Monday, February 28, 2011

Righteous Fruit

Be good…Do right. This was what I remember being told by my mama and daddy when I left their home and went out into the great big world at the age of eighteen. Old enough to know right from wrong and too young to know very much at all. So just before I boarded a bus that would take me to the big city of Raleigh NC, my mama gave me her counsel which was primarily concerned with behaving myself. Being good in her opinion consisted mainly of not doing wrong things. My daddy knew that understanding how to do right came from responding rightly to authority. I was leaving home to join the military. And for anyone with a flawed understanding of how authority works, the drill instructors in basic training had a memorable way of teaching. I remember that my daddy told me that if I was told to dig a ditch, dig the ditch straight and dig it right. When I got on the bus, I was silently hoping that the ditch wouldn’t be too deep or too long. Their blessing was summed up in the words Be good…Do right.
There is a difference between blessing and cursing. The last word in the Old Testament canon is the word curse. Theologically speaking, when Jesus began to preach the word of the Lord, He spoke words of blessing to a people who were living under the curse of sin. Matthew’s Gospel gives us some of the recorded content of a sermon that the Lord Jesus preached. He had begun to preach that men should repent and believe the gospel. His sermon begins with telling God’s people where their blessing is found and what the gospel is all about. It is God’s good news for man’s bad condition.
The passage we consider today is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Some have said that it is the New Testament’s comparison to the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. The similarities are striking where a voice of authority gives God’s people a standard to live rightly before God. Some have said that just as Moses gave the Law on a mountain, the Lord Jesus also gave the Law from the mountain. In past ages, this kind of thinking has contributed to the erroneous mindset that the New Testament is the Christian believer’s set of rules and the Old Testament doesn’t apply anymore. In other words, for the believer in Christ, this is our formula as to how to be good and do right. Therefore, the Sermon on the Mount is the Christian’s to do list as it applies to our being able to access the Kingdom of God.
In one way this is an accurate view. Jesus says so Himself. There is a standard that is given that grants us access into God’s Kingdom and God’s Presence. It is the same standard that the Old Testament Law of Moses presented to the People of God. This standard is called righteousness that results in perfection. So in this way, the Sermon on the Mount communicates a standard. But this standard exceeds the Law and the righteousness that the keepers of the Law believed they could attain. Righteousness is the subject of our message entitled Righteous Fruit. Listen for this concept of righteousness to come through as Jesus speaks to the multitudes on the mountain. Hear the Word of the Lord prepare our hearts at Mount Olivet to Become Fruit Bearing Disciples in a Kingdom Culture, learning to bear the righteous fruit of the Kingdom of God.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:1-20)

Followers of Christ were to be very different than what people were used to seeing. It is significant that Matthew records the preaching of Jesus as He began His public ministry in much the same way that John had been preaching. Repent…the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. This tells me that something needed to be different than what people saw in other people who believed they were following God. There was a new thing happening in the religious community. Jesus called common men who left their lives and their lifestyles to follow Him. People were being healed from every kind of disease and afflictions. Demon-possessed people were set free of their spiritual bondage and the gospel, or good news, of the Kingdom of God was being proclaimed. A New King was in place. Jesus had battled with the devil in the wilderness and established a beachhead in the invasion. He was attracting a vast following. Religious practitioners were taking notice. And one day on a Judean hillside He gave to all those who would listen the key to surviving this spiritual engagement. He taught them about the one thing they could not live without if they were to live for God and with God. They must learn to excel in righteousness. The disciple, or follower, or learner, of Christ was to be very different from any other student of religious teaching. The righteousness of men needed to be standardized. Righteousness needed to be defined. Jesus gave the definition of righteousness for disciples of all ages.
Righteousness is God-centered. The word righteousness comes from a root word that means straightness. It refers to a state that conforms to an authoritative standard. The central element in found in righteousness is the intention to be and do right. For Pharisees in the days of Jesus righteousness came to be a matter of externals and the inner intent was often lost sight of altogether. Righteousness is an attribute of God and also a desire to be godly in character. Godly goodness is at the core of true righteousness. One preacher defines it as gospel goodness as opposed to religious righteousness. The fruit of a Kingdom Culture grows from the inside out.

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Hunger and thirst are manifested by a desire to live and not die. Any living thing may have to be taught to eat and drink…but they will not have to be taught how to hunger and thirst. They instinctively know that they must eat and drink. Without these two desires being fulfilled living creatures will perish.
This gives me great hope when I desire to study God’s word. Here is where the righteousness of God is found. When I have an overwhelming desire to seek God’s righteousness I can know that I am not the source of that desire. Like something growing in me that needs to be fed, the righteousness that is of God has been planted deep within me. The more it grows, the more like Christ I want to be. I am blessed when I desire God because this desire will be filled. When I hunger and thirst for God’s word that is good news for me.
It should give me cause for alarm when I don’t desire to study God’s word, hear it preached or taught, or be with the community of God’s people. A doctor will often ask the patient about their appetite to diagnose some sort of malady. The doctor seeks to find a remedy for a problematic condition. When someone has no desire to eat or drink, these are like warning lights on a dashboard of a car. Something is wrong with a Kingdom Culture Disciple who thinks that he or she is pursuing the righteousness of God and does not have a desire to pray to the Lord or spend time with His word or worship with His people. What is most alarming is when I am doing all these things mechanically…without the want-to. It is past alarming and most deadly and dangerous to my life when I do not even realize that I lack the desire for the righteousness of God.


Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Enemies to righteousness are enemies of Christ. Have you ever been around religious people and they discourage you? Religious people who think themselves to be righteous can be some of the most miserable people to be around. And it seems as though they live to spread that misery. Religious pretenders cannot be like Christ if they do not have His righteousness. It is an impossibility. So to make themselves feel better they usually make others feel worse. A Christian is a little Christ. Sometimes when a little Christ, a follower that is authentic, is spotted in the religious community, some of the hypocrites, the ones who are acting, determine to make the little Christ seem smaller, so they can seem bigger. Practicing religion without authentic righteousness is detrimental to Christianity. Hypocrisy is the enemy of reality. Have you ever heard of people in a workplace that were only there for the paycheck? They spend more time trying to figure out how to get out of work than to get work done and watch the clock rather than watch out for the owner’s interests? Let a diligent worker who comes there to serve the boss and serve others as unto the LORD, and express joy in the fact that they have a job in these days and sparks begin to fly. The real thing always makes the fake thing look pretty shabby. Persecution of righteous people by the religious community is a given when one pursues real righteousness.
Ritually religious people never do anything unless it’s about them. When Jesus began to expose the motives of the religious practitioners, the war was on. When these people were called to explain why they did what they did, they often could not answer. Because the motive of the heart was revealed. When a person practices religion with impure motives it is always about self worship and manipulating God. When we fall away from the Lord because following Jesus has become uncomfortable or inconvenient, it reveals the true condition of our heart. Spiritual fruit grows from the inside out. What’s showing is what’s growing!


You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world…

Salt is a preservative and light illuminates. Jesus is telling His followers that they are to make a difference in the world. Their purpose is to engage the world and its decay and darkness with the righteousness of Christ. Christians cannot afford to hide within their culture when the culture around them decaying and dying in the dark.
Sometimes a little salt can make a lot of difference. Consider the roasted corn at the state fair. I love the one close to the Village of Yesteryear. It’s one of the high points of our fair engagement every year. But I cannot leave that place with my corn unless I put some salt on it. After I’m finished, I never say, That sure was great salt! But I always say, That sure was great corn! The purpose of the salt is to enhance whatever it comes in contact with. A little salt goes a long way. Are you a salty Christian? Do others see you enjoying Christ? Do people see you tasting and seeing that the Lord is good?
Sometimes a little light can make a lot of difference. I must correct something that I said last week about the first sermon I preached here was a trial sermon about Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul. It is true that it was the first sermon but the trial sermon, the one preached before the church voted to issue a call, was one from this passage of scripture. The sermon was called Torchlight or Porchlight Disciples. The premise was that we are called to be lights of the world. To carry a torchlight would be the understanding of Jesus’ day. But in our day we have porchlights…that only shine so far outside of our house. A torchlight or a flashlight goes out into the culture and shines forth. I tell you this as a matter of personal examination. I have ministered in your midst for over three years now. This week I have asked myself this question…have I been a torchlight or porchlight disciple during this time? Am I becoming a Kingdom Culture Disciple or content to be a Temple Culture Practitioner? What am I doing with the light that has been allotted? What am I doing with the salt that has been proportioned? How does my righteousness compare with that of the Pharisees?


Years ago I worked with a man who came to be known as It ain’t enough. My friend had lost his wallet. It contained his driver’s license and some other forms of identification, a couple of credit cards, personal pictures and such. A couple of days later he received a phone call from a man who asked him if he had lost his pocketbook. When my friend said that he had, the man asked if he was offering a reward. When my friend said yes, he would pay fifty dollars, the man on the other end of the line said, Well, it ain’t enough, and hung up! Many times after that we would look at my friend and say to him, It ain’t enough! But my friend was not nearly as shocked as these folks on the hillside that day when they heard Jesus speak about the Pharisees and scribes. Surely these folks were righteous enough…at least if you had asked them they would have told you so! From then on, many of the people would look upon those religious folks in much the same way, remembering…it ain’t enough!

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The scribes and Pharisees were the models of religious practioners. And it wasn’t enough. If the Pharisees and scribes could not get into the kingdom, where was the hope for anyone? Was anyone ever good enough? Surpassing righteousness is that which goes beyond and exceeds our expectations of what righteousness has always been shown around us. So the question of that day and this day becomes, if man cannot achieve the righteousness of God, if our good behavior does not achieve true righteousness, then how can a man enter the Kingdom of God? In John 3, Jesus told one particular man…Nicodemus…a Pharisee, you must be born again. The gospel is the good news that God has done for us in Christ what we are helpless to do for ourselves.
The sacrificial system in the Old Testament and the cross of Jesus in the New Testament shows man’s need for righteousness. The people of God must become the children of God. We do not make that happen. God does. The fruit of the Christian is the righteousness of Christ. It is growing there because it grows where the Spirit of God abides. Righteousness begins with knowing Christ…Jehovah…our righteousness.
When receive the nature of Christ only then can we begin to manifest His righteousness as our inheritance. The reason we can live there is that we have inherited that privilege. It is a birthright and we belong there because we belong to the King. If we are privileged to live in the Kingdom we will be related to the King. It is not enough to know about Him. We must know Him and be known by Him. God, our Father.
The cross of Jesus is a public demonstration of God’s righteousness. Christ died for the scribe and the Pharisee…most of them did not believe that. He, who knew no sin, He who was the righteousness of God…became sin for them. God judged their sin on the cross because their self-righteous behavior was just not enough. Yours and mine are not either. He who knew no sin became sin for you and for me so we could become the righteousness of God. Do you know that? Do you believe that? Do you trust that when Jesus spoke these words that He spoke God’s word because He is God? Do you believe God means what He says? Or do you think your good works makes you good enough for God? Well, it ain’t enough. Trust Christ…Repent…Believe the Gospel. Be blessed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Lord's Last Supper

