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Things you should know before reading Matthew's Gospel

When Jesus is anointed as King of God's Kingdom at his baptism in Matthew 3:13-17 (cf. Psalm 2), it is important to have some sort of grasp on what the Old Testament's take is on the concept of kingship. Since Matthew is quite clearly at pains to show his readers that his gospel is a continuation of the Old Testament revelation (Matthew 1 – note the genealogy), it is absolutely fundamental to take into account the Old Testament understanding. Here's a summary:

1 Creation:

In creation the single, true God of the universe speaks creation into being (Gen. 1:1ff.). Through this great display of authority he sets himself up as ruler of all that he has created, one might surmise that God sets himself up, by virtue of his creating work, as king of his creation. Yet in this creation God makes man in his own image (Gen1:27) and thus sets man up as the pinnacle of all that is created. Alexander remarks that, ‘the supremacy of human beings in relation to the rest of creation is further emphasized by God’s directive that they are to “fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28)’ (1998: 16). Dempster shows that the Hebrew words used for man’s subduing and dominion in Genesis 1 convey ‘power and authority’ (2003: 59). At the same time God exercises his kingship over man by giving them his rule (Gen. 2:16 – 17) in informing them that they are not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. So we see two clear pictures of dominion and kingship in the creation account: God is set up as king, ruling over his creation, primarily man, whilst man is set up, in the image of God, to subdue and rule over the rest of creation in God’s stead (Gen. 1:28). The building blocks of kingship are in place at an early stage in the Bible storyline.

2 The Fall:

The fall takes place as a result of man trying to upset these fundamental building blocks by desiring to be king of himself, this is in essence what Satan tempts Eve with in Genesis 3:5, that man will be like God – man will rule. Man eats from the tree (Gen. 3:6) and thus in rebellion moves out from under God’s rule and kingship, man becomes his own king. At the fall the true pattern of kingship is horribly marred and in desperate need of restoration. Alexander highlights that although the events of the fall occupy only a single chapter of the Bible the consequence ‘for the whole of human history is enormous.’ (1998: 17).

3 The Promise:

Upon reading Genesis 3 one might be forgiven for thinking that it is devoid of hope. However upon closer reading one will be greatly comforted by verse 15. In this verse God sets up a power struggle that will continue through the rest of the Bible as the seed of the woman fights with the seed of the serpent for ultimate dominion. The striking feature to verse 15 is the fact that it foresees not only a line of seed from the woman, a godly line (this concept is picked up in Gen 4-11), but it also foresees a single seed, a single person, from the godly line, who will one day crush the seed of the serpent forever. Since the power struggle in view is one for dominion and the restoration of God’s rule over creation, it is not far-fetched to see this as a promise of a coming king who will once again rule God’s kingdom.

The promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12 further amplify God’s intent to restore and reconcile a people to himself through Abraham and his descendents which really is just building upon the concept of a godly line. The promise includes that all nations will be blessed through this line (Gen. 12:3) and this forces us back to the initial promise in Genesis 3:16 as we reflect that all nations were affected by the fall and thus the promise of a serpent-crusher is the reversal that will bring blessing to all nations in the future. The promises awaken within the reader a desire to search the unfolding story for the proverbial serpent-crusher, or ultimately, for the king of God’s kingdom. Commenting on Genesis 3:15, Alexander remarks, ‘here…we find the first brushstroke on the biblical canvas concerning a future king through whom God’s salvation will come to humanity’. (1998: 19).

4 Israel pre-Monarchy

In the period spanning from Abraham to King Saul, by and large, the nation of Israel was without a king. In saying this however the God’s reinstituted his law (Ex. 19ff.) at Sinai and thus built the nation into a theocracy whereby God rule them by his law. Yet the pattern set up in creation of God ruling with his kingly representative on earth remained broken. However, in saying this, this particular period was not without echoes concerning the coming of an earthly king. We will touch on three of these so-called ‘echoes’.

Firstly Abraham is told in Genesis 17:16 that kings shall come from his line, which points immediately to kingship in the godly line. We also keep in mind that although Abraham is not a king he is often portrayed ‘as enjoying royal status’ (Alexander: 1998: 30). This is evident in places such as Genesis 21:22-24 and again in 23:6. Similar echoes are found in the Joseph narrative and also in the sections of text dealing with Judah.

