Galatians 2:20: What does it mean to be Crucified with Christ?

The founder of the Salvation Army said to his fellow “soldiers”: “Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again—until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.”
In the New Testament we have this idea of grace versus works. So, we have James 2:14-17:
what use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
Then we have Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
But then we have Ephesians 2:10:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?
Please read with me Galatians 2:19-20:
For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
I. All believers have been crucified with Christ.
a. To be a Christian means that I believe that Jesus died and rose again for me. I trust in Him for salvation, I confess my sins to Him and I commit to Him.
b. If you are a Christian you have been crucified, wow! That is a strong picture. I believe that Paul used this word picture for dramatic effect. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is entirely true, but there is a reason that Paul used a dramatic picture here. In a metaphorical way we have been crucified with Christ. We no longer live, but Jesus lives within us.
c. Let’s talk about Galatians. Paul writes to the churches of Galatia to counter these false apostles who have bewitched them (Gal. 3:1). The churches in Galatia have come to an error of works salvation. They have started believing that they had to live by the law. Paul is extremely assertive in this short New Testament letter. Look at Galatians 1:6-9: [Listen as I read]
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
d. So, Paul is writing about law versus grace and, you know what? I think we need the same message. We have similar issues. No, we don’t have issues with the Jewish Law. But as Christians we go two different ways.
1. We believe we have to earn our salvation.
a. We know this is not true. I read earlier, Eph. 2:8-9, we are saved by grace. Grace is unmerited favor. If you look at Gal. 2:21 Paul writes that if righteousness could come by the law, then Jesus died in vain. He died needlessly.
b. But, when we add legalistic standards for Christians we become a cult, and we make Jesus’ death on the cross in vain.
c. We do this if we practice Christianity religiously. Most in our churches are not guilty of this at all.
2. Or, we throw away any moral law. In this case the Christian’s life does not match his faith. This is a problem.
a. We do this when we do not preach what Jesus preached and what this verse is saying. Jesus said in Luke 9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
b. If Jesus taught that why don’t we preach this?
c. How can we preach this message without teaching/or showing that we work out our salvation? We were created for good works.
d. As a Christian, the Holy Spirit changes us. Think about the following:
I recently read a book which someone at my church recommended. The book tells the life of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was in the 1936 Olympics held in Germany. He was famous for setting records for how fast he could run the mile.

Later he was planning to enter the next Olympic competition but it was canceled because of WWII. Zamperini entered the war and served on a B 24. He was shot down and spent 47 days at sea and then around three years as a Japanese prisoner of war. He was badly mistreated in the POW camps.

Following the war he dealt with post traumatic stress disorder. This caused him to plunge into alcoholism which brought on a host of other problem. He was married and had one child, but his marriage was being threatened with divorce. Every time he closed his eyes at night he was plagued with memories of his time as a POW. He was filled with hate and wanted to kill one particular guard (Mutsuhiro Watanabe (nicknamed “The Bird”), who was later included in General Douglas MacArthur’s list of the 40 most wanted war criminals in Japan. Finally in 1949 as the 31 year old Billy Graham was preaching an evangelical crusade in Los Angeles, Louis’ wife gave her life to Christ at the crusade. She eventually convinced Louis to also attend. Louis attended once and was convicted but left in anger during Graham’s invitation. Louis’ wife Cynthia convinced him to attend again. He did and started to leave again during the invitation. But he was convicted and went forward giving his life to Christ.
Following the conversion his life changed dramatically. He went home that night, and at the time when he would usually drink alcohol to excess, he dumped his alcohol down the drain. His hate was changed to forgiveness. His marriage lasted until his wife’s death. He never had nightmares of his time as a POW again. He later went back to Japan and spoke to the guards who were accused and convicted of war crimes. He forgave them. But the one guard who was the worst to Louis, Mutsuhiro Watanabe (nicknamed “The Bird”), was thought dead and Louis never was able to talk to him. Later they found out he was alive and Louis was scheduled to meet with him and wrote the letter below. But he was not able to meet with him as Watanabe declined the invitation. Someone was supposed to take the letter to him, but no one knows if Watanabe received it.
e. I believe, when we really know Jesus, we really know Him. When we are saved we commit to Him, and in time, our life will show it.
e. Paul says in this verse that he has died to the law. How? He died with Christ to the law.
f. He has been crucified with Christ. I have to believe that people would have cringed when they heard him use the verb “crucified.” They would have known what crucifixion meant. Historians cannot tell us apart from the Bible much about crucifixion. People were afraid to write about it. Many times we can find extra Biblical evidence for many things, but not crucifixion. Scholars get much of what we know about crucifixion from the Bible. We are told a few things though. The Romans would crucify people publicly and they would crucify people at set times of the year in order to make a statement. They wanted their enemies to see crucifixion and think, “Don’t mess with us.” The Romans did not invent crucifixion. They copied it from the Greeks and maybe even another country.
g. People would have this image of crucifixion in their mind when Paul used that term.
h. But the point is that we died with Christ when we became a Christian. We died to our old self. We died to sin.
Galatians 3:27:
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Romans 6:4 (see also Colossians 2:12)
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? It means that when we became a Christian we died to our old self. We died to our sin nature. So, how do we live?
II. All believers are to live by the faith of the indwelling Christ (2:20b–21).
a. Paul says that he no longer lives, but Christ lives within him.
b. Does Christ live in you?
c. If you are a Christian the answer is yes. Yes, Yes, Amen.
d. The Holy Spirit indwells us.
e. How did Jesus do His miracles on earth? He laid aside His glory to become man. He had the Holy Spirit with Him. He was fully human and He is fully human, but the Holy Spirit was with Him. You know the Holy Spirit is with you as well. The Holy Spirit is in you. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul wrote that we are the Temple of God. He used the same word which would describe the part of the Temple where God resides. God resides in us. We have the Holy of Holies in Us. Amen!!!
f. So, as believers we do good works because Jesus dwells in us and He does those good works.
g. How did Louis Zamperini change his life? He didn’t. Jesus changed him. When he became a Christian Jesus said, “I am not having any of that.” Jesus said, “I am taking over this house and I have some cleaning up to do.”
What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?
I think the evidence is overwhelming that when Paul talked about being crucified with Christ he was talking figuratively that he identified with Christ’s crucifixion in order to show that he had died to the law. Paul identified with Christ’s crucifixion in order to say that he lives by faith or in faith and not in the worldly ways. I believe that Romans 6 helped make the strong case that we die to our old self and then live “in Christ.” That is what Paul meant.
Now, I believe that as Christians we can sometimes push Jesus aside. He lives within us, but… We don’t want Him here. We do not make Him welcome. We just let our old self reign in us. So my challenge for you today is that you let Jesus live within you. Make Him feel at home. Let your worldly self die and by faith let Jesus live. Jesus lives within you. The Holy of Holies is in you!