The Last Lord’s Supper has a different meaning to me than the Last Supper. When we stop to think about The Last Supper, many of our minds begin to bring up the mental image of Da Vinci’s famous portrait. Since the 15th century a multitude of art connoisseurs have put forth their interpretation of the meaning of Da Vinci’s work. Even in our day, the rumors about the painting and its meaning live on in our culture in stories such as The Da Vinci Code, fabricated by Dan Brown. One thing I can say with conviction is the only way we can truly know the mind of Leonardo Da Vinci is to ask him…and he’s no longer among us. And the only way Da Vinci could have known the truth was to have Truth as his source. And in this way, we are as far removed from the first century cultural experience of this religious observation as Da Vinci might have been. And we can be just as flawed in our thinking about the meaning of the Lord’s Last Supper as an author who made up a story in order to sell books. So how can we think rightly about that night? Is there a source of truth that is dependable and credible? Do we really have testimony from those that were there? Why was that night so special? Why was it any different than any other night? Our text before us today is recorded in all four Gospel accounts from different perspectives. We, as the people of God, can attest to the veracity of the Biblical account because we can believe what the Holy Spirit of God has revealed to us by faith. Believers can believe the Bible because it is the Word of God who inspired the human authors. Asking God to enlighten our understanding of what He says to us today, let us now endeavor to hear the Word of the LORD.

Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?”And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”
And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”Jesus said to
him, “You have said it yourself.” While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:20-30)

The cultural context of this passage can give us valuable information for the biblically minded meaning-maker. Jesus was going to die and be betrayed by one of His disciples. As they ate together, Jesus revealed His knowledge of the plot to all, and informed them that this would be the last Passover meal they would share together in this world. This night would surely be one to remember. And indeed, they did remember.
What we read in the Gospels is their testimony. It was a lot for these Kingdom Culture Disciples to take in. Today we can be reminded of that night…what it might have been like for the disciples as they shared a meal to remember. Today, and in the past few days, many of us have been trying to process information that is difficult for us to take in. We have been trying to interpret the news of the death of David Johnson. And trying to think about what the word of the LORD has to say about it. It’s a day that we are given to remember.
The Lord’s Table reminds us of death as we remember the LORD. As I think about it’s meaning, and the meaning of the Last Supper, my mind reflects upon the Lord’s Supper. It is significant that we observe the Lord’s Supper this morning. This is the time we usually set aside to observe and participate in this ordinance. It is on our church calendar…we have planned for it. But through the providence of the LORD God, we can learn today that everything happens according to the LORD’s sovereign time.
One question that I bring to you today is…What do you remember about the last time we shared the Lord’s Supper together? Was it significant? Different? Is it forever etched in your mind? Have you thought about that day since or was it just another day? Were you only passing through? We have no guarantee that the next time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we will all be together. Since that time and this time we have been forever changed by death in our midst. We will never be the same again. Even if none of us dies before the next time we come to the table, we will never pass this way again. It is my prayer that we discover that this day is unforgettable in our journey with Jesus as Kingdom Culture Disciples…and we remember what He has to say about it.
Focus with me on the last verse in our text as we enter into this new reality. In the middle of this rapidly moving drama is the statement: After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Is this as puzzling for you as it is for me? Does it provoke additional questions such as: Why were they singing at such a time as this? Follow that question with this one: And Jesus, knowing where this night would end…why was He singing? And since the LORD’s word can comfort His people in times of distress, does God have a word today for us as we grieve the death of David Johnson? Does this ancient account have relevance for His people today? Do Kingdom Culture Disciples have reason to sing…even in this hour? The text answers our questions as we prepare to come to the Lord’s Table.

The Lord sung after the supper…to remind His disciples…that we can sing with Him.

After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


The timing of the singing gives us a hint to what they might have sung. They were celebrating an early Passover supper in the Upper Room. The phrase singing a hymn can actually be literally translated as hymning, not being confined to a single hymn, but the singing of many. The Jewish hymnbook was the Psalms, or the Writings. Because this is a Passover observance, this was probably a recitation of the Great Hallel, which Jews usually sung at the close Passover Supper. It is composed of Psalm 113 and the five that follow through Psalm 118, often vocalized as singing or chanting audibly.
The Hallel begins with the first verse of Psalm 113. In English we read: Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD. Praise the name of the LORD.
The Hebrew language would read Hallel…lu…Yah. Praise Yahweh…The Personal Name of the God of the God’s covenant people. It encourages me to know that when I say or sing Hallelujah, I am vocalizing the language of the godly worshipper. I am bearing good fruit. And if I know only one Hebrew expression, that is a good one to know. The next five psalms lead me to believe that this is what the LORD sang that night. I cannot imagine that Jesus was not the Lead Singer in the band. The Lord never gets tired of singing His own music. From the beginning of God’s creation, He has declared that only He is worthy of worship. All of creation declared the glory of God. Jesus had been singing that song from the beginning. He wrote that love song. This is an amazing thought…God was singing to Himself. And He has been doing that forever. Before there was a creation, before there was a curse of death, before there was an instrument of death called a cross, God was singing this old song to Himself.
Jesus was singing about the One who sits on High and looks down low.
Who is like the LORD our God, who is enthroned on high? Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth? (Psalm 113:5-6)
Jesus can sing to the Father while looking into the darkness of death because He knows that the LORD God is looking at Him. His eye is upon Him. Jesus, being God Himself, humbled Himself and came to dwell with His people. This is the glory of knowing God in Person.
Jesus sang of the God who delivers His people through death. There is good reason to sing when faced with death. Stephen Foster had it right when He wrote:
It’s a dirge that is murmured around a lonely grave…Oh, hard times come again no more. We want to be delivered from death’s hard reality. But God does something far better. He delivers out of the midst of death even while it is still all around us. Psalm 114 tells us that When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became His sanctuary, Israel His dominion. God has always lived in the midst of His people even in the darkest times of judgment and death.