Secondly in Deuteronomy 17 clear provision is put in place in the Law of Moses for a future king who will rule the nation in God’s stead. So once again the concept of an earthly king is disclosed to the people through God’s revelation.

Thirdly and finally, in the period just prior to the monarchy, the judges period, Israel are in moral turmoil and the author closes with the following words, ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.’ (Judg. 21:25). The lack of king is directly linked to the lack of morality in the nation. Hence the reader is forced to consider that the next logical step is for God to provide an earthly king who will restore the nation to him.

5 Israel during the Monarchy

The book of Ruth is a fundamental bridge between Israel pre-monarchy and Israel with the monarchy in place. It is through the story of Naomi and Ruth that the author reveals to us that God is busy at work in bringing about the continuation and fulfillment of the promise of Genesis 3:15. And so it is no surprise that we encounter the first earthly king, Saul, set up by God in 1 Samuel (1 Sam. 8 & 9). Saul is anointed by the prophet Samuel as king over Israel (1 Sam. 10:1), and this concept of anointing becomes key in understanding the office of one who would rule on earth in God’s stead. Saul however fails to keep God’s command and so God removes the office of king from him and gives it to one after his own heart (1 Sam. 13:13-15).

The reigns of David and Solomon mark a high point in the nation of Israel as both kings enlarge the nation geographically and, by and large, in terms of calling the people to submit to God’s rule. The highpoint is evidenced under Solomon as God chooses to cement his presence among the people in the temple which is built under Solomon’s reign. During this period we are presented with a proto-type of the manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth. Roberts suggests that with the Solomon narrative, ‘we have reached the pinnacle of the Old Testament’ (2003: 82). Hints, such as the promise, of a future king who will reign forever, made to David in 2 Samuel 7:11ff. suggest that these exemplary kings or not the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise in Genesis 3:15, and this is further amplified as David stumbles greatly in sin in 2 Samuel 12, just 5 chapters later. So although a model is set up, in part, of what God’s king might look like, the model fails to provide a solution to the fallen nature of man. The proof of this is evidenced in the line of kings in both the Northern and Southern Kingdom that follow David and Solomon who, with the odd exception, fail to live under the rule of God and thus plunge the nation of Israel into exile as a result of their turning away from the Lord.

It is worth mentioning that at this time many of the Psalms were being written either by David or by others closely associated with him and the Davidic line. Many of these Psalms (such as Ps. 2 and Ps. 45), touch on a number of concepts linked with the office of kingship and many of their prophetic words are picked up in the New Testament as pointing towards Jesus as the King of God’s kingdom, as you will come across in Matthew.

6 The Prophetic Witness

During this steady decline in the nation of Israel, God raises up his revelation in the form of prophets with a two-fold purpose: to call the people back to himself and to warn of impending judgment. Yet one need not read for long through the prophetic literature before one becomes aware of a third stream of thought that runs through the prophetic writings, the concept of hope. As in places like Amos 9:13-15 and Isaiah 2:2-4, this hope speaks of a day when God will restore the nation and the blessing of that nation. However besides just concentrating on restoration in general, at times the prophetic witness identifies this overall restoration with a restoration of God’s kingship through the Davidic line. Alexander supports this idea and cites Amos 9:11-12 as one such example (1998: 103). Consider Amos’ words in chapter 9:11, ‘In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair the broken places, restore its ruins and build it as it used to be.’ Isaiah 11:1-5 picks up a similar theme and Isaiah 9:1-7 is possibly the most explicit prophetic declaration about the coming king, especially in the light of 2 Samuel 7 and the promise of a king who will reign on David’s throne forever. Dempster points out that, ‘this king will rule justly and transform the world into an Edenic paradise.’ (2003: 175).

Alexander goes on to point out that similar themes are found in Jeremiah, Zechariah and Daniel all calling us to see the restoration of God’s people coming hand in hand with the restoration of a king in God’s stead on earth. The reader enters the New Testament in search of a king, of one in the line of David who will restore the fallen nation and ultimately restore the fallen nature of man that began in the garden.