Jesus’ message was not believed

The Choir Anthem:
From heaven’s bright throne and courts filled with praise
King Jesus came humbly, a servant of grace.
Trading His glory for shadows and fears,
He washes the feet of the world with His tears.
And who is this King that lays aside His crown?
Who is the King that gently kneels down?
Who is this King that comes to the meek,
strengthens the weak?
Who is this King?
Think about what it means to NOT be believed. One declares a message of TRUTH but no one cares, no one believes you. Oftentimes we do not believe children, do we? Do you know how many times Mercedes has told me there is a bear in her room? How many times has there been a bear in her room? That’s right, there has never been a bear in her room. We have told it to go away. But sometimes Mercedes has shocked me. She’ll say something is in there and I am thinking, “no, no, not true.” Then I go in and look and sure enough, there is a bug or something in her room. We tend to doubt.
What does that feel like? What is it like when you know you are right and no one believes you?
When Meagan and I were in our second year of marriage I was at work at McDonalds as a manager. Meagan was at home. There was a stray cat that had been coming around our house and so we had been feeding it. A few days prior to this date the cat disappeared. While I was at work the cat came out. The cat had a broken leg and was a mess. The cat was drooling and acting funny. Meagan thought it had rabbis and so she called my dad to see if he could help take care of it. My dad came out to our house and you know what? The cat rolled away and tried to play and just act normal. Of course, Meagan was like, “There is something wrong with this cat.” Did not matter, so my dad left and the cat stayed. Later on I come home from work and the cat is acting terrible. I grab a box and we take it to a weekend veterinarian. She thought it had distemper and started treating it. Within a few days the cat died. The cat TRULY was sick.
Let’s read Isa. 53:1 and John 12:37-38:
Isaiah 53:1:
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
John 12:37-38:
Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
I have a few applications:
1. Sometimes we will share the Gospel and people doubt, but they did not even believe Jesus.
2. We must worship Jesus, knowing what it is like to not be believed and knowing that He went through that humiliation.
3. We must be encouraged by God’s Word, prophesying this and then it comes about.

So, let’s talk about these:
I. Sometimes we will share the Gospel and people doubt, but they did not even believe Jesus.
a. So, it is easy for us to think, “Why should I share Jesus with people, they are not going to believe me.
b. But we must keep sharing Jesus even when not believed. Jesus came with Truth. Jesus knew people would not believe but He came with Truth. The other thought with that comment is that no one will believe. Some did believe Jesus and some will believe us.
c. By the way, we are commanded to share Jesus whether someone will believe or not and if we think it is Truth we will not be able to stop sharing Jesus.
d. There is important context to this passage:
i. In John 12:37-38, or rather 36-40, John writes about people not believing the message even though Jesus did many signs and miracles.
ii. Starting in John 12:27: Jesus is praying and asks the Lord to glorify His (the Father’s) name.
iii. There was then a voice out of Heaven saying “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.
1. Okay, if I am with someone, or rather a crowd and I hear a voice out of heaven, I may believe something that person is saying.
iv. Verse 29: the crowd around them heard it as well and some said that it had thundered and others said that an angel had spoken.
v. Verse 30-31: Jesus said that the voice was for their sake, not Him. Judgment was coming, the ruler of the world has been cast out. That would be the devil and the cross conquered the devil.
vi. Verse 32: Jesus says that He will be lifted up and if He is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself.
vii. Verse 33 John makes a note that Jesus was stating this to mean the type of death He was to die.
viii. Verse 34: The people ask who the Son of Man is stating that they have heard out of the law that the Christ is to remain forever. They are confused.
ix. Verses 35-36: Jesus talks about the Light being among them for a little while and Jesus asks them to walk in the Light.
x. Verse 37 tells us that He performed many signs among them, yet they were not believing in Him.
xi. Verses 38ff are quotes from Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10:
xii. God has blinded their eyes.
xiii. God has hardened their hearts.
xiv. So that…
xv. They would not see with their eyes and perceive with their hearts, and be converted and God would heal them.
1. This is comparing the Israelites to idols who have ears but cannot hear, eyes but cannot see.
2. Now, this seems extreme. God kept them from believing.
3. Only God cam empower one to believe.
4. But also understand that this passage was a quote from the Old Testament and in Isaiah 6:10, the context is that the people would make idols and the idols have ears to hear and eyes to see but they really cannot hear or see. God was comparing the Hebrew people to idols. The people rejected God, so He turned them over to their ways. God made them like idols. I think the same is true in John’s Gospel, God turns them over to their ways. They hardened their hearts, so He hardened their hearts.
xvi. Verse 41: Isaiah said this because He saw the Lord’s glory and spoke of it.
xvii. Verse 42-43: Some believed but would not share it because the people loved the approval of men, not the approval of God.
e. But understand that some believed Jesus. Interesting that in Isaiah 6:9 Isaiah is told that he will preach but they will not believe. However, in Isaiah 6:13 God says that a tenth will remain and believe.
f. Again, I will understand that only God can empower one to believe.
g. So, what do we do, be encouraged, the people did not believe Jesus, the people did not believe Isaiah. The people heard a voice from Heaven and did not believe Jesus. In the previous chapter Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and they did not believe Jesus. I believe it is safe to say most will not believe us.
h. HOWEVER, some will and we do not know who the some are. So, keep sharing Jesus with people.
II. We must worship Jesus, knowing what it is like to not be believed and knowing that He went through that humiliation.
a. As we read these passages about the suffering servant does that call us to worship Jesus more?
b. Does this draw us closer to Him?
c. How do we respond?
d. We all know what it is like to not be believed. Right?
e. We know what it is like when people doubt us, isn’t that what it is like to have teenagers in the home? They never believe you and you don’t know anything?
f. Jesus, the creator, Jesus, the one true God, Jesus, our Lord, He became one of us, in order to save us, and He was rejected.
g. He was here for us anyways, but most did not believe Him.
John Stott on How the Cross Speaks to Injustice and Suffering
How does the cross of Jesus speak to a world of pain, poverty, and injustice? After explaining the full range of biblical ideas of the atonement, Stott concludes his book with a chapter entitled “Suffering and glory.” He describes the miserable conditions of millions of people who live in shanty towns of Africa and Asia, thebarriadas of Latin American and the favelas of Brazil.
Then he tells a story about an imaginary poor man from the slums of Brazil who climbs 2,310 feet up the mountain to the colossal statue of Christ that towers above Rio de Janeiro—”The Christ of Corcovado.” (For an image of the statue click here.) After the difficult climb, the poor man finally reaches Jesus and says,
I have climbed up to meet you, Christ, from the filthy, confined quarters down there … to put before you, most respectfully, these considerations: there are 900,000 of us down there in the slums of that splendid city … And you … do you remain here at Corcovado surrounded by divine glory? Go down there to the favelas … Don’t stay away from us; live among us and give us new faith in you and in the Father. Amen.
Stott asks, “What would Christ say in response to such an entreaty? Would he not say ‘[in the suffering of the cross] I did come down to live among you, and I live among you still'”?
Then Stott adds,
We have to learn to climb the hill called Calvary, and from that vantage-ground survey all life’s tragedies. The cross does not solve the problem of suffering, but it supplies the essential perspective from which to look at it … . Sometimes we picture [God] lounging, perhaps dozing, in some celestial deck-chair, while the hungry millions starve to death … . It is this terrible caricature of God which the cross smashes to smithereens.
John Stott, The Cross of Christ (InterVarsity Press, 2006), pp. 320, 333

