentous occasions in Jesus’ life. At Jesus’ birth, the star led the way and angels announced His arrival (Lk. 2:8-14).[4] At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens were torn open and a voice from heaven said, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). At Jesus’ transfiguration “a cloud overshadowed them,[5] and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to Him’” (Mk. 9:7).

Read More…

“To God be the Glory!” Sermon on Psalm 115

Discussion Questions

  1. When you think of God’s glory, what are some of the things that first come to mind?
  2. God deserves glory for so many reasons. What are some reasons you think of that weren’t talked about in the sermon?
  3. Can you relate to C.S. Lewis’ struggle? Is it hard to understand why God cares so much about His own glory? What has been helpful for you as you think about this?
  4. What are some of the results of idolatry in our lives?
  5. What is an idol? Give some examples of good things in life that can become idols.
  6. What idols do you currently struggle with?
  7. How can personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are god?
  8. What are possible signs in an individual’s life that point to the fact that success is an idol?

Why Do We Sing In Church? [Part 3]

Singing Cultivates a Heart of Thanksgiving

“And be thankful… singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:15-17).

“Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20)

Another element of singing is thanksgiving. We sing to one another making melody to the Lord in our hearts (not just in our ears), giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:19b-20 cf. Col. 3:16).As we sing rich theological songs we come to see the glories that God has brought to us through Jesus and the regenerating work of the Spirit.

As we sing songs of praise to the Lord the song we make with our hearts is more important than the sound we make with our voices. Singing teaches and transforms us as we thank God for who He is and all He has done. As we thank God for who He is it serves a dual purpose, it also reminds us, we are so prone to forget (and thus, as the song says, “prone to wonder”). As we tell God that He is worthy we ourselves are reminded afresh that God is worthy.

Many of us sadly have a very shallow view of God. In the words of William Lane Craig, we have “a defective concept of God.” We sometimes view God

“as sort of a big chap up there and we appreciate him and we look up to him and so forth, but I think we don’t really understand why we worship God which is to adore God as the supreme good… He is the highest good. He is the paradigm of goodness. That is to say, God’s nature defines what goodness is. It is not as though God lives up to some external standard and does a good job at being good. He is goodness itself. Therefore, he is to be worshiped and adored because he is the highest good.”[i]

So we see that “worship is an active response to God whereby we declare His worth. Worship is not passive, but is participative. Worship is not simply a mood; it is a response. Worship is not just a feeling; it is a declaration.”[ii] That’s in part why were told to make a joyful noise to the LORD, even when we don’t feel like it (Ps. 66:1; 81:1; 95:1, 2; 98:4, 6; 100:1). “Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp!” (Ps. 150:2-3).

We sing because we are thankful (Eph. 5:19b-20) even in the midst of suffering (see Acts 16:25). We do not merely work ourselves up into a frenzy but are moved into orderly worship by the Spirit as we have the eyes of our hearts enlightened (cf. Eph. 1:15-23). Again, we sing with our spirit, but we sing with our mind also (1 Cor. 14:15). Notice that when we look at the book of Nehemiah we see that revival came to God’s people in part through understanding the Scriptures and a retelling of God’s abundant grace to His people (Neh. 8:1ff).

When we sing songs to God we are not just thinking. We are not just singing for the sake of singing or just edifying each other. We are recounting God’s truth and goodness and being moved anew to thanksgiving (cf. Ps. 78). We are declaring God’s worth.

God is worthy not just of songs about Him, but songs of praise to Him.[iii] We may sing country songs, pop songs, etc. but those songs do not consciously praise anyone or anything. As we sing songs of praise we are consciously praising God, realizing He alone is worthy. We are purposely thanking God for all He is and has done. So, even when we don’t feel like it, we should still sing songs of hearty praise to the LORD. He is worthy!

Conclusion
So, what are some goals we have for our singing? We strive to build each other up (1 Cor. 14:26), be filled with God’s Word (Col. 3:16), be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18ff), be a testimony to an unbelieving world (1 Cor. 14:24-15), and gives thanks to God for all He is and has done for us (Eph. 5:20). It is our joy to sing but we are also commanded to sing (cf. Ps. 100:1-2). Singing is serious. So, let’s do as Psalm 47:6 says:

“Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!”

_______________

[i] Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/what-is-worship#ixzz3pnGBNLGy.

[ii] Ronald Allen and Gordan Borror, Worship, Rediscovering the Missing Jewel [Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1982], 16.

[iii] “Since God is neither an a-personal truth…, contemplation is not appropriate as a way of relating to God. Adoration is. To adore God is not simply to behold the truth in a disinterested way, but to affirm one’s allegiance to God by praising God for his deeds in creation and redemption” (“Reflections on a Christian way of Being-in-the-World,” 209. Italics mine).

Why Do We Sing In Church? [Part 2]

Why Do We Sing In Church?

