Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Posture of our Hearts

We've started a new series at CrossWay called SING...going through some of the Psalms. A few Sundays ago, Joe Lechner did an incredible message on Psalm 136. It was a very appropriate message following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving isn't just about food or family. It's about being thankful...but more than that...it's the posture of our hearts...a posture that shouldn't change just for one day. (Colossians 2:7, Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Psalm 136 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, for his steadfast love endures forever; and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever; with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever; and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever; but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever; Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever; and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever; and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever; a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever. It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever; he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.
We are called to thank him always and for everything. Thanklessness is no okay...it's no small thing to be thankless. We don't naturally lean towards thankfulness, we tend to lean towards complaining. None of us are as thankful as we could or should be or near as thankful as scripture has called us to be.

When we read Psalm 136 we see a Command to Thankfulness in verses 1-3 and verse 26...the Object of our thankfulness in verses 1-7, 10, 13, 16, 17, and 26...and the reason for thankfulness throughout the passage.

The Command:
Give Thanks.
This is a call for us to give thanks...it's not an option, a choice, or an idea. People of God, give thanks. It is always appropriate for us to give thanks, whether we feel like it or not.

The Object:
We aren't just being thankful for thankfulness' sake. God is the object of our thanks. There is only one to whom our thanks is given...God. He receives our thanks and it is to him that we should be continually thankful.

Now...the reason for our thanks.
What is the reason?
Verse 1: For He is Good! - that's the fundamental reason for our thanks. He is the Lord, Yahweh, the God of Gods, Lord of Lords, Adonai, Ruler of Rulers...he's in a league all by himself. He is worthy of all praise, glory, honor, fear, reverence and thanks.

Many of you have seen The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. In one scene, Lucy asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan is safe and Mr. Beaver responds: "Of course he isn't safe... but... he's GOOD... He's the King." The one to whom we give thanks, the amazing, mind-blowing thing about him is that he is good. Give thanks - he is good.
He is good beyond all others: indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people. - Charles Spurgeon
Out of his goodness flows a truth about God. It is repeated 26 times in Psalm 136..."His steadfast love endures forever." Because he is good he loves us like he does. If he wasn't good, he wouldn't love us like he does. His goodness and love cannot be separated.

Give thanks to the Lord - Why? - because he is good - How do I know? - his steadfast love endures forever.

Hesed is a specific love that God has for us. It represents his faithfulness, his covenant, it is unwavering, it is loyal, it has no end or interruption. We see it in God as our Creator, Savior and Friend.

God proves his steadfast love as Creator in verses 4-9. Creation is a work of the steadfast love of a good God...creation is no accident. Remember in Genesis 1...God saw that it was good. When we see and experience creation, we should praise him for his manifestation of his steadfast love.

God has given us a suitable place to live on Earth. NASA keeps searching for other life and other places that could support human life...and they've come up with nothing. In the vast expanse of the universe...God has provided everything precisely how we need it to live. Creation is filled with expressions of God's love, power, wisdom, understanding, care, and goodness.

God proves his steadfast love as our Savior in verses 10-22. Read through verses 10-22 without the refrain...it reads something like this:
Give thanks… to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt – and brought Israel out from among them – with a strong hand and an outstretched arm – who divided the Red Sea in two – and made Israel to pass the midst of it – but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea – who led his people through the wilderness – who struck down great kings – and killed mighty kings – Sihon, king of the Amorites – Og, king of Bashan – and gave their land as a heritage – a heritage to Israel his servant… and all of it an expression of his steadfast love which endures forever.

Exodus is the great salvation of the Old Testament. The Exodus meant in the Old Testament what the Cross means in the New Testament. Inject the gospel into Psalm 136...it might read something like this.
Give thanks… to him who struck down his Son on Calvary – and brought his people out from their sin – with a strong hand and a bloody cross – who tore the curtain of the temple in two – and made a way for us to pass through – and overthrew Satan and his hosts at the cross – and who leads his people into salvation – and who will strike down all their enemies - and finally lead them home as possession forever... for his steadfast love endures forever.

Salvation is the greatest pledge, the loudest statement, and the undying proof of his steadfast love.
1 John 4:9-10 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Our salvation is the assurance we have of his love. We are forgiven, redeemed, and adopted. If we have his salvation, we have his love. If we have his love, we have Him. If we have Him, we have everything.

Psalm 136 is not the only place that speaks of his steadfast love...read Psalm 63(Because your steadfast love is better than life,my lips will praise you.) or Romans 8. Should my life be taken, I still will live in him and can give thanks. Because he is my Savior, he is my victor! When he fights, he wins. Sihon, Og, Satan, Sin...it doesn't matter, he still and always will win.

In his presence is our heritage. It will be ours one day. We shouldn't wait until then to thank him...thanks should be given now.
2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
We get grace, he gets glory...through our thanks.
And it's a particular kind of gratitude. There is nothing generic about it. It is thanksgiving for the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, who came to save his people from their sins. This is the kind of thanksgiving that the apostle is aiming for. The kind that no holiday can manufacture. While we do have some writings from the early pilgrims, we don't really know the full details of the "thankfulness" present when the original attendees huddled around that now-famous meal. Were their hearts inclined to God in some vague sense? Did they call him Providence or Jesus? Were they just glad to have some food? We don't know, and for our purposes it doesn't really matter. But what does matter is how we will huddle around our meal tomorrow. Here's a plea that we look along the beams of delicious turkey and good football to see Jesus, crucified for us, dead and buried for us, raised for us on the third day. For his grace has been extended to us. We've heard the good news. Paul (or one of the apostles) told someone who told someone who told someone. And eventually one of these "someones" told us. This grace has extended to "more and more people." It has extended to you and me. So in the midst of our many thanksgivings, may we be mainly thankful for that — for Jesus and all that he is for us. And in so doing, may we fulfill Paul's goal, the increase of thanksgiving, to the glory of God. - Jonathan Parnell(Desiring God, Thanksgiving to the Glory of God)
Lastly, God proves his steadfast love as our Friend(verses 23-26). The Psalm ends on a personal note. He remembered us and rescued us. It helps us see it for past generations and for us in the here and now. We are beneficiaries. We were dead in sin, objects of wrath, slaves of the devil, hating the light, blind, hard hearted, serving the created not the Creator, scattered and wandering, hostile, separated, enemies...But...he has remembered us. He has rescued us. He is good. Out of his love we are no longer enemies...we are friends.
John 15:9,13-14 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
D.A. Carson says so accurately, "If one measures friendship strictly on the basis of who loves most, guilty sinners can find no better and truer friend than in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Son whom He has sent."
And we cannot ask for more than that. God is good. His steadfast love endures forever. All we can do is be thankful.

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