The Passover reminded them where they had come from and where they were going. Jesus and the disciples would have experienced Passover celebrations every year for all of their lives. It was part of their identity. Even to this day, the question that is asked at a traditional Passover observance motivates everyone to never forget the story. The question, often asked by a child to the father, Why is this night different than any other night…prods the memory of everyone to remember the Passover. Today, as we share in the Lord’s Supper, as we mourn the death of one of our church family, we can remember the Passover…when…
Death passed over God’s people so they could pass through death. The story reminds Kingdom Culture Disciples of all time about the time when the High King of Heaven came to rescue His people. He brought judgment to the Egyptian Pharaoh, the most powerful king of the earth at that time and invaded this strong man’s house. The plagues upon Egypt proved that Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, was the Most High God, because in God’s Universe, there is only room for One True God. The idolatrous nation of Egypt was representative of sin’s dominion over God’s people. And God had come to save them. Sin would not be their master. The last plague was the one that broke the bondage of God’s people as slaves in Egypt. Freedom from sin’s dominion came at a great cost. Hear the words of the Lord from Exodus 11:4-6.

…About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again.

Sin delivers death…and the LORD delivers through death. Kingdom culture disciples remember that death of something precious is the price for God’s people to pass through that night without this judgment touching them. Something must be sacrificed. It would be a lamb…without blemish or spot or defect…the lamb must die so God’s people would live. The blood of the lamb would be painted on the doorposts and the lintel of each family’s doorway. When the LORD saw the blood, death would pass over the house, so the family could pass through the darkness and dreadfulness of death.
Behold, the Lamb of God…who takes away the sin of the world. This is what John the Baptizer said to his disciples when He saw Jesus and at least two of them were now sitting at the Lord’s Table. Jesus, God’s perfect sacrifice, was with them at the table. Symbolically we share that experience when we come to the Lord’s Supper. Realistically, we share that experience. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is given to us to deliver us from death’s dark domain. And God’s final judgment on sin, the outpouring of His wrath has passed over us…so we could pass through death. This is the story…we must remember…death is not our final resting place…death is the doorway to the rest of our journey. Jesus is not only the Lamb of God…He is the Good Shepherd…He is the Door of the sheep. Following Jesus leads us to God.
When God’s people came out of Egypt, they sang a song to the LORD. The people of the exodus had to persevere as they heard the ever-increasing thunder of the Pharaoh’s horsemen and chariots pursuing them in the darkness. Fear had all but paralyzed them as they looked backward into Egypt’s land. They were fearful of sure death that was chasing them. Sometimes God’s people can be haunted by the darkness of the past and intimidated by the darkness of the future. Most of these times, our fears do not materialize. Our experience in the moment with the Presence of God is all we really know for sure. When this present experience unfolded before God’s people, and the Red Sea was parted and the people crossed on dry land, and Pharaoh’s great army was drowned when the walls of water fell and drowned Pharaoh’s army, God proved that His presence is more than enough for His people in their present experience, no matter how dark, no matter how fearful.
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore…then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the LORD… (Exodus 14:30, 15:1)
God delivers. And when He does, God’s people have a familiar old song to sing in a strange new way.



Jesus said this is My Body. When He said this to these early disciples He was speaking in the present tense. He did not say, this was My body, but this is My body. He was with them. In a few hours…some of them would doubt. But in spite of their doubt, He was still with them. We enjoy that same reality. He is with us. He is in the midst of our suffering…in the midst of our mess. He is engaged. He is not a dead God. He is alive forevermore. This is something for Kingdom Culture Disciples to sing about. Hallelujah! Jesus is alive! And because He lives…we can live also.
The Blood of the Lamb is offered for God’s people. It was to be poured out for many…not all…but many, for the forgiveness of sins. Are you one of many? This is something to think about and something to sing about. This symbolism is not some ritualistic magic formula. But it is a realistic miraculous offering. God Himself, sacrificed by God Himself, so His people could come to God Himself. For we cannot get there all by ourselves.
God’s people do not sing solo because Jesus sang with His people. This is the community that God calls us into. The People of God must sing in unison…meaning one voice. We must be singing the same thing. God is worthy to be praised. Eternal spiritual death has passed over us so we could pass through physical death by the death and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are only passing through. This Passing Through Place is a journey. The difference is how we travel…with God by our side or we can ride solo. But Kingdom Culture Disciples do not sing alone but they do sing along. They do not walk alone but they walk along. The Lord is alongside...He is with us.
We sing because the King is singing. The King has always been singing. He is singing about the joy beyond the shadows of the sorrow. Consider Jesus singing…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. We can sing because our King is singing.
This may be our Last Lord’s Supper. We are reminded today by David Johnson’s absence of that possibility. This may be anyone’s or everyone’s Last Lord’s Supper. But, Hallelujah, it will not be the Lord’s Last Supper! There is one meal that is coming. So when we observe this Lord’s Supper, take a backward glance at the Passover and take a forward gaze to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. It will be set before us…in an eternal setting. But we will have to pass from death to life to get there. Many have already begun passing through. They are going to be there. But some will not pass from death to life. They have never been born again. They will pass from death to death. Some may live their whole lives going to church and they have never been born again. From one week to the next the only thing that changes is that they have gotten a week older in their physical body and it is continuously dying. These will pass from death to death. They will not be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. They will suffer the wrath of the Lamb continuously…forever and ever.
Looking backward, gazing forward, let us look around us…to one another. Come to the Lord’s Table, thank Him for His mercy, and love Him for His love.
Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD. Praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Just Words

