Sermons

May 14/15, 2016

Not Afraid

Jason Meyer | Psalm 26

Vindicate me, O LORD,
     for I have walked in my integrity,
     and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
     test my heart and my mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
     and I walk in your faithfulness.

I do not sit with men of falsehood,
     nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
     and I will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence
     and go around your altar, O LORD,
proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
     and telling all your wondrous deeds.

O LORD, I love the habitation of your house
     and the place where your glory dwells.
Do not sweep my soul away with sinners,
     nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
in whose hands are evil devices,
     and whose right hands are full of bribes.

But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
     redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground;
     in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.—Psalm 26:1–12

Introduction

The one year anniversary of DART was April 25. DART is an acronym at Bethlehem for Domestic Abuse Response Team. It was birthed in conjunction with a sermon that I preached on domestic abuse.

I want to begin this sermon with a few reflections on this one year anniversary. First, the hours that faithful women have put into starting this ministry, building this ministry, and maintaining this ministry is beyond my ability to compute. I seriously can’t even come up with a number. It would be staggering. Get ready for something even more amazing. It has been virtually all volunteers—volunteer hours! The work they have done is priceless, but if you were going to put a price tag on it, I am just going to tell you right now that we could not afford it.

Second, this ministry focus has caused shepherding at Bethlehem to rise to new levels. We boldly went where we have not been before. In that sermon over a year ago now, I read a statement from the elders. It went like this:

We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst. This destructive way of relating to a spouse is a satanic distortion of Christ-like male leadership because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his Bride. The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused, call abusers to repentance, discipline the unrepentant, and hold up high the stunning picture of how much Christ loves his Church.

That statement feels even weightier now than when we made it. It feels a little bit like what happens when you make your marriage vows—you don’t really know what to expect. Your vows take on even more meaning and gravity over time. I am speaking now about my fellow elders now. I have never been more proud (you know—in a God-centered, Christ-exalting, boast in the Lord, kind of proud) of the shepherds I serve with here at Bethlehem. This first year has been good. Heart-wrenching: Yes. Emotionally-taxing: Yes. Head-scratching and perplexing: Yes. Time-consuming: Yes and amen. But good? Yes. Worth it? Yes. We love this flock God has given us here. 

Third, let me double click on the perplexities and complexities of this ministry. The learning curve on this type of ministry is massive. We have run into complexities that have stretched us and baffled us and taken us back to the word and driven us to our knees in prayer. We have seen some triumphs of the Lord’s grace. We have seen some amazing restoration of marriages. We have seen abusive men and abusive women. We have seen some cases that seem clearer at first, and then more confusing, and then more tragically clear. We have learned we can’t always say, “We believe you in an unqualified way.” We have learned to say, “We will walk with you in an all-in kind of way.” Engage and re-engage. Pray and pray again. Love and love again. Ken Currie loves to quote his high school football coach and his regular encouraging motto to his team: “You have come a million miles—and you have a million miles to go.” That is the way I feel. I am off the charts thankful for all who labored to bring us to our first million miles, and I am thankful for all those who will lead us to our next million miles. Tammy Filzen did such an amazing job getting this ministry off the ground, and now Carol McCormick has been a godsend to keep this going and build on this foundation.

Part of the reason I spent some time on those reflections was to make a renewed invitation to the flock at Bethlehem. We stand ready to receive all of those who come forward. Part of the reason I start there is because you may not be in an abusive situation, but you may be in a situation that calls for faith in the face of anxiety over what could happen in the future. There is something hard on the horizon. How will you respond? I am here to say this morning that whatever it is you are facing, there is one thing that is necessary to face first and foremost. This one thing will impact everything else you face and the way you face it.

I won’t keep you in suspense. Here it is. Here is the doctrine of Psalm 26—its main point: Christians can face our Judge and Maker unafraid.

The outline and flow of Psalm 26 give three reasons Christians can have this approach to God:

  1. Nothing to Hide (vv. 1–3)
  2. Nothing in Common (vv. 4–8)
  3. Nothing to Fear (vv. 9–12)

1. Nothing to Hide (vv. 1–3)

Vindicate me, O LORD,
     for I have walked in my integrity,
     and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
     test my heart and my mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
     and I walk in your faithfulness.—Psalm 26:1–3

Note first of all that these verses do not speak of self-righteousness. This is comparative righteousness. David is asking for a comparative judgment. He is asking God to judge between two competing claims. This is what all judges are called upon to do. It is not a case of trying to be saved by works, it is the request to settle a dispute—a dispute about who really knows God and follows God. David brings his case before the Judge and is confident that he knows what the Judge will find.