Further Reading:
Alexander T. D. 1998. The Servant King. Inter-Varsity Press. Leicester.
Dempster S. G. 2003. Dominion and Dynasty, A theology of the Hebrew Bible – NSBT. Inter-Varsity Press. Leicester.
Goldsworthy G. 2000. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. Inter-Varsity Press. Leicester.
Jackman D. 2003. Teaching Matthew. Christian Focus Publishers. London
Roberts V. 2003. God’s Big Picture. Inter-Varsity Press. Leicester.


The Big Secret - An Inclusive Kingdom?

Garey Shavey over at theResurgence has written a very interesting and stimulating review of Brian Mclaren's 'The Secret Message of Jesus'. Why not pop over and have a read?


Books, books, books

1. One book that changed your life (other than the Bible):
I Believe in Preaching - John Stott
2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
Showing the Spirit - D A Carson (you have to read it about 10 times to figure it all out!)
3. One book you’d want on a desert island (other than the Bible):
Memoirs & Remains of R.M.Mcheyne - Andrew Bonar
4. One book that made you laugh:
Confessions of a Reformission Rev. - Mark Driscoll
5. One book that made you cry [or feel really sad]:
A New Kind of Christian - Brian Mclaren (you figure out why...)
6. One book that you wish had been written:
A Handbook to Bible Interpretation - Paul of Tarsus
7. One book that you wish had never been written:
The Prayer of Jabez
8. One book you’re currently reading:
Confessions of a Reformission Rev. - Mark Driscoll
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
Urban Ministry - Conn & Oritz

Below are the questions without the answers - copy and past them into the comments box and answer them yourself.

1. One book that changed your life (other than the Bible):
2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
3. One book you’d want on a desert island (other than the Bible):
4. One book that made you laugh:
5. One book that made you cry [or feel really sad]:
6. One book that you wish had been written:
7. One book that you wish had never been written:
8. One book you’re currently reading:
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:

Biblical Theology & Matt Harmon

If you're into Biblical Theology (redemptive history theology), then Matt Harmon's blog is one of the best blogs on the subject. He always includes helpful posts that bear fruitful discussion about current issues regarding BT. Today he quotes my favourite theologian: Big Don - a quote well worth reading, paying attention to and practicing if you're any sort of Bible teacher!


Psalm 51 - A Right Relationship with God

I preached the following sermon this morning at Strandfontien Baptist Church - here's the un-edited manuscript in full, entitled: 'Getting into and Staying in a Right Relationship with God.'

People tell me that there is an increase in ‘spirituality’ in the Western world today. And it’s quite apparent if you look at Hollywood today. For example, I heard the other day that Mel Gibson, the director of the Passion, built his own personal chapel, worth millions of dollars, in his back garden, where he practices his rather strange version of Roman Catholicism.

And then you’ve got Tom Cruise, the Mission Impossible star - who belongs to the Christian Science cult – now you have to spare a thought for his partner Katie Holmes, when she gave birth to their first child recently because by Christian Science law, she wasn’t allowed to have an epidural or any other sort of pain relief and she wasn’t allowed to cry out or make squeak of pain during the birthing process – basically she just had to take it like a man – now I’ve never given birth before – which is a good thing, but that sounds like the real mission impossible to me.

All this interest and talk about spirituality is not all bad, at least it gets people thinking and talking about God. And maybe it even gets us thinking about what authentic spirituality is, or if it actually exists at all.

On the one hand you have the creation – people, you and me and everyone else in the world – and on the other hand you have the creator – an all-powerful, all-knowing God. Now surely it makes sense that if we as people, or as the creation, are serious about true spirituality then we need to be in the business of figuring out how to get into a right relationship with this creator God. It’s logical, if you’ve got a powerful God and a humble creation, then that the humble creation should always endeavor to be in a right relationship with the powerful God. It’s the key to true and authentic religion, authentic spirituality – and that is getting and staying in a right relationship with God.

The world makes many suggestions to us as to how we might do this. Firstly you’ve got all your works based religions that say that through humble service of that particular god or gods we then appease them and then find ourselves in a right relationship with these gods. The atheists bypass this problem altogether by saying that there is no god that we have to be in a right relationship with. The potentially very dangerous and yet very discreet philosophy of post-modernism, which is the current prevailing world philosophy amongst academics and the west, suggests to us that we each define our own gods according to what suits us and therefore we can define for ourselves what steps we have to take to get into a right relationship with our own personal god.