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” This quote is attributed to Albert Einstein and found in an anonymous letter to President Harry Truman, although it may be a variation of what he actually said. The smartest man in the world was responding to the development and the use of atomic weapons in the 1940’s. It is also reported that he wrote to President Roosevelt, Truman’s predecessor, saying “Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would not have lifted a finger.” Einstein feared the prospect of a nuclear future. He believed that once its destructive power was unleashed, the terrible consequences of the atomic bomb in warfare could never be undone. Until the end of his life he lamented and regretted his participation in the process. Humanity’s sorrowful reality can surely be experienced in wars, rumors of wars, and wars of words.
Sticks and stones can be pretty problematic. According to the old adage, they can break your bones but words will never hurt you. Really? Did the writer of these nursery rhyme words live in the same universe where we can destroy and be destroyed in a moment by something that someone has said? We cannot go back to the place before the words were spoken, and cannot undo the damage, no more than Einstein and his colleagues could unsplit the atom. The war of words has been fought longer than any other war. It has affected our ability to bear good fruit from the very beginning. The problem with humanity is that we are not taking what we say as seriously as God does in His universe. And in the war of words, there are far too many casualties in a culture of religion.
The LORD God has been fighting the war of words even before the moment when His word was questioned in the Garden of Eden. When some majestic angelic entity proclaimed that he would make himself like the Most High, the Most High God heard it. During the times of delivering His people from Egypt’s bondage and the establishment of the kingdom of Israel, God had reminded His people through the prophets about the fruitful nature of His word. His word bears good fruit. In the times of Jesus, He confronted religious people in their personal accusations and their use of words. It wasn’t the first time that God’s integrity had been questioned. And it wouldn’t be the last. Let’s turn to the Word of God as we hear the LORD drawing a contrast between fruit bearing disciples of a temple culture and fruit bearing disciples of a kingdom culture. The passage from Matthew 12 comes from one of our daily readings and has grown into the sermon entitled Just Words. Let us hear the word of the LORD:

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
(Matthew 12:33-37)

Disciples of a kingdom culture can benefit greatly from learning more about what Jesus said about disciples of a temple culture. People of a religious persuasion that are more concerned about the institutions such as the temple can do great, and sometimes irreparable, damage in the way that they speak. Sometimes they may not realize that the damage is so destructive. And sometimes they don’t care because of personal motive. The problem with this kind of thinking is that the destruction is more self-destructive and self-inflicted than they realize. In fact it can be spiritual suicide.
Jesus responded to the wrongful accusations of the religious practitioners where both He and His disciples were concerned. When the disciples were criticized because they were picking grain on the Sabbath, Jesus not only spoke to the critics about what the Sabbath was all about, but informed them that He was Lord of the Sabbath. He made the astounding claim that something greater than what they valued the most was among them. Something greater than the temple was here. When He performed miracles and cast out demons by the Spirit of God, the criticism was actually more damaging to the critics than they could imagine. Their very souls were at stake as they blasphemed the Spirit of the Living God, giving the glory that rightly belonged to God to Satanic authority. Jesus had something to say about what they had to say. And what He had to say was more about Him than they rightly understood.


Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.

Growers of good fruit know the value of good fruit trees. There were two significant trees in the Garden of Eden. And the fruit of only one was forbidden. The fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not to be eaten. Their systems could not tolerate what God did not want them to know. The fruit was bad for them because the tree was bad for them. The fruit was corrupted because the tree was corrupted. Rotten trees bear rotten fruit. And once eaten, this rotten fruit bore fruit and men became evil.
Men bear bad fruit and they can do evil all by themselves. A desire for what God had forbidden blinded Man to the other significant tree in the Garden, the Tree of Life. Because of Man’s evil actions, even the best of the trees, the most virtuous tree, the most beautiful tree, the good tree, the Tree of Life became a forbidden tree. God expressed His mercy for sinful man by evicting him from the Garden lest he eat from the Tree of Life in his sinful state and die for all eternity. Eternal life without a heart change is a very bad thing. Contrary to popular thinking today we won’t die once and fade away. It is appointed for man to die and then the judgment. When we die in our sin without a change in our eternal condition, without a change of the heart, we die eternally…and we are continually dying. God is merciful to us in this moment because He invites us to come to Him and surrender our evil hearts to Him…He will change its nature.
Jesus knew the character of the Pharisees because he knew their thoughts. Before a man can speak, the LORD already knows what he thinks. This should cause us to tremble. So just a tree is known by its fruit, a man is known by God from what he thinks. And unless the nature of a man is changed, the eternal fruit will never be changed from bad to good.
Therefore only the activity of Maker of the tree can make the tree good. Only God can change the heart so it bears good fruit. Good fruit is beautiful fruit. Beautiful fruit is fruit that brings glory to the grower. It is virtuous fruit and fruit worth having and cultivating. This passage teaches us that there were some religious people who had never been changed in their nature. They still thought and spoke evil of God and His people. I think it’s safe to say that we live in a day like that. Trees are known by their fruit. Trees are made and known by their Maker.
This passage not only teaches us about the nature of trees but also instructs us about the realities of snakes.