h. So, worship our Savior.
i. So, love our Savior.
III. We must be encouraged by God’s Word, prophesying this and then it comes about.
a. The last application is the connection in the Scriptures. This is once again a case where the Scriptures match up. This is 700 years prior to Jesus and it came to pass.
b. Be encouraged, we can trust the Bible.
Master Violinist Goes Unrecognized
Joshua Bell emerged from the Metro and positioned himself against a wall beside a trash basket. By most measures, he was nondescript—a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money and began to play.
For the next 45 minutes, in the D.C. Metro on January 12, 2007, Bell played Mozart and Schubert as over 1,000 people streamed by, most hardly taking notice. If they had paid attention, they might have recognized the young man for the world-renowned violinist he is. They also might have noted the violin he played—a rare Stradivarius worth over $3 million. It was all part of a project arranged by The Washington Post—”an experiment in context, perception, and priorities—as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste. In a banal setting, at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”
Just three days earlier, Joshua Bell sold out Boston Symphony Hall, with ordinary seats going for $100. In the subway, Bell garnered about $32 from the 27 people who stopped long enough to give a donation.

1. Sometimes we will share the Gospel and people doubt, but they did not even believe Jesus.
2. We must worship Jesus, knowing what it is like to not be believed and knowing that He went through that humiliation.
3. We must be encouraged by God’s Word, prophesying this and then it comes about.