Second, notice the openness and trust that David has in God as a wise and loving Judge. He is willing to open up all the files. David knows that nothing in his life is confidential—all of his life is lived before the face of God. David embraces that reality and opens up his heart to whatever God will find. David tells God what he expects the verdict to be, but he does not talk in a close-minded, hard-hearted way that says “God just take my word for it.” Why can David be open and honest and vulnerable with God? David’s eyes are fixed upon the pledge of God’s love and faithfulness, not David’s own self-righteousness. “For your steadfast love is before my eyes.”

Notice third that David appeals to the past and the present: “I have walked” (v. 1) and “I walk” (v. 3) in faithfulness. The psalmist is testifying to the overall pattern of his life. He is not a walking contradiction. He is who he claims to be.

Having opened up his heart and mind for God’s investigation, the psalmist begins to open the file folder, take the files out, approach the bench, and read them aloud as evidence in God’s presence.

2. Nothing in Common (vv. 4–8)

I do not sit with men of falsehood,
     nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
     and I will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence
     and go around your altar, O LORD,
proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
     and telling all your wondrous deeds.

O LORD, I love the habitation of your house
     and the place where your glory dwells.—Psalm 26:4–8

The psalmist makes the case that he is a Psalm 1 kind of man. David claims that he is a Psalm 1 man. He lives out the path of Psalm 1. He does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers. He does not sit with people characterized by falsehood and wickedness (vv. 4, 5). He does not consort with them and he is not neutral towards their stance. He uses the language of hate. Why?

The next three verses tell us. David does not define them merely in relation to himself, but in relation to God. They have taken a posture of enmity and hatred against God; David has taken the polar opposite posture. He is living the second part of Psalm 1. His delight is in God and the word of God and the presence of God. He walks in thankfulness to God and declares the radiant glories of God. He is a worshipper, committed to exalt God as high as possible. They are anti-worshippers; setting up an entirely different system and commending the worship of something false.

Look at verse 8. “O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.” A person really is defined not merely by their positions, but by their loves. David loves God. He loves the glory of God. He cannot get enough of God’s presence. If David had a choice (if a block of time suddenly became available and he could do anything with that time), he would spend time in God’s presence in communion with God.

The issue here is not an issue of distance, but of delight. A Pharisee delights in distance—you delight in your ability to separate from sinners. He smugly says, “look how far away I can get from you sinners! I thank God I am not like you.” David says something different. His delight is in God and that delight is what creates the distance or the separation. His heart says, “I simply cannot run with you on a God-denying path of life. We say, “I can’t go with you there—not because I am better, but because he is better.” The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life (Psalm 63:3).

Love is exactly the right word to use because we are talking about something ravishing, staggering, and stunning: the shining beauty of the sum of all of God’s perfections. There is nothing higher, there is nothing greater, there is nothing that top God to any degree in any category.

The Psalmist testifies that God’s people can face our judge and maker unafraid—so we open up the files, present the evidence, and don’t fear the verdict. Point three: God’s people have nothing to fear.

3. Nothing to Fear (vv. 9–12)

Do not sweep my soul away with sinners,
     nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
in whose hands are evil devices,
     and whose right hands are full of bribes.

But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
     redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground;
     in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.—Psalm 26:9–12

Having made the case that he is a psalm 1 kind of man, David expects a Psalm 1 kind of future.

The wicked are not so, 
     but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, 
     nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, 
     but the way of the wicked will perish.—Psalm 1:4–6

The wicked will not stand in the judgment. The storm wind of God’s judgment will carry them away to destruction. This psalm pictures God’s judgment like a flood that will sweep away the wicked. The righteous stand on higher ground, solid ground, level ground. They will not be swept away. Sinners will not stand in the assembly of the righteous (Psalm 1:5). David will stand in the great assembly (Psalm 26:12) and bless the Lord.

Notice that he will not stand in the great assembly and boast in himself. He will be there only because of God’s redemption and grace. “Redeem me and be gracious to me” (v. 11). He will stand in the great assembly and say: “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it. His child and forever I am.”