You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.

People who handle rattlesnakes know that they cannot be distracted and must focus on their heads. I made this observation once while with a friend on a rattlesnake roundup in Texas. There were some people there who bore the scars of times when they weren’t quite focused enough. Some were missing fingers where the snake had injected its poison in an unguarded moment. The head of the snake is the dangerous and deadly end.
Jesus calls these religious people a brood of vipers. This is the same terminology used by John the Baptist when he asks the religious pretenders who warned them to flee from the wrath of God? Vipers are not harmless snakes. The word viper describes a venomous and poisonous snake. The word brood connected with vipers literally means the offspring, produce,or fruit of a poisonous snake. One snake produces a brood. Why would Jesus and John use this descriptive phrase?
In the Garden, there was a poisonous snake. What came from its mouth brought death and corruption to the whole human race. It produced evil and rotten fruit. And it still does. Evil seed bears evil fruit. Evil breeds evil. Evil has infected the heart and people do evil, they speak evil because people are evil. Evil words are not just words but poison to the people of God. Evil people can no more speak good things than worthless trees can bear beautiful fruit. The evil that men do does not make the man evil. The evil man does evil because his heart is evil.
Consider the Lord’s question…How can you, being evil, speak what is good? The human heart is an incubator for evil. The fruit of the human heart is rotten to the core because it is rotten from the core…from the inside out. The heart is a reservoir of evil…a storage place for corruption. An evil man will not have good motives…he cannot speak what is good. The mouth speaks the overflowing overflow of the heart.


The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.

Like a locket with a treasured image inside, we keep something highly valued close to our hearts. The good man keeps good treasure in the treasure chest of his heart. Whatever is precious has value to him. Since the heart is where we store up our treasure, what comes out of it is what we value the most. Our fruit as kingdom culture disciples or temple culture disciples will be on display. Our fruit is the produce of the heart.
Good words that speak from godly character are to be treasured because they are highly valued by God and His people. What we love will be kept in the storehouse of our hearts. Good words are treasured and kept close to the heart. But it is clear from this passage that some people speak evil because they love evil. This is a disturbing when I think of people in the religious community of our day. The Lord is not only a Fruit Inspector, He is also an Appraiser of Valuable Things. Some people distribute encouraging and loving words from their heart. And some people store up worthless treasure that they keep trying to give away. But worthless words have no value in God’s kingdom. Worthless words are careless words.


But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.

What Jesus says matters more than what we think about what matters. I have heard some Christians say that the words they spoke didn’t really matter. After all, they say, they’re just words. This is kind of like the sticks and stones proclamation. No matter what we think about what we say, whether we think we meant them or not, Jesus says something entirely different. When He says But I tell you… He says something different about the matter. And what He says is ultimately what will matter.
Every careless word will be held to account. This leads me to believe that Someone is keeping up with how I speak every day for all of my days. Some of my days I just did not know any better. But after my heart was changed I had a different reality. After I began to hear and study the Word of God I began to receive instruction for living. After the heart change, the LORD teaches the believer to be like Him. There will be an accounting for every, each, and all words that are careless spoken out of our mouths. We will tell Him why we said what we said. And we will remember every one. In that day we will remember that He who knows trees the best can read the intention of every man’s heart. There will be total accounting in this day of judgment for every careless word. Are you ready for that accounting session?
Careless words are idle words. These are words that won’t work in God’s kingdom. They are useless words that do not build up but are quick to tear down what God is building. They are worthless words without value or virtue. What we are thinking and what we are saying is what we are living because we live out of our hearts. What we say may be held against us. It is time for Kingdom Culture Disciples to realize the enormity of the sin of our speech and repent from the evil that motivates us to bear worthless and rotten fruit. Recognize it, own it, and repent from it. The words we speak are not just words…or are they???


For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Just words are not insignificant words…they are the words of our testimony. Our words are powerful in the spiritual realm and this is how we relate to God. What we say is carries a lot of weight as to its evidentiary value. What we say can be held against us...or the words we speak can be used to gain a favorable ruling. I’m all in favor of seeking God’s favor.