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Isaiah 53:5

Let’s read the Bible passage first:
I want to read Isaiah 52:13-53:12: listen to the connection to the crucifixion of our Savior:
See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
53 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
When I was in seminary I was given an image of Scripture as a rose. Actually, this image is for Scripture and all of God’s revelation to us. Now, the revelation is developed. In the Scriptures the revelation was developing. You see, today we view the Scriptures looking backwards. We view the Scriptures complete. In addition to that we have close to two thousand years of Theology built on the Scriptures. As the rose grows and forms people are realizing more about who God is and His plan of salvation.
So, if we imagine a rose:
• The roots of the rose would be the only Scripture or Revelation from God that Adam and Eve might have understood.
• The stem of the rose would be Abraham- Moses.
• We would see the early leaves developing and those are the prophets.
• We would see another few leaves being the intertestamental period. There was a lot that happened then.
• We would see another leaf being Jesus’ death and resurrection.
o As this is happening the people are realizing more about who God is and God’s plan of salvation.
• Then there are some more leaves and those are the Apostles.
• Finally we have the Rose start to bud and would the New Testament canon, the Trinity, the church Fathers.
o As all of this happened the people really began to understand more about the character of God and His plan of salvation.
• Now we finally have the flow.
We can look back and we view the Scriptures with this understanding. We view the Scriptures with the understanding of what God has done for our salvation. We view the Scriptures with the doctrine of the Trinity complete. They did not understand that in the Old Testament. But when we read the Old Testament we do so with an understanding of the cross.
So, that brings us to such an important passage as Isaiah 53. We view the passage looking backwards. I read the passage, now listen to Romans 5:6-8 showing how Jesus fulfilled this passage.
Romans 5:6-8:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This passage is such an awesome passage and so begins a series on our awesome salvation. This passage was prophesied 700 years before Christ. We will focus on Isaiah 53:5 today.
As talk about the passage and its fulfillment there are three responses:
1. Be encouraged
2. Accept the message
3. Respond to the message in commitment
Sheldon Vanauken was a student of the English professor and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis in the early 1950s. He recounts in his book A Severe Mercy the story of his last meeting with his mentor when Vanauken was leaving Oxford for the United States. Over one final lunch together at a pub, they had spent time wondering aloud about the nature of life after death. When they had finished eating, they stood outside of the pub, talked for a few more minutes, and just before parting ways, Lewis said to Vanauken, “I shan’t say goodbye. We’ll meet again.” The great apologist then plunged into the traffic to cross the street while Vanuaken watched his friend walk away. When Lewis got to the other side of the street, he turned around, anticipating that his friend would still be standing there. With a grin on his face, Lewis shouted over the great roar of cars, “Besides—Christians never say goodbye.” [Eternity]
Let’s look at verse 5 of Isaiah 53.
I. As I look at this verse, I will be encouraged by Isaiah 53:5 and Romans 5:6-8.
a. This passage is encouraging becomes it shows our great salvation. But alongside that, this passage is encouraging in my faith.
b. I am sure that many of you are like me and have doubts in your faith occasionally. Anytime I have doubts I am reminded of passages like this. Can you believe the passage was written over 700 years prior to Jesus while the Northern Kingdom of Israel was following apart. Yet, this is striking about the Messiah.
c. The passage is even written in the past tense. Starting in chapter 52:14 Isaiah switched from the future tense to the past tense.
d. This, to me, comes off as God knowing what was to happen. This comes off as God knowing that His plan of salvation was in place.
e. Listen we sinned, we messed up, we missed God’s perfect standard, but as devastating as God’s plan was on Jesus, it was planned to fulfill God’s purpose. It was taken care of. There was no emergency in Heaven. This did not catch God by surprise. Amen? This is awesome.
f. We worship God as He is Worthy, He was slain for us, Amen?
g. Here long before the event, God speaks to Isaiah and Isaiah writes this as if it were already done, complete.
h. So, be encouraged because God had a perfect plan and it was laid out 700 years prior to the plan.
i. Then be encouraged by God’s grace. I did nothing for my salvation and I could not do anything for my salvation. That is what this is showing.
j. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace and not by works so that no one can boast. This passage says nothing at all about what we must do for salvation, there is nothing that we can do.
k. Verse 5 says: He was pierced for our transgression.
i. Transgression is one word for sin. It means to cross a moral or Divine law.
ii. Pierced, this is the idea that Jesus was pierced in multiple ways on the cross.
l. Verse 5 continues: He was crushed for our iniquities.
i. An iniquity is a gross behavior.
ii. Jesus was crushed for our iniquities.
iii. I can think of multiple ways. One is the suffering on the cross and another is the suffering from God the Father as Jesus took the wrath of God upon Himself.
m. Verse 5: We needed punished for peace [between us and God] but that punishment went on Jesus.
n. Verse 5: We are healed by His wounds. Amen!
o. Be encouraged because the salvation is taken care of by Him.
I read the following: [set up, I once heard]
In May 2009, my family was in Azusa, California, because one of our kids was graduating from Azusa Pacific University. My wife, Nancy, was going to speak at the commencement ceremonies, so she and I were invited to a special gathering of about 50 people—people from the graduating class of 50 years ago and a few faculty members. During the gathering, John Wallace, the president of APU, brought out three students who were graduating that year and told us that for the next two years, they were going to serve the poorest of the poor in India.
These three students thought they were there just to be commissioned and sent out with a blessing—which they were. But then something happened that they did not know was coming. John turned to them and said, “I have a piece of news for you. There’s somebody you do not know—an anonymous donor—who is so moved by what you’re doing that he has given a gift to this university in your name, on your behalf.”
John turned to the first student and said, “You are forgiven your debt of $105,000.” The kid immediately starts to cry. John turns to the next student: “You’re forgiven your debt of $70,000.” He then turns to the third student: “You are forgiven your debt of $130,000.” All three students had no idea this was coming. They were just ambushed by grace—blown away that somebody they don’t even know would pay their debt. The whole room was in tears.
II. As I read this I realize that I must accept the message.
a. This message is different.
b. I cannot earn salvation but I must believe the message. I must trust.
c. John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting live.
d. Best way to illustrate this is with an example that I heard about.
When I was five-years-old, I first fully understood the message of these words:
He sees you when you’re sleeping,
He knows if you’re awake,
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness’ sake!
Until that moment, I had lived in this childhood bliss, in which Christmas was the best day of the year. I had always believed that the gifts at Christmastime were there because Christmas always came with gifts. You could count on them. But now I painfully understood that if I wanted any gifts at Christmas, I had to be good. It was all riding on me. There was this all-seeing, all-knowing Santa, and if there was going to be any gifts, I had better shape up.
But then I thought, How good is “good”? Can a person be “pretty good”? Does Santa understand that I have a twin brother, so I have more reasons to be provoked than other kids? It was all so worrisome to me.
I grew up a little more and went on to elementary school. In the fourth grade, when I was 9, I continued to learn that all the good stuff in life depends on my effort. We had a reading program called SRA. Here’s how it worked: There was a giant box of color-coded cards on the side of the classroom. You went and got one of the cards in the front of the box, read what was on it, and then answered questions about what you’d read. If you got most of the answers right, you moved up to the next highest color—red, yellow, blue, and if you were good enough and worked hard enough, you reached exotic colors, like magenta.
Moving up in SRA was all we cared about, because if you were still on one of the lower-level colors—red or yellow—you were a loser. Everybody’s goal was to move up—to work really hard and reach the ultimate pinnacle of fourth-grade glory: aquamarine. But if you wanted the glory, you had to hustle. We would literally run from our desks to the box. No pain, no gain! You had to be good enough, to work hard enough.
I grew up a little more. I was 14-years-old, and a friend invited me to a meeting after school called Campus Life. There was a guy there who had a beard, which automatically made him cool. He also had a guitar, which made him even cooler. He started saying stuff I’d never heard before. He said that if you wanted the good stuff from God—stuff like peace and forgiveness and the Holy Spirit—it didn’t work like Santa, where you had to be good or you got nothing but coal in your Christmas stocking. He pointed out that it didn’t work like SRA, where it all depended on your being smart enough and good enough and hustling enough. He said there was a thing called grace. God had decided to take all my sin, all my screw-ups, and forgive me. Grace had something to do with Jesus dying on the cross for me, and all I had to do was believe.
This man read from the Bible, which I hadn’t really ever read. He read that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.” This message was different from anything I’d heard before. It was not what I expected. It wasn’t all on me. It was all on him—on Jesus. That message was so freeing, that as I took it in, I almost started to cry. But I was a 14-year-old guy, and we didn’t do stuff like that. The next week, I thought, I better not go to that meeting again, because I almost started to cry last week, and I cannot be humiliated by breaking down in front of my friends. But I did go. And I did hear the message. And I did believe. And I experienced “amazing grace.”
III. Lastly, as I read this passage, I will commit to Christ, responding with Romans 12:1-2
a. Think about it. When we are faced with the amazing suffering of Christ, because of the amazing grace of Christ, is there any other response than commitment. We respond with Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I read the following:
In his best-selling book The Reason for God, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, shares the story of a woman in his congregation who was learning how the grace extended to us through Christ’s work on the cross can actually be more challenging than religion. He writes:
Some years ago I met with a woman who began coming to church at Redeemer and had never before heard a distinction drawn between the gospel and religion [i.e. the distinction between grace and what is often a works-based righteousness]. She had always heard that God accepts us only if we are good enough. She said that the new message was scary. I asked why it was scary and she replied: If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with “rights”—I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by grace—then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”
She understood the dynamic of grace and gratitude. If when you have lost all fear of punishment you also lose all incentive to live a good, unselfish life, then the only incentive you ever had to live a decent life was fear. This woman could see immediately that the wonderful-beyond-belief teaching of salvation by sheer grace had an edge to it. She knew that if she was a sinner saved by grace, she was (if anything) more subject to the sovereign Lordship of God. She knew that if Jesus really had done all this for her, she would not be her own. She would joyfully, gratefully belong to Jesus, who provided all this for her at infinite cost to himself.
In his book The Jesus Creed , Scot McKnight shares the moving story of Margaret Ault. When Margaret was just about to complete her Ph.D. at Duke, something unexpected—but quite welcomed—happened: she fell in love. She went on a date with a man named Hyung Goo Kim, and the proverbial sparks flew. But almost as quickly as the sparks became a fire, they were doused with water. Hyung Goo informed Margaret that he was HIV positive. Needless to say, Margaret was devastated. In her own words, “I’d just met someone I liked, and we were definitely not going to live happily ever after. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut by the biggest boot in the world.”
Still, she and Hyung Goo were married. In his book McKnight asks the question many of us would ask: “Why would anyone invite into the core of their being so much pain?” He then goes on to share that the answer unfolds in the rest of Margaret and Hyung Goo’s story. He writes:
When Margaret was in graduate school at Duke, she and Hyung Goo loved to walk in the Duke gardens, and so knowledgeable did they become of its plants that they “supervised construction” of a new project. They walked through each part of the garden routinely and had names for some of the ducks. In their last spring together, the garden seemed especially beautiful [to them].
Hyung Goo died in the fall and Margaret returned to the gardens in the spring where a memorial garden of roses was being constructed in his honor.
McKnight then points the reader to a series of quotations from Margaret’s book Sing Me to Heaven, where she reflects on the days she returned to the gardens. She writes:
Where peonies were promised, there were only the dead stumps of last year’s stalks; where day lilies were promised, there were unprepossessing tufts of foliage; where hostas were promised, there was nothing at all. And yet I know what lushness lay below the surface; those beds that were so brown and empty and, to the unknowing eye, so umpromising, would be full to bursting in a matter of months.
Is the whole world like this? Is this what it might be like to live in expectation, real expectation, of the resurrection?
Was not Hyung Goo’s and my life together like this? Empty and sere, and yet a seedbed of fullness and life for both of us. He died, and I was widowed; yet in his dying, we both were made alive.
After quoting Margaret’s words, McKnight concludes:
Where does she find strength to grip such faith and such hope? It is found in [her question]: Is the whole world like this?
The answer, “Yes, the whole world is like this: the whole world offers us tokens of new life beyond death and disasters.” It offers the promise of new life beyond the grave, a life of renewed love in the presence of God. Why? Because Jesus was raised from the dead.
1. Be encouraged
2. Accept the message
3. Respond to the message in commitment