So if you want to do the service thing and become a Muslim then that’s great for you, if you want to become a new-ager and find your right relationship with god through finding inner peace and well-being then that’s fine too. Just don’t ever impose your personal god or religious formula on anyone else. That’s the post-modern outlook on religion.

The Bible though has a very different outlook. According to the pages of scripture there is one God who is perfectly holy and pure and he has prescribed a specific way for us to get into a right relationship with him. Today we’re going to look at a fairly well-known passage in Psalm 51 written by King David. And what I’d like you to see as we study this Psalm together this morning is how it answers the question: ‘How can we get into and stay in a right relationship with a holy God.’

So let’s read the Psalm together (READ PSALM 51)


This Psalm is written by David in response to the events of 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12 – or what might be more familiar with you - the story of David and Bathsheba. So let me run through that story for you quickly just to refresh your minds.

King David, the king of Israel, took a bit of a spring break when he should have been out on the battlefield waging war with the nations and so one night he took a moonlight stroll along the roof of his palace and from his good vantage point he set his eyes upon a beautiful woman bathing. Very much attracted David sent someone to find out about this woman and it turned out her that her name was Bathsheba and that she was already married to a guy by the name of Uriah. This fact however made little difference to David, it seems, because he invited her up, she slept with him and she became pregnant.

David did his best to cover up by trying to get Uriah to sleep with his wife so that he would think that the baby was his, but Uriah wasn’t interested in sleeping with his wife when all his comrades were on the battlefield, he felt it would be wrong of him. David even got him drunk and tried again but he got the same response from Uriah. So David then got deadly by telling the commander of his forces to put Uriah in the middle of the thickest fighting and then withdraw the soldiers from him so that he would be slain. The commander did this and Uriah was killed in a battle. Bathsheba mourned her husband’s loss but as soon as the time of mourning was over David took her as his wife.

After some time had passed and David had almost just shrugged off the whole affair God sent Nathan the prophet to confront him. Nathan pointed out, in a very well crafted story, the massive error in David’s ways and through being convicted by God’s word the scales fell off of David’s sinful eyes and he saw the reality of what he had done. In verse 13 of 2 Samuel 12 he says to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’

And so it’s after all these events that David sits down, puts pen to paper and writes Psalm 51 – a Psalm of confession, repentance and restoration.

Now just for a second think about a man pouring out his heart and emotions onto a page after coming to this giant realization that David has come to. We could imagine that he might not always be that structured in the way he presents all his thoughts and we’ll be able to see that in this Psalm – there’s not a lot of structure in terms of the literary side of the Psalm as there often is in many other Psalms, I think this is more of just an outpouring of David’s emotions that we find here.

In saying that though there is still some sort of coherence in the Psalm: In verses 1 to 9 David deals primarily with confessing what he’s done and repenting of that sin. Then in verses 10 to 19, the second half of the psalm, David focuses on the restoration process, in other words what things should take place to show that true restoration and repentance has taken place.

I want to use those 2 halves of the Psalm as the 2 points we’re going to look at this morning. So let me reword them for your benefit and so you can see how we’re going to approach them: Verses 1 to 9 could be called, ‘Getting into a right relationship with God’ and verses 10 to 19 we can call, ‘Staying in a right relationship with God.’ And those are the 2 areas we’ll deal with today.

PART I: ‘Getting into a right relationship with God.’

So let’s look at that first question: ‘How do we get into a right relationship with God?’

Well straight off from me asking that question we’ve already implied something. If I ask ‘how do we get into a right relationship with God?’ it implies that we’re already in some sort of relationship with God but that it’s the wrong relationship. So let’s start there – what is this wrong relationship that we’re in with God? Well David does something very helpful for us in verses 3-6 he outlines for us the problem – the reason for the wrong relationship with God – he outlines sin.

I want to look at those 4 verses before we look at any other part of the Psalm. But let’s start by looking at verses 3 & 4 (READ 3-4). Since he was confronted by Nathan this sin has been constantly on his mind, always ‘before him.’ So what is this sin then?

Well you’d probably expect him to say something like ‘I feel so bad for what I’ve done – I’ve been an adulterer with Bathsheba, I murdered an innocent man, I robbed a woman of her husband – this is the sin that is ever before me.’ But that’s not what he says is it? Instead he addresses God and says ‘against you and you only have I sinned.’ You see I don’t think David is denying the fact that he’s wronged other people what I think he is doing is that he’s acknowledging the fact that his sin has far deeper connotations then what we see on the surface. What he’s doing for us is he’s defining what sin is.