Consider the person being interrogated and called into account by law enforcement authorities in our culture. In 1966, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Arizona vs. Miranda. Since that time the law has said that suspected law-breakers or subjects of interest must be advised that they have the “right to remain silent and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Could it be that Jesus was giving the people of God in His day and in our day the same kind of ruling, that we really do have the right to remain silent? We do not have to say everything we are thinking. Some things we say are not worthy of God’s people. In the day of judgment we will not be able to claim that we didn’t know any better…or we had not been advised of our rights. Some things we need to think about before we speak them out. For when we speak against God and His people we have entered an area of spiritual warfare that we cannot return from and the damage is often irreparable.
The Good News is that with the LORD’s ominous warning comes His encouraging counsel. By our words we will be not only be condemned, but by our words we can be justified. Now this is different from being self-justified. Self-justification is seeking to make excuses for the things we say. Self-justification leads to self-righteousness. And a self-righteous, self-justified person will never be justified before the Living God.
It is critical today for us to respond rightly to what we have heard today. What can we say to bring us justified before the LORD when we stand in His presence in the day of judgment? Who among us can stand in the court of God’s justice? Who can survive when He speaks His just words? What do we do today about what we have heard today? First of all, we must seek the face of the LORD, asking Him to search our hearts while we seek His face. Secondly we must seek His forgiveness for speaking against His plans, His purposes, and His people. We must repent from that mindset, turning from evil words and turning towards good words. By God’s grace and with His help we can be an encouragers, people who speak good to God’s people and about God’s people who are seeking God’s purpose. Lastly, we must realize that we cannot survive thinking the way I have been thinking. We cannot continue to live the way we are living and pretend that we are bearing godly fruit.
Once again I commend to your thinking processes the word THINK to use as an acronym. With God’s help we can train ourselves to pray through what we say before we say it. Use the letters to ask the LORD to help you in the process:

T…Is what I am about to say TRUE?
H…Is what I am about to say HELPFUL?
I… Is what I am about to say INSPIRING?
N…Is what I am about to say NECESSARY?
K…Is what I am about to say KIND?

Words are not just words when they mean insignificant words.
Words are just words when God presents them as the evidence for us to be justified.
Words are just words when God presents them as the evidence for us to be condemned.

When we THINK before we speak, it’s amazing how many things will go unsaid…and God is glorified as we learn to bear an abundance good and godly fruit.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Blessed Eyes and Blessed Ears

But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your eyes, because they hear. (Matthew 13:16)

You see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear!
I wish I had even a small sum of money for every time I've heard that expression...or pretended I didn't. I'm probably not alone in this observation. Somehow I think it is a common thing to hear what we want to hear and see what we won't to see, especially in a family context. As I reflect on this I wonder why it is that we see this manifested in our closest relationships. Could it be that even though we are supposed to be closer to our family members, especially husbands and wives, we often take one another for granted. If you've ever been on the receiving end of being ignored or neglected you know how insignificant that can make one seem. Maybe it's because we are so comfortable with one another and forget what it was like when the relationship was fresh. The new baby's attraction begins to fade a little when the baby begins to demand a new level of sacrifice, especially in the middle of the night. And there are many things that tip off the newlyweds that the honeymoon is indeed over. Jesus is teaching in this portion of Matthew's Gospel in parables. The disciples wonder why he does this. Jesus explains that He speaks to them this way because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. The multitudes just didn't "get it." What was the problem? They saw what they wanted to see and heard what they wanted to hear.
Disciples of Jesus were different...or at least they are supposed to be. They had been granted a great privilege. They were given more than just the ability to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. They were granted the desire to know. I think this is still the key. If I have begun to take my wife for granted, to tune her out or turn a blind eye toward her, it is because my desire to please her or serve her has been diminished. We can relate to God in much the same way.
The nation of Israel were so familiar with God's word that it soon lost its appeal and relevance. All of their history had proved they often turned away from the LORD. But their teachers, scribes, and lawyers were so familiar with what they thought the word of God said that they were oblivious to the Word of God when He stood before them. They saw what they wanted to see...not God Incarnate...but an itinerant Galilean. They heard what they wanted to hear...not the wisdom of God but the words of a shyster. Do we see God in the Word of God or are His words just words? Do we hear Him speak to us or do our best to ignore Him?
Understanding the word of God is the thing the multitudes lacked. And this understanding is what benefits the disciple in learning to bear godly fruit. To understand the word of God is a gift that is granted. It begins with surrendering our lives to its authority. Getting under it...taking our place in His kingdom.
Understanding God's word begins when we begin to stand under God's word.We are blessed because we can hear and blessed because we can see.
Be blessed in God's Word today.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Favorable Face of God

Have you ever heard people complaining about someone getting in their face? Usually it’s heard in the context of a confrontation within our culture. What it can mean is that someone is too much involved in another’s personal space with a hostile attitude. It’s interesting how we use the word face in our communication, don’t you think? And if you haven’t thought about it, use this opportunity to think with me as I use the word in the following ways: You should have seen the expression on his face! The guilt was written all over her face. It looks like you have to face the facts…face up to it…don’t hide your face…you have nothing to be ashamed of…I can’t bear to face him. And a phrase you’ll find closing so many love letters, I can’t wait to see your face!
Today’s message is another chapter in Becoming Fruit-Bearing Disciples in a Kingdom Culture as we explore the meaning of Psalm 27. The sermon title is The Favorable Face of God. Let us begin as we hear the Word of the LORD.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.
One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me up.
Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a level path because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence. I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.