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Rev. 7:9-17: Worship in unity with humility, God does not forget what we do for Him.


We have talked about why we worship and the answer is Jesus was slain for us. We have also talked about worship because God is worthy. Is He worthy of our worship? We have looked at worship in prayer and we have looked at worship in the Scriptures, specifically the Psalms. Today, we go back to the book of Revelation to look at worship in the throne room of God, once again. Today, we will look specifically at martyrs worshipping the Lord in Heaven.

Persecuted Nigerian Pastor Praises God
The Nigerian city of Jos sits on Africa’s great fault line between the Muslim north and Christian, and thus has faced terrible things in recent years. A Nigerian Baptist church was attacked by Muslim extremists who burnt the church building and the house of the church’s leader, Pastor Sunday Gomna. On the second Sunday after the violent outbreak, when the people of that Baptist church returned for worship, they gathered in a little mud wall community center about one kilometer from the burnt church.
Pastor Gomna stood up and offered some beautiful words of gratitude. He said, ‘First, I am grateful that no one in my church killed anyone.” Apparently, during the chaos of the attacks, Pastor Sunday had gone around the community and some of the Muslim people said, “Pastor, thank you for the way you taught your people. ‘Your people helped to protect us.'” So Pastor Sunday was proud that his people did not kill any Muslims.
“Second,” he said, “I am grateful that they did not burn my church.” Everyone looked at Pastor Sunday with disbelief. After all, everyone was meeting in a small, uncomfortable Mud hut had been burnt to the ground. But Pastor Sunday continued: “Inasmuch as no church member died during this crisis, they did not burn our church. They only burned the building. We can rebuild the building but we could not bring back to life any of our members. So I am grateful that they did not burn my church.”
He continued, “Third, I am grateful that they burned my house as well. If they had burned your house and not my house, how would I have known how to serve you as pastor? However, because they burned my house and all my possessions, I know what you are experiencing and I will be able to be a better pastor to you. So I am grateful that they burned my house as well.”