This is the point he makes: Sin is dependant on the existence of God – in other words there is no such thing as sin apart from a holy God. The only reason that adultery and murder qualify as sin is because they are in direct rebellion to God’s commands. Without God’s commands we have no such thing as sin.

Now that’s a big difference to the way the world and in fact many Christians see sin. Sin is rebellion against God and God only –it might be manifest through something one person does to another – but if its sin then it is rebellion against God. Most people see sin merely as doing wrong – I think that’s an incomplete view of sin. The best definition I’ve heard and the one I use to tell other people about sin is this: Sin is living outside of God’s rule. Romans 14:23 clearly tells us that ‘everything that does not come from faith is sin.’ Every time you live outside of the rule of God and therefore are not acting in faith you are in sin.

That makes the definition of sin far bigger than the common perception of what it is. I suppose it makes sin more terrifying as well as we then realize just how sinful we really are – David’s words in verse 3 now have new meaning for us: ‘For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me.’ But that is the reality according to the Bible.

You see what David was really guilty of was not so much adultery or murder but his real crime was forgetting just exactly who the real king of his kingdom was. That true king being God.

So he defines sin for us as being against God alone. But he’s not done yet with giving us insight into this problem of sin. He goes on in verses 5-6 to show us the origin of this problem, look at those 2 verses (READ 5-6)

Here David contrasts two things to show us where the origin of sin is. He shows us our way and Gods way. This is what he basically says: ‘Deep down you and I are rotten, from day one, from the time our mothers conceived us.’ That’s the way we are. God on the other hand desires truth and his wisdom deep down within us or in our inmost place as the passage says.

The point David is making is this – sin is not some little tag along that popped up one day in your or anyone else’s life – no instead it is something that is deeply rooted in your being and has been since the day you were born. In fact its mankind’s defining characteristic. It’s probably the only characteristic that is common between all men and woman irrespective of culture, background or education. We are all sinners. And here’s the important thing to remember which comes out of this: we are not sinners because we sin instead we sin because we are sinners.

So in verses 3 to 6 David highlights the reason why we’re in a wrong relationship with God and it is this to sum it up: We are in sin against God and it is deeply entrenched in our being. And the reason this is a problem is because as verse 6 says God desires truth and wisdom, not sin, in our inmost place. That’s the wrong relationship that we’re in and that we need to get out of. So how is that possible – especially considering that we’re sinful in and out?

Well once again we need to see what David says. In both verses 1-2 and again in verses 7-9 David makes a number of pleas before the Lord. These pleas serve us a model as to what it is that we need in order to be in a right relationship with a holy God. So let’s read those two sections first starting in verses 1 (READ 1-2) and then skip forward to verse 7 (READ 7-9).

So what’s David’s secret in getting into a right relationship with God. Well did you at any stage notice him saying the following phrase or anything along the lines of ‘I did blah, blah, blah.’ The reason for that is because he didn’t and he can’t do anything to get himself into a right relationship with God. There is nothing you and I can do in and of ourselves that can put us into a right relationship with a holy God – absolutely nothing. God has to do it for us. So what does David do? He pleads and pleads for mercy, for forgiveness, for cleansing, for the total blotting out of his iniquity or his sin. There is nothing we can do about our wrong relationship with God except ask him to make it right.

Only if God cleanses us will we be clean, only if God washes us will we be whiter than snow, only God can bring about the joy and gladness of being in a right relationship with him – only he can restore the crushed bones of a sinner.

And he has done it. Through punishing his Son Jesus Christ he has blotted out the transgressions of those who call on him for mercy. Through Jesus on the cross God has washed away the iniquity of those who cry out to him for cleansing. Those who trust in Jesus are totally clean, whiter than snow and full of joy and gladness – not necessarily because everything is dandy in their life – but because they have been taken from a wrong relationship with God and, through the blood of Jesus, been placed in a right relationship with God.

My friends, that is how you get into a right relationship with a holy God this morning – by pleading with God that through his Son he would have mercy on you, a sinner, and cleanse you.