Singing Transforms Us

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,… Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,… singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:15-16).

 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph. 5:18-19).

God uses singing to transform us because when we sing God’s truth the Word of Christ dwells in us richly. When we exalt Christ and God’s truth in song we teach ourselves what to desire. We see the glory of Christ and the Spirit tunes our hearts to sing God’s praise. Intentional singing (not haphazard but meditative and prayerful) leads to being transformed by the renewal of our mind (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; notice we offer up our bodies so we see cognition, violation, and emotion all involved in songs of worship and a life of worship). We behold Christ and are thus slowly transformed into His image (2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10). We are sanctified by the word of Christ, as we sing of Christ (Jn. 17:17).

Jesus reasons with us in Matthew 6:19-24 about desire. He shows that what is in our best interest, i.e. what we should desire, is laying up treasure in heaven. He tells us specifically in verse 21 that what we desire, i.e. “treasure,” will bring the rest of us along (i.e. “heart”). Our battle is thus the battle of treasuring, desiring. It is clear then that right and good worship is vital because it exalts and holds before us our chief end. Songs of worship are teleological teachers. If our worship has as its object the wrong thing we will thus go wrong in innumerable ways (cf. Rom. 1:18-32).

“Our chosen actions are always the result of deeply held beliefs about the truest and most beautiful sources of life.”[i] So we see that “Worship is a battle—the battle of two lovers. To worship our Worthy Groom we have to put off the mindset of the flesh that conforms us to the world ruled by the False Seducer. We have to put on the mindset of the Spirit by being transformed through renewing our minds, our inner rational control center of images and ideas about the source of life.”[ii] And so we sing. We remind ourselves, sing to ourselves, and others, that God alone is worthy. Notice also that it is not just the Christian that worships, all people do. And all people have things—whether music, movies, or some other form of media—that holds before them and glorifies their chief end of life (e.g. the gangster has a certain type of rap music that glorifies their view of the good life).

Keeping our chief end in view, or the correct biblically informed chief end in view, is difficult. Truly, in the world we live in

“There is a ‘downward pressure’ continually in operation, which seeks to take that which is penultimate, and make it ultimate… The antidote to such ‘downward pressure’ is the continual eschatological emphasis of word and sacrament, of prayer and praise, and of koinonia [fellowship] lived in the present in light of the age to come.”[iii]

Thus we must focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (see Phil. 4:8).[iv] We must keep “the good,” the true good—God and His truth ever before us.[v]

We need deep and substantive reflection and celebration. We need to work at fostering worship of the one true God. John Piper rightly says,

“It is… superior satisfaction in future grace that breaks the power of lust [or addiction, etc.]. With all eternity hanging in the balance, we fight the fight of faith. Our chief enemy is the lie that says sin will make our future happier. Our chief weapon is the truth that says God will make our future happier… We must fight [our sin] with a massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction.”[vi]

Where do we turn for this? “The role of God’s Word is to feed faith’s appetite for God. And, in doing this, it weans [our] heart away from the deceptive taste of [temptation].”[vii] Therefore, we must feast on Scripture. And singing is an especially useful tool to help the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). Singing songs and hymns and spiritual songs in Christian community is very important because, as C.S. Lewis said, “What is concrete but immaterial can be kept in view only by painful effort.”[viii] We need each other and we need music to shake us awake to unseen realities. That’s why we’re told—commanded even when we don’t feel like it—to make a joyful noise to the LORD (Ps. 66:1; 81:1; 95:1, 2; 98:4, 6; 100:1),[ix] even at times using clashing cymbals (Ps. 150:5).

We’re told to sing because when we sing with our voice our whole body, and I would argue, our whole self (i.e. our heart) reverberates with the truth of what we sing. When we sing lyrics, whether good or bad, they get into us and shape us. We are essentially preaching to ourselves, teaching ourselves, telling our self what we should desire, we are holding up a vision of prospering and “the good.”[x] If we are driving down the highway listening to Taylor Swift, Blink 182, or Eminem it has a very real potential to shape us. We, at least, very often, internalize what we are singing. We imagine and feel not only the rhythm and tone but what the whole artistic message is putting forth. Music shapes us by implanting seeds of desire.