Wow! That is all I can say to that story. But you know what? I have read other stories that were similar.

Today, I want us to turn to Revelation 7:9-17 and let’s look at a passage giving us a picture of worship in Heaven. I have one theme and that is Worship in Heaven. I have two applications:
1) Worship God in humility and unity as we see in this picture of Heaven, we may be there.
2) Be encouraged, God does not forget what we do for Him (also Hebrews 6:10), we see in this passage martyrs rewarded by being being given the opportunity to serve in God’s throne room for eternity.
Turn with me to Rev. 7:9-17:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen! Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
I answered,“Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

I. Worship God in humility and unity as we see in this picture of Heaven, we may be there. I notice this from verses 9-12.
a. First let’s notice unity.
b. Here we see a picture of worship in Heaven. This is sometime during the end times. This is likely before the New Jerusalem comes down out of Heaven.
c. Verse 9 begins to describe a great crown. No one was able to count this crowd.
d. Someone joked that John could not count this large crowd but if a Baptist evangelist was there he would find a way.
e. The text says it is a large crowd.
f. Every nation, tribe, people and tongue are in this crowd. This is John’s way of saying that every people group from the world is in this crowd.
g. Unity: what is uniting them? Worshipping our Savior is uniting them, we’ll get to that.
h. So, one day Martin Luther King Jr. shared the following words:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
i. I believe we have come a long way, but I speak only from one point of view, the point of view of a suburban white male. But we have not gone far enough.
j. We see in this passage that Jesus can bring us together.

John Ortberg Considers the Ongoing Battle with Racism
Psychologists have found an intriguing way to study what it is that we really like and dislike. It’s called “affective priming.” They print a word over a bouncing dot on a computer screen. If people’s response is positive, they push any key with their left hand; if negative—any key with their right.
Too discover our deeper responses, researchers will use subliminal stimulation. They’ll print a negative word (like “fear” or “storm”) subliminally, below your level of awareness. Your intuitive system is so fast it reads those words and responds to them before you are aware. So if they show a negative word subliminally, then a positive word slowly, it takes you longer to move toward a positive response.
Sometimes they will flash a subliminal picture instead of a word. When it is a picture of an African American, “Americans of all ages, classes, and political affiliations react with a flash of negativity.” Including people who report they have no prejudice at all.
Mark Noll has written a fascinating little book called The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. He notes that all the wrangling between North and South over the Bible and slavery overlooked one huge difference between slavery in ancient Mesopotamia and slavery in 19th-century America—the latter was race-based, race-soaked, racist. The deepest evil over slavery was not just the economics of it, it was the racism of it. Even northern Christians, who were opposed to slavery as an institution, were much slower to oppose racism.
Noll also notes that, over the long haul, Christian theology always tends to have a radicalizing effect on society because of one belief: that all human beings come from the same ancestor, that all human beings bear the image of God.
I thought about these stories, and many others, when I watched the nation respond to the presidential election results. I wondered what my grandfather would have thought about a man, who could not have spent the night in his town, now governing his country. I imagined the response of the retired Louisiana colonel. Quite apart from party preference or position on any number of political issues, I cannot imagine living through that moment without hoping that there might be healing for wounds that go deep and raw.
I thought about how Paul said there was a time when the dividing wall of hostility that separated the “us” group from the “them” group came down. I thought about the Azusa Street Revival and how, for a few years, black people and white people defied all polite society and worshiped together, and then when the fervor cooled and things got respectable, they stopped and mirrored the rest of society.
I thought of how when God sits in front of his computer—whatever face gets flashed on a screen—the only button he pushes is marked love. Love. Love.
I wonder about the church…
Condensed from our sister publication Leadership Journal, © 2008 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit
k. So, God loves all and tribe, tongues and nationalities, all of them will be in Heaven. It is not the color of our skin, but our great Savior. All these groups are worshipping the Savior together.
l. Now, notice humility: they cry out with a loud voice saying salvation belongs to the Lord sitting on the throne and to the Lamb.
m. Then we see in verse 12: the angels, all of them, the elders, the four living creatures bow down, faces down before the throne.
n. There is great humility in worship.
o. They said:
i. Praise
ii. Glory
iii. Wisdom
iv. Thanks
v. Honor
vi. Power
vii. And strength belong to the eternal God.
p. They give God the glory due His name.
Let’s now break for Revelation Song
II. But I also talked about these martyrs.
a. As we look at the next few verses we see that John is asked who those in the white robes are.
b. The elder explains to John that they are martyrs. They died in the great tribulation because of the testimony of Jesus Christ.
c. There robes are washed in the blood of the Lamb, in Jesus’ blood.
d. Notice verses 15-17:
Therefore,“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

e. God does not forget what we go through for Him. In this case these people were martyred in the great tribulation and God rewarded them.
f. What was the reward?
g. The reward was worship.
h. They went through death, martyrdom for God and He rewards them with worship. Now, some of us may not think that is so awesome. Think about this.
i. They are given the privilege to worship God day and night. That is something I must get excited about.
j. But, more than that: they are given the privilege to serve in God’s Temple.
k. That is what this passage says: they are able to witness the awesome presence of God and the Lamb, Jesus, next to the throne. They are able to worship alongside the angels, the elders, the four beasts. They are able to be in the throne room of God.
l. Historically, it has always been a privilege to serve in the presence of a king, so what about the King of Kings.
m. There was a movie made a year ago about a Butler. It was a good movie, called “The Butler.” The movie was about an African American man who served presidents in the Whitehouse. I want to say that he served from Johnson to George W. Bush. What a privilege that would be.
n. These martyrs are remembered by God and God places them in His throne room to worship.
o. I think this has to be too exciting to imagine.

Worship, is your desire to worship God? As I look at these passages I must apply them and ask God to fix my attitude and make me desire Him more.