In these first 9 verses we’ve seen 2 things: We’ve seen the true definition and extent of sin and we’ve seen God’s prescribed way of dealing with that sin through repentance.

Perhaps this morning you’ve seen the full extent of your sin clearly for the first time, maybe you realize that you’ve never truly repented of it and asked God to have mercy on you and cleanse you. Well then like David I too plead that you would seek God and his mercy and that he would graciously give it to you and leave you whiter than snow and in a right relationship with him. Don’t leave it – make right with him this morning, make God the true king of your life and humbly remove yourself from that throne.

So to sum up the first half of this Psalm – We get into a right relationship with God through knowing and repenting of our sin.

PART II: ‘Staying in a right relationship with God.’

Now keep in mind that David fell and he fell hard, even though he was often described as being a man after God’s own heart. And so David is going to be extremely concerned about staying power - How to stay in a right relationship with God. He wants the tools, the right equipment to guard against falling as did in 2 Samuel 11. That’s what we’re going to look at in the second half of the Psalm – How do we stay in a right relationship with God?

In verses 10-12 David, having repented of his sin, asks God for the right equipment to stay in a right relationship with him. So let’s look at those 3 verses (READ 10-12).
The word ‘create’ in verse 10 implies making something new. So where there was an old sinful heart it becomes replaced by a new pure heart. God is not in the business of doing half jobs he doesn’t just forgive us but leave us with our old hearts – instead he forgives us and gives us a new heart which can then seek after him.

If you look in South Africa over the past decade there’s been a lot of work to uplift under-privileged communities where the people living there don’t have the necessary skills to sustain their living. Now it would be pointless to go into these communities, build nice houses, give water, electricity, appliances, food and clothes to these people without teaching them how to generate their own income and maintain their community. Everything would be cleaned up from the way it was – but what would be of the community in 10 years time? It would probably collapse back to the way it was before because it lacked the right equipment to produce real staying power.

That new clean heart gives the new Christian the privilege of now being able to seek after God – and truly pursue holiness and purity – to make real attempts to avoid sin. It’s only because of this new clean heart that Paul can say in Romans 7:22 ‘In my inner being I delight in God’s law.’ He couldn’t say that before God gave him a clean heart through Jesus because he didn’t delight in God’s law – but now having come to faith in Christ he can say it because not only has he been forgiven but his heart has been changed.

But wait it gets better than that, look at verse 11 (READ). Here David’s heart yearns for something that he was only able to partly experience but that we as New Testament believers have in fullness – the indwelling of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit. David had to go up to the temple to be near God’s presence – he only experienced the Holy Spirit when then Lord sent his Spirit upon David for specific acts of service – it wasn’t a 24hour a day thing.

We on the other hand have God living in us 24-7, we have the Holy Spirit working in us all day convicting us of sin and pointing us to righteousness and towards God’s way.

David knew that this would be an essential ingredient in the life of anyone trying sustain a right relationship with God – well this morning if you know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior then you have that which David yearns for – God in you.

But that’s still not all, look at verse 12 (READ). We have a clean heart, we have God within us and according to verse 12 –we have the truth. Motivation is an important aspect of sustaining a right relationship with God and I can’t think of anything more motivating than an all-powerful, holy God sending his only Son to die a criminal’s death on a cross out of pure love for you and I – that is the joy of my salvation. David is saying remind me Lord how you cleansed me – remind me that if I seek mercy from you, you will forgive, remind me Lord how you blotted out my sin and iniquity – remind me how you put me in a right relationship with you. Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.

So we have 3 precious gifts from God that will go a long way to helping us remain in a right relationship with him: we have a new clean heart, his Holy Spirit in us and the truth of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. But it would be a tragedy if we had all these things but refused to act upon them. I think David has this in mind when he asks God to ‘renew a steadfast spirit within’ him in verse 10 and to ‘grant him a willing spirit to sustain him,’ in verse 12. David is under no illusions as to how easy it is to slip from that right relationship and so he pleads that God would make him willing to persevere day in and day out at being in a right relationship with him.

Folks we have to persevere – we need to act in such a way that acknowledges that fact that we have a changed heart, we need to respond when the Spirit convicts us of sin and we need to bury our faces in God’s Word and be reminded day in and day out of the joy of our salvation – of Jesus Christ and the gospel.