Application: Rules of Engagement and Reasons for Separation

As we live in this world that feels increasingly hostile to Christian convictions, we must be firmly convinced about the rules for engagement and the reasons for separation. I pray that you feel a call to engage with non-Christians. The Great Commission is a call to reach out in the name of Christ. The path of reaching out has two ditches: wimping out or selling out.

Ditch #1 Great Commission

Ditch #2

Wimp Out 
(sinful silence)
Reach Out 
(truth in love)

Sell Out
(sinful compromise)

As we reach out and avoid wimping out and selling out, we must be very clear about areas where we will experience separation: (1) the way we think and (2) the way we live.

1. The Way We Think
First, some separation will take place in the way we think. This is an issue of what we name things—do they accord with how God defines them or not? The issue will come down to false naming or faithful naming. We live in a world bent on deceitful naming—calling things “good,” that God calls “not good” and calling things “bad” that God calls “good.” In the public sphere, the issue of naming precludes neutrality. No one can take the Switzerland position of neutrality in Minnesota. The LGBT movement has declared a public policy war. The issues of same-sex marriage are largely settled in their mind. Now they have brought a transgender tsunami to bear upon us. It threatens to sweep people away who try to stand against it. 

How will we define words that represent core realities like marriage and gender and which bathroom door to choose? Some companies like Target are setting the pace of the debate by declaring themselves on the issue of transgender bathrooms. You can go to the bathroom that accords with your understanding of your gender identity, not the gender that is on your birth certificate.

How should a Christian respond? We look at it and say God has authority over his creation as Creator. We do not create ourselves or define ourselves. A creation in rebellion against its Creator will say, “I don’t care how you made me; I can change it. I will not submit to you, I will not be ruled by you. I call the shots. I make the rules. I am the captain of my soul.”

We must be convinced in our minds, dear Bethlehem. We do not say such things to be killjoys, but because we believe that the transgender position is not the path to fullness of joy, but will kill their joy in the very ultimate sense. If we truly believe that God’s path is the path of fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11), we would be unloving to sell out in compromise or wimp out in silence. We are saying to our world, someone switched the sign! Like what happens in the cartoons where the sign that tells people the right way to go is switched and now points the other way. People think they are going the right way, but a villain switched the sign. That is what we are saying. The path of life is God’s path. People know right now to flee from wild fires in Canada. How tragic if they started fleeing the wrong way and got closer and closer to the flames. That is what we are saying to people about the LGBT movement. They switched the sign. That is the path that takes you toward the flames. Don’t go there! Fullness of joy is not found there!

2. The Way We Live
Other lines of separation we make for different reasons. There are certain activities or situations that we cannot join. The world will infer that we do not participate because we are bigoted or we think we are better than them. In other words, the world assumes we distance ourselves because we think we are too good. C. S. Lewis turned that whole argument on its head. He said the issue is not that we are too good; it is that we are not good enough. We are not too good; we are too vulnerable to temptation. We are so morally weak that we will get swept away. We know ourselves. We look at the rip tide of temptation and say, “I am not a strong enough swimmer.” I will not assume my own strength and I will not presume to put the Lord my God to the test.

We need to look with love upon one another in this matter of temptations. Former alcoholics should not go into a pub, not even for a pub burger. Other Christians can and have missional motives for doing so. Andy Naselli will say a lot more about this in his sermon next week.

People with missional motives should still have enough self-awareness to fear the staining power of sin. Listen to Jude 22–23: 

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

It is great to reach out with love—but we also must reach out with fear. How many times have we said that we were strong enough to resist temptation and we find that we are just fooling ourselves? We have not always walked with integrity. We have not always prized God’s presence above everything else. How often have we needed redemption and grace.

That is why we marvel all the more at the life of the Lord Jesus. In fact, there are three strands in this Psalm that all get woven together in Christ: (1) Innocence, (2) God’s presence, (3) forgiveness.

Jesus as the Perfection of Innocence

David spoke in Psalm 26 as a prophet pointing to the blameless perfection of Jesus Christ. Jesus walked in integrity (Psalm 26:1, 11). The same root word is used in Psalm 18.

For I have kept the ways of the LORD, 
     and have not wickedly departed from my God. 
For all his rules were before me, 
     and his statutes I did not put away from me. 
I was blameless before him, 
     and I kept myself from my guilt. 
So the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, 
     according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

He never walked in the counsel of the wicked; he never stood in the way of sinners; he never sat in the seat of scoffers; he always delighted in the word of God, always obeyed the will of God; always sought the face of God.