So, what is your focus on life? Remember the story I told at the beginning of this message? I told the story of a Nigerian Pastor who had his church and house burned down, yet praised God in church. That is a different focus on life than say the following:

You Can’t Just Sit There
Several years ago, I heard the story of Larry Walters, a 33-year-old man who decided he wanted to see his neighborhood from a new perspective.
He went down to the local army surplus store one morning and bought 42 used weather balloons. That afternoon he strapped himself into a lawn chair, to which several of his friends tied the now helium-filled balloons. He took along a six-pack of beer, a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and a BB gun, figuring he could shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land.
Walters, who assumed the balloons would lift him about 100 feet in the air, was caught off guard when the chair soared more than 16,000 feet into the sky–smack into the middle of the air traffic pattern at Los Angeles International Airport. He had just begun shooting the balloons when he lost his grip on his pellet gun, and it dropped from his hands. He stayed airborne for more than two hours.
Soon after he was safely grounded and cited by the police, reporters asked him three questions:
“Were you scared?”
“Would you do it again?”
“Why did you do it?”
“Because,” he said, “you can’t just sit there.”
His answer caught my interest. I pondered that story and its implications for several months. Then, as I was preparing a sermon, “The Crisis Called Christmas,” my thoughts came together.
I used the Walters story in the introduction to set the stage for the idea that each of the birth narratives called for a response–or reaction–from its participants. When it comes to God’s intervention in our lives, we can’t just sit there.

So, again, where are you at? Are you bored spiritually? Look at this Bible passage of worship in eternity and tell me as a Christ follower how this whole idea cannot not pump you up and get you excited about worship.

1) Worship God in humility and unity as we see in this picture of Heaven, we may be there.
2) Be encouraged, God does not forget what we do for Him (also Hebrews 6:10), we see in this passage martyrs rewarded by being given the opportunity to serve in God’s throne room for eternity.

These people, too many to count, went to their graves for Jesus. Then on the other side of death, here they are worshipping the Lord.
Jesus is worthy, He was slain for us, the Bible models worship for now and eternity. Worship Him today and this week.

Choir Anthem:

Do you know Jesus?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Worship in the Scriptures (Psalm 119)