It’s hard so we need to ask God to grant us that willing spirit that will press on to maintain the right relationship. David realized this and I think it’s crucial that we come to this realization too. You have the right equipment if you are a believer this morning – now persevere with it. That’s the first key to staying in a right relationship with God.

There’s one more thing that David has to say about staying in a right relationship with God and that’s found in verses 13-19 and that is this: There are results that come about from being in a right relationship with God. David divides it up into 2 categories: results in the individual in verses 13-17 and results in the community of believers in verses 18 and 19.

Look at verses 13-17 (READ 13-17). A right relationship with God will result in worship. By worship I don’t mean singing, that is a very narrow and inaccurate reading of the Bible’s understanding of worship, when I say worship I mean a lifestyle of service and worship to the glory of God.

David basically says to God: ‘as a result of you putting me in a right relationship with you I will tell others about you, about how you save, about your righteousness.’ The result of forgiveness in David is true worship in his life. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon, in works based religions like Islam, Hinduism and Judaism you would worship to get into a right relationship with God. In Christianity you worship as a result of being put in a right relationship with God through Jesus.

Worship and service is a natural result of being made clean. If you’re not worshipping God through your life everyday you need to seriously stop and consider whether or not you really understand what God has done for you through Jesus. If we want to be motivated to worship more, with more zeal and determination then we need to reflect more on the amazing work of salvation done in us through the blood of Jesus. Here’s a little bit of logic for you that might help you in this process:

James chapter 2 tells us that true saving faith produces true works of worship in a believer. If we take that a step back Paul tells us in Romans that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. So here’s the logic: serious investment in the Word of God, in the Bible, will, on the basis of the Bible itself, go a long way to producing true works of worship within you.

Some people tell me that I stress the importance of Bible reading a lot when I preach, but you know I’m not really that concerned if I’m getting on people’s nerves by continually stressing it because at the end of the day it’s only through God’s word and the convicting work of the Spirit that we will be changed and made more into the likeness of Christ. How do you think David came to the conclusions he did in this Psalm? I’ll tell you how – Nathan the prophet brought God’s word to him and he was convicted by it – that’s how.

But you know it’s not just the actual works that are the issue here. Anyone can hide behind a whole lot of busyness and service but in the mean time their spiritual lives are falling apart. That’s why David clarifies his worship in verses 16 and 17 as not merely being the outward act but as being an attitude of his heart.

God’s not really interested in your service per se – he’s more interested in why you’re doing that service – what’s your motivation? Is it to look good amongst other Christians? To ease your own conscience? Or is it out of love to a God who has loved you more than you can ever imagine? What’s behind it?

Being in a right relationship with God will result in true, heart-driven, worship.

There’s one more short point that David makes in closing this Psalm and that is about the effect of a right relationship on the community of God as whole. Look at verses 18 and 19 (READ).

Through repentance and the forgiveness of sin God will build his kingdom. Zion and Jerusalem are one and the same place and more important than that they are the symbol of the Kingdom of Israel – God’s kingdom.

David is saying that if we all as individuals get into and remain in a right relationship with God it will result in the advancement of God’s kingdom – of his church – of his people. It will result in his people actively taking part in worshipping and serving him. You want to see the kingdom grow? You want to see this church grow? Then stop worrying about other people and first make sure that you are persevering in a right relationship with God – because David promises us that if we do that God’s kingdom will grow.


We’ve had a lot of information come at us this morning out of the text. It would do you a lot of good to go home today and read it again in depth. Look at all the statements and pleas that David makes and ask that first question of yourself as you read it:

Am I in a right relationship with the only holy and perfect God? And if the answer is yes then ask the second question of yourself: Am I persevering in a right relationship with God? Are there things that need to come right? Do I live like I have a clean heart? Am I responsive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin? Do I truly worship God? Is it heartfelt worship? Or am fooling myself and others?

Folks when I look at those two questions I also see to big incentives that fill me with much joy and hope – God can and has made me clean before him so that I can be in a right relationship with him if I accept his Son’s work on the cross for me. And God’s kingdom will grow and prosper to his glory through my perseverance in that right relationship. I think that’s more than enough reason for us to get serious about the state of our current relationship with God.


Faking It?