We are to be filled with the Spirit, instead of being drunk with alcohol or high on drugs, in part through singing (Eph. 5:15-20).[xi] We sing because it is the means and the fruit of being indwelled by the Spirit and it is the means and the fruit of having the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (see Eph. 5:17-21; Col. 3:15-17). Thus,

“Worship is one of the most transforming activities for us to engage in as Christians… When we become duly impressed with God our lives change because the things that matter to us change. We no longer want some of the things we previously desired. An overridding and overwelming passion for God himself, God’s people, and God’s kingdom purposes in this world replace those desires. True worship happens when we get a glimpse of God–who he is and what he is about–and just stand there in awe of him, being impressed and transformed down to the very depths of our being by the magnificent vision of the glory of our heavenly Father.”[xii]

Truly, we must use a collaboration of means to remind ourselves that it is the LORD God, the Maker of heaven and earth, alone that can meet our every need. We must use good songs, good stories, the Bible, Christian community, logic, etc. to stir up our (correct) desires for the LORD and all the good He is and has for us. We must take care least there be an unworthy thought in our heart (Deut. 15:9). We must pursue things that bring light and life and reject what is rank in ruin and worthlessness (see e.g. Ps. 101).

Truly, wherever our treasure (i.e. desire, view of “the good,” or our view of the good life) is, our heart (“heart” in Scripture has to do with our whole self; cognition, volition, emotions) will be also (Matt. 6:21; Lk. 12:34).[xiii] Thus, we must work at fostering worship of the one true God. That is why we sing. It holds the goodness of God before us. It transforms us.

“Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music leads us sunward,
in the triumph song of life.”[xiv]

_________________

[i] Robert W. Kellermen, Soul Physicians, 191.

[ii] Ibid., 188.

[iii] Doe, Created for Worship, 236.

[iv] Cf. Payne, The Healing Presence, 140.

[v] In Aristotle’s terms our view of “the good” is reshaped by knowledge. Aristotle says, “All knowledge and every choice have some good as the object of their longing” (1095a14 Page 4 for in Aristotle’s Nicomachean EthicsTrans. Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins [The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2011]). “Aristotle famously argues that all human beings do everything for the sake of what seems or is held to be good” (Ibid., 309). Augustine used the term summum bonum, “supreme good.” It took him years of searching to find it but when he found the summum bonum he said “you made us for yourself and our hearts our find no peace until they rest in you” (Augustine, Confessions, 21).And, in catechismal terms, if our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (From the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism). it will necessarily have a specific impact on our lives. That is just the way we are as humans. We all, without exception, live towards our chief end, our view of the “good life.” However, this is messy, there are many things and ideas which vie for this place. Thus the importance of “knowledge” rightly directed (i.e. wisdom), “worship,” and “practice;” all of which inform, play off, and undergird the others. Romans 12:2 says that we are transformed by the renewal of our minds, and so we are. However, what we do with our bodies is also important. Notice that in Romans 12:1 we are told to present our bodies as living sacrifices. As humans transformation through practices of mind and body are not mutually exclusive. Rather, what we do with our mind and what we do with our body are closely linked together and have a continual corresponding effect on the other (cf. Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, 647 and John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, 321).

[vi] Piper, Future Grace, 336.

[vii] Ibid., 335.

[viii] C.S. Lewis, Letter to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1963), 114.

[ix] “Worship isn’t merely a yes to the God who saves, but also a resounding and furious no to lies that echo in the mountains around us. The church gathers like exiles and pilgrims, collected out of a world that isn’t our home, and looks hopefully toward a future. Our songs and prayers are a foretaste of that future, and even as we practice them, they shape us for our future home” (Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel [Wheaton: Crossway, 2013] 104).

[x] “Music gets ‘in’ us in ways that other forms of discourse rarely do. A song gets absorbed into our imagination in a way that mere texts rarely do… Song seems to have a privileged channel to our imagination, to our kardia, because it involves our body in a unique way… Perhaps it is by hymns, songs, and choruses that the word of Christ ‘dwells in us richly’” (Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 171).

[xi] “At the conclusion of a passage warning against irrationality and sins of flesh—Paul urges singing and music making… Augustine says: ‘Irrationality is bad. Sensuality is bad. Therefore, be careful about music.’ Paul on the other hand says, ‘Foolishness is bad. Sensuality is bad. Therefore, you had better sing’” (Steven R. Guthrie, “Singing, In the Body and In the Spirit,” 638).

[xii] Richard E. Averbeck, “Spirit, Community, and Mission: A Biblical Theology for Spiritual Formation,” 38 in the Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care).  I think Eph. 5:17-21 is noteworthy here. See also “Singing, in the Body and in the Spirit” by Steven R. Guthrie in JETS and “Being the Fullness of God in Christ by the Spirit” by Timothy G. Gombis in Tyndale Bulletin. 

[xiii] “Disordered action is a reflection and fruit of disordered desire” (Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 177)

[xiv] “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”

Antithesis 23

I have no provider, I shall be in want
I will not lie down in green pastures
I will not rest beside waters of rest
My soul will not be restored
I will continue in my wickedness

I walk through the valley of death
And I fear evil
for God is not with me
I have not God’s rod or staff
to comfort me
 
God has prepared no table before me
I am consumed by my enemies
Instead of goodness wrath will follow me
All the days of my perpetual death
and I shall dwell in the pit of hell forever

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