We have looked at worship in God’s throne room and that was an awesome passage. We have looked at worshipping the Lord because He was slain for us. Praise God, our great Savior! We have looked at adoring and worshipping the Lord in prayer. So, now let’s talk about the Bible in worship. I wish to look at worship in the Psalms.
To talk about worship in the Psalms, what Psalm should we turn to? Without looking at your bulletin, take a guess? Anyone, just call out a Psalm that expressed worship.
Let’s turn to Psalm 100:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
That is a Psalm to look at when talking about worship. When the Psalms turned over to 100 they did so calling us to SHOUT for joy to the Lord. How about another short Psalm, Psalm 150. Turn there:
Psalm 150:
Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
The Psalms end on a high note. They end talking about praise, don’t they?
However, that is not the route I am going.
I once came across a powerful quote by Daniel Webster that illustrates this topic. In the presence of Professor Sanborn of Dartmouth College, Mr. Webster laid his hand on a copy of the Scriptures as he said, “This is the Book. I have read through the entire Bible many times. I now make it a practice to go through it once a year. It is the Book of all others for lawyers as well as divines; and I pity the man who cannot find in it a rich supply of thought, and of rules for his conduct. It fits man for life—it prepares him for death.” ,
With that in mind, turn back a few pages to Psalm 119. I read the following:
The anonymous psalmist who wrote this longest psalm sought refuge from his persecutors and found strength by meditating on the Word of God. This psalm, the longest chapter in the Bible, is largely a collection or anthology of prayers and thoughts about God’s Word. C. S. Lewis compared it to a piece of embroidery, done stitch by stitch in the quiet hours for the love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship.
This psalm contains a reference to God’s Word in almost every verse (except verses 84, 90, 121, 122, and 132). (The Jews claimed that only one verse did not refer directly to God’s Word: verse 122.756) The psalmist used at least eight synonyms for the Word of God, each of which conveys a slightly different emphasis. However, sometimes it appears that the writer chose a synonym simply to avoid repetition.”Way” and “ways” (Heb. derek) describes the pattern of life God’s revelation marks out. It occurs 13 times in the psalm (vv. 1, 3, 5, 14, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 37, 59, 168).
I had trouble narrowing down, but let’s read verses 9-16 because the Hebrew Bible would consider that a section, the Beth section.
The application for today is this:
We are not ready for worship without the Word of God, the Bible. The Bible is our base in worship; the Bible is our guide in worship. The Bible is Truth, how can we worship without the truths of who God is? We cannot. So, meditate on God’s Word and then we have Truth to worship God with.
Psalm 119:9-16:
How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.
Think about what this passage says, Hide the Word in our heart:
“The act of ‘hiding’ God’s word is not to be limited to the memorization of individual texts or even whole passages but extends to a holistic living in devotion to the Lord (cf. Deut 6:4-9; 30:14; Jer 31:33).”
Other responses to God’s Word that the writer mentioned and that occur first in this section are “rejoicing” (vv. 14, 74, 162), “meditating” (vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148), and “delighting” (vv. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174).
I. This is the longest chapter in the Bible and it is all about God’s Word, the Bible.
a. The Psalms have been called the Jewish Hymnbook. Interesting that the longest is all about God’s Word. We have Psalms in the book of Psalms that they would sing on their way to Jerusalem for certain feasts, called Psalms of ascent. These are Psalms 120-134. I find it interesting that these Psalms follow the masterpiece on the Bible. Therefore, I believe meditating on the Scriptures is pivotal in worship.
b. There are verses in Psalm 119 that specify praise: See verse 164: Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
c. Consider this, the Psalmist is praising God for God’s righteous law. The Law is the Word, the Bible. In fact, terms used for the Word or what we would call the Bible are:
i. Law,
ii. Testimonies,
iii. Precepts,
iv. Statutes,
v. Commandments,
vi. Rules,
vii. Word
II. The Scriptures are our base in worship. They are our guide in worship. We must have God’s Word in our head.
a. Think of paint, the base is critical. I worked at Lowe’s and I went to a paint certification class. In painting they taught us something like 90% of painting is surface prep. Not only that, there are base paints which we used to mix paints.
i. Our surface prep for worship is being in the Bible. Reading the Bible having the Bible handy.
ii. The Bible is our base. Just like I could not mix paint without the proper base paint, we cannot worship God without the Word.
b. Think of a building’s foundation. I am not a master-builder, but I have dug holes at Alliance Mission Encounter and we are supposed to go a certain depth. Foundation is important and the Bible is the foundation in worship.
c. There was a wonderful family in my youth ministry at my last church. So, I was disappointed to see that the mother posted an article on Facebook, or, rather linked an article, that references things the author wished Christians admitted about the Scriptures. This article had a negative view of the Scriptures. However, the more I study, the more I learn, the longer I am a Christian I am realizing that every Word of the Bible has great value and great meaning. Jesus responded to the devil’s attacks with the Scriptures. (Matthew 4; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13; John 4:6-7) The Word is the only, offensive weapon against the enemy in Ephesians 6:17, the Sword of the Spirit. People have sought out to prove the Bible wrong and they become believers.
d. I believe the Bible leads us into worship.
e. How can we study the Bible, study the promises of God, and not worship the One those promises are about? I believe the Bible is written about a Big God. Tony Campolo was once confronted by an atheist who was one of his students. The young man told Campolo, “For me to believe in God, I have to have a God that I can understand.” And Campolo replied, “God refuses to be that small!”
f. In Eugene Peterson’s book called Answering God, He makes a strong case that we only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary—that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back. And he said the prayer book of the Bible is the Psalms, and our prayer life would be immeasurably enriched if we were immersed in the Psalms. So that was the first step. I realized I needed to do that, but I didn’t know how.
g. I think we could apply the same idea to worship. Where do we learn our worship vocabulary, but only from the Scriptures.
h. Let’s think about words and the promises of God:
Many philosophers have said that God is a pure spirit and so it is inappropriate to talk about God speaking. 102 Yet Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt 24: 35). Philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff and others deny the idea that God cannot and does not speak. Wolterstorff applies J. L. Austin’s speech-act theory, which points out that words are also actions. They not only say things, they accomplish things. If God exists and has power to act, then there is no reason he could not speak, because words are also actions. Also, since the Godhead contains a community of persons, and because language is intrinsic to personal relationship, there is every reason to expect that God communicates through words. Therefore, Christian prayer is not plunging into the abyss of unknowing and a state of wordless hyperconsciousness. That condition is created not by words per se but by sounds . “The techniques that prepare for [the mantra meditation state of samadhi] feature repetitive sounds, sights, or actions. Analytical thought is mesmerized to favor intuitive awareness, a relaxed state in which one’s consciousness of individual identity is suspended.” Rather, Christian prayer is fellowship with the personal God who befriends us through speech. The biblical pattern entails meditating on the words of Scripture until we respond to God with our entire being, saying, “Give me an undivided heart, that . . . I may praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart” (Ps 86: 11– 12).
Timothy Ward’s book Words of Life argues that God’s words are identical with his actions. He quotes Genesis 1:3, “‘ Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Ward observes that the passage does not say that first God spoke and then he proceeded to do what he said he would do. No, his word itself brought the light about. When God names someone, his very word also constitutes the person. When he renames Abram to be Abraham—“father of a multitude”— that word makes the aged man and his wife biologically and spiritually capable of being the progenitors of a whole race (Gen 17: 5). Psalm 29 is an entire hymn of praise of the power of God’s voice. “The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars—the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert— the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh” (Ps 29: 5, 8). We see again that what God’s voice does, God does. God’s speaking and acting are equated. Isaiah 55: 10– 11 puts this theological principle most powerfully.
One writes: We humans may say, “Let there be light in this room,” but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing. The God of the Bible is a God who “by his very nature, acts through speaking.” When the Bible talks of God’s Word, then, it is talking of “God’s active presence in the world.” To say that God’s word goes out to do something is the same as to say God has gone out to do something. To break one of God’s commands or words is to break one’s relationship with him. “Thus (we may say) God has invested himself with his words, or we could say that God has so identified himself with his words that whatever someone does to God’s words . . . they do to God himself. . . . God’s . . . verbal actions are a kind of extension of himself.”
So, we need to have the Word, the Bible, in our head, we do that by meditation.
III. Meditate is used 18 times in the N.I.V. translation of the Old Testament and 16 times in the Psalms. Meditate is used a total of 8 times in Psalm 119. Of course what does the verb mediate have to do with the Bible.
a. I’m concerned about approaches to reading the Bible that say: Read the Bible, but don’t think about theology, just let God speak to you. I’m concerned about that because God speaks to you in the Bible, after you do the good exegesis and you figure out what the text is saying. Martin Luther believed you need to take the truth that you have learned through good exegesis, and once you understand that, you need to learn how to warm your heart with it—get it into your heart. And it diminishes our prayer life that our hearts are cold when we get into prayer. Without meditation, you tend to go right into petition and supplication, and you do little adoration or confession. When your heart is warm, then you start to praise God and then you confess. When your heart is cold, which it is if you just study the Bible and then jump to prayer, you are much more likely to spend your time on your prayer list and not really engage your heart.
b. Prayer begins with worship. Prayer and worship go hand-in-hand. So, we can apply truths about the importance of Scripture in prayer to the importance of Scripture in worship.
c. The idea of meditation is not necessarily memorization, but making the Scriptures a part of us. This will lead to worship, but this will lead to God’s Word becoming a part of us. This means that we will reason differently, think differently, live differently. The promises of God, the actions of God are a part of us. Then we have the language of worship.
The application for today is this:
We are not ready for worship without the Word of God, the Bible. The Bible is our base in worship; the Bible is our guide in worship. The Bible is Truth, how can we worship without the truths of who God is? We cannot. So, meditate on God’s Word and then we have Truth to worship God with.
Let’s pray