I was reading over an old post by the Internet Monk, Michael Spencer, about why Mark Driscoll rubs some evangelicals the wrong way. The one point he makes is that evangelicals are bothered by the openess with which Driscoll discusses his own sin. I thought Spencer's insight, combined with Driscoll's attitude were brilliant, so I've quoted a section of the post below - notice what we(evangelicals) might really be doing?

"Mark Driscoll bothers you because he’s not lying about his sins.

If you have read this web site, and kept up with the drama that is my online existence, then you know that I have been taken to task for saying too much about my own sins, struggles and shortcomings. I’ve written honestly and I don’t plan to quit. This confessional writing gets an overwhelmingly positive response from people who are tired of religious hokum and BS, but there are plenty of people who think it’s the worst thing in the blogosphere and that I’m not really a Christian when I say I’m a sinner.

This is why I love Driscoll. From the first time I heard him till I finished reading Confessions, he’s been telling me about his cussing, his failures as a family man, his screw ups as a pastor, his learning curve and his self-inflicted pain. I know a lot more about Driscoll’s struggles than I do those of most of his critics. As of yet, I haven’t heard Driscoll lecturing anyone on how they need to shape up and start acting like the kind of Christian he is. Driscoll seems a lot more concerned with dealing with his sins as opposed to pointing out mine. Far out.

In other word, he gets what Luther got: the Gospel is a table for sinners and sinners only. He gets what Merton got: the phony self is the enemy. He understands what those few honest souls like Rich Mullins and Mike Yaconelli understood: the Gospel is perfect from God’s side and messy from ours.

Driscoll is what Piper calls a “gutsy” sinner, i.e. someone who takes the promise of justification through the mediation of Jesus as the way to rise up with bold, honest confidence in God’s acceptance and forgiveness.

The problem within evangelicalism is that we are all hurting, all struggling, all failing and all faking it, but we are acting as if we have it all together. We talk about sanctification and holiness, good works and living out our theology, when we are messes, each and every one of us. Our marriages aren’t that pretty picture and our kids aren’t those youth group darlings. We don’t pray much, we’ve got lots of questions and we really wonder if we’re not the world’s biggest fake.

What to do with the cussin’ Christian? Let’s denounce him, snipe at him and sneer. Let’s encourage him to come up to “our level.” What a pile of hogwash."

Read the complete post here.


2 Ways to Live

Psalm 1 was brought to mind with new freshness today as I recieved news about an old colleague from highscool - Let's call him 'Mike'.

Mike and I were friends, not close friends, but friends nonetheless. We were both quite wild and reckless as teenagers. In fact I quite vividly remember sleeping over at his house one night because, his parents were out and we wanted to smoke weed and get away with it. Weed, alcohol, partying and girls were the order of the day, weekend after weekend - we were both able to get by in school fairly well and not let our recklessness affect our marks - us and so many others - a facade of successful humans.

When school finished up, it was the last I saw of him, and at that point the rest of his life becomes a mystery to me. My 'life', on the other hand, was just beginning - a few short months after finishing at school and starting at university I met the Lord Jesus and his Gospel message face to face as a friend witnessed to me from Scripture. From there everything changed dramatically - the weed, alcohol and partying dissappeared and within a year I was convinced that there was nothing else on earth I could possibly do other then pursue a life of full-time Christian ministry. So I set my eyes in that direction and have been pursuing it ever since.

Its been 7 years since I last saw Mike, and I've got no idea what happened in Mike's life in those 7 years. But this morning I wake up to the news that Mike has taken his own life, that whatever happened in those 7 years has ended in tragedy. This, fact shocks me this morning, to know that I was once on the same path that he was on.

Now I make no judgements upon Mike, I'm not permitted to, nor do I want to. I also have no idea what his relationship with the Lord was like - or if a realtionship existed at all. What I do know is that the Lord has been gracious to me beyond anything I can measure. And so this morning I'm not to sit and Lord the existence of that grace of God over others - that is a sickening sin. Instead I'm completely humbled as I stand before the cross and see its significance in my life. I am humbled and I am constrained - the love of God constrains me to proclaim his name in all the earth. This morning the reality hits me that there really are only 2 ways to live, and I am so grateful, beyond words, that God has granted me his way.

On Sunday morning I will be preaching of Psalm 51 - and constrained by the Love of God and with the help of the Spirit I am going to plead with people to be reconciled to God - God has given me a glimpse of his goodness, I can have no other response.