Jesus was tested beyond what anyone else has ever endured. No one has ever received the full power of temptation because we fall before its full force is felt. If a strong man takes a thin piece of metal and bends it until it breaks, it doesn’t receive the full force of his strength. A thicker bar will get bent, even into a pretzel, but if it doesn’t break it has received the full force and been able to withstand it.

If immorality is like a raging river, Jesus lived in this world and was tempted in every way like us, and whereas all of us got swept away, Jesus walked on the water with sinless perfection. Amazing. Adore him. Praise His Perfections.

Jesus as the Perfection of God’s Presence

Jesus pursued His Father’s face. He had unbroken communion with the Father. I love watching the prayer life of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus not only always pursued the presence of God; he is the presence of God. He is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:22). The eternal Son of God took on flesh (John 1:14) and tabernacled among us. All the fullness of deity dwells bodily in Him (Colossians 2:9). Hebrews 1:3 says something breathtaking:

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

He is also Glorious as the Judge.

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.—John 5:22–23

Jesus as the Person of Redemption

The Judge is our Redeemer. Listen to Romans 8:34:

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

The only reason that David or any of us will be blessing the Lord in the great assembly is that Jesus became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). He was forsaken by God (Psalm 22:1) on the cross so that we could be accepted by God. Jesus purchased our acceptance and will proclaim our acceptance in the great assembly.

Save me from the mouth of the lion! 
     You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! 

I will tell of your name to my brothers; 
     in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.—Psalm 22:21–22

Last week we said that we are not ashamed. This week we are reminded that Jesus took all of our shame on the cross and now is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters!

Conclusion: The Future—don’t look ahead part of the way—let the wings of the Spirit take you all the way to the last day.

Last week we said that our memories can be like a twisted time machine that take us back and drop us off to relive past failures that paralyze us. We get stuck there. I stated that one’s past should lead to praise if you are a Christian. The key difference is that when a Christian takes the time warp cab, the Christian refuses to be dropped off half way. We say, “no take me all the way back to the cross where I can watch again as my sin, not in part, but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. O how our adoration soars when we see the purchase price paid again and again and again.

Getting stuck in the past is not the only problem we face. We don’t just have memories; we have imagination. Imagination can be like a time machine that travels into the future. The difference is that we don’t relive what happened in the past, we get a feel for what may happen in the future – future possibilities. The heart and mind become active – hyperactive. We imagine possibilities and then we begin to respond in our mind to those potential scenarios. What would I do if this happened or that happened? The Christian approaches the future differently. When our imagination takes us to future possibilities—we refuse to say, “This is my stop—let me off here.” We say, “Deep going—all the way to the end.” We can forecast some future possibilities, but Christian hope is different. Worldly hope is like saying “I hope it doesn’t rain.” Christian hope has the character of confidence. I know this is coming—and I wait expectantly for it. Dear friends, look at God’s track record. He is not a weather forecaster that is hit and miss. He foreknows what will be because he planned what will be and he reigns over it all with perfect wisdom, power, and love. We are given a glimpse of the future, not in order to retreat from the present, but in order to reengage with renewed hope and greater endurance.

Sermon Discussion Questions

Main Point: Christians can face our Judge and Maker unafraid. 

Outline

Psalm 26 gives three reasons Christians can have this approach to God:

  1. Nothing to Hide (now) (vv. 1–3)
  2. Nothing in Common (with those who reject God) (vv. 4–8)
  3. Nothing to Fear (in the future) (vv. 9–12)

Discussion Questions

  • What is the main point of Psalm 26? How do the points of the outline help us understand the main point in more depth and detail?
  • How does the message of Psalm 26 relate to Psalm 1?
  • How does Psalm 26 testify to the perfections of Jesus?

Application Questions

  • What beliefs and situations do you face that are difficult or pervasive? What rules of engagement or reasons for separation have you developed? How can people pray for you in those areas?
  • How can you minister the message of Psalm 26 to others this week? What might that look like? Make a plan to do so and pray for opportunities to share the gospel hope of Psalm 26.

Prayer Focus

Lord, pour out a grace upon us so that our trust in you would grow and your perfect love would increasingly cast out fear.

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