It seems wise for us to first try to capture the meaning of what the Psalmist may have had in mind when he speaks about the face of the LORD. Realizing that the Psalms are written in poetic language we can first set to rest that God has a face similar to what people are used to seeing on other people. The psalmist is writing in language that expresses meaning so we can understand. We read in the Bible of the LORD’s strong right arm, His feet on a footstool, and His face that shines upon us. This language is called anthropomorphic and can be defined as the attribution of a human form, human characteristics, or human behavior to nonhuman things such as a deity. So to interpret rightly what the word of God is saying, and whether we should even listen to the rest of this sermon, it seems good for us to think about what it means to seek the face of the LORD.
Biblically speaking, to seek the face is to desire an audience with a prince, or some great sovereign and powerful ruler, to seek His favor. Seeking God’s face assumes some of the same meaning…seeking favor with a Sovereign Ruler. It is a phrase that is symbolic in its figurative language to express the presence of God. In Genesis 3:8 we read that the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. The word for presence is literally face. The phrase in the face of God can mean in the presence of God and is often translated that way. In the Bible we can read that God hides His face, which means that He withdraws His presence, along with His favor. This can be understood as a consequence of man’s personal disobedience to God, the natural consequence of humanity’s sinful condition. For God to hide His face is synonymous with rejection.
In light of this understanding this psalm provides us with life’s progression, both physical and spiritual. If the Psalmist is David, and I believe that it is, then we are given incredible insight into his life. Here he has written about what it has been like for him throughout his life experience. His journey from the fields of a shepherd all the way to the palace of a king is given to us in a thumbnail sketch. The psalm provides us with a progression of life. Physical and spiritual life. A life that bears fruit. Bearing fruit comes with the understanding of living while we are yet dying, and understanding of dying while we are yet living…living and dying. Growing. Maturing. Bearing fruit.
In the middle of the psalm, verse 8 to be exact, I think we find the hinge verse that the whole psalm revolves around and develops from: When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.” This exchange between a man and his God is central to the teaching of the passage. It is the essence of a relationship with God. God initiates contact and gives the psalmist the desire to seek His face. The psalmist realizes this and makes the commitment. This is the psalmist’s testimony. God drew Him to seek His favor, to pursue His presence. The questions to ask today are:
Why does the Psalmist “seek the face of the LORD”? Why should we seek His face?
There are at least three clear motives that we can discover from the text.

He seeks the LORD because he is afraid. Humans have many reasons to be afraid. One of the instinctive and primal fears is the fear of darkness. Many threats to our well-being are hidden there. We have learned that the fallen human condition has planted this fear in the mind because of our fallen nature. In Genesis 3, God finds Adam hiding…because he was afraid. He was afraid because his eyes were opened to the wrong reality…and closed to God’s truth. Some things humans would never again be able to understand apart from the LORD because they had trusted their lives to the counsel of the serpent, or “the shining one,” instead of the LORD God’s illumination. The psalmist reflects upon his need for God’s light to dispel the darkness and illuminate the surroundings of his fearful environment.
The LORD is my light…Whom shall I fear… is the psalmist’s proclamation. The use of the word whom instead of what is instructive for us today. It seems that we as a society are more afraid of what…coupled with if. What if I cannot produce at my job which has ever-increasing demands and I am not able to provide for myself? What if my health deteriorates and I do not have adequate insurance? What if I lose my retirement and my plans for the future are not to be realized? Legitimate concerns for the days of our lives. These are fears that are focused on the physical life. But in the days of the psalmist, the fear was more fundamental…more basic. He was afraid for his very survival. Some things you can live without…but you can’t live without your life.
The psalmist may have been afraid of thieves who wanted to steal his sheep and would not hesitate to take his life as well. Perhaps the preparation of guarding the sheep at night, looking up into the night sky, at the majesty of His Maker’s night lights, he came to truly understand that the LORD is my Shepherd… This kind of illumination would sustain him in dark days ahead when he would flee for years from the wrath and envy of a king who desired to kill him. If he stopped at the wrong place or made one wrong move, Saul would have his hands on him…then his sword would be within him.
He is afraid because death is never far from him. David lived with this reality. And sometimes he hid in the darkness so death may not find him. Adam had done that as well. Knowing that God had promised death to him as a result of his sin…Adam hid from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden…Humanity hid from the face of God…and we hide to this day. Some folks are so busy that they never consider that death is so close by. We don’t want to think about it until the time comes. But who among us can say for sure when that time will be? Are you afraid to die?
David had learned this secret…God wanted to save him when no one else can. God can save you when you cannot hide anymore. God can save you when death is near. That’s why he could say The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? David had learned the perspective about fear that Jesus was talking about in Matthew 10:28: Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. This is a good word for us in days ahead. A proper fear, or worship, of God puts all fear into perspective. We say we trust God for our eternal lives. So what is keeping us from trusting Him with our earthly lives? Do we really think of seeking God at all or are we too afraid to think about Him? What if He called us into His presence at this moment? What would that be like for you…terror or tranquility? Do you trust God? Consider the Psalmist’s heart conversation with God…it is possible because he has first had a heart conversion from God.

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”


One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple… You have been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me up.

He perceives the Presence of the LORD as his sanctuary. He asks to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life. What a contrast to our popular (and permit me to say), shallow question that some may have been exposed to: Would you like to go to Heaven when you die? What’s wrong with that question, someone may ask. Nothing wrong with the question except it simply doesn’t go far enough. Most people would like to go to Heaven when they die. Especially if they believe in its existence and especially when they consider hell as an alternate destination. Many people have had this question presented to them and they have expressed their desire to go to heaven. Someone has led them in a prayer that repeats what the leader says and after they’re finished, there is a proclamation that this person is guaranteed a home in heaven. The problem comes that the person never intended to seek the face of God…their heart never talked to Him at all. And they live the rest of their life with no visible change in the way they think, speak, and act…waiting to die, never converted, believing they have a reservation in eternity. They never even consider that Heaven is all about the Presence of God. The Psalmist has a deeper reality. He needs this sanctuary in the here and now, not the by and by. He desires the Presence of the LORD because he is aware that he is lost and alone without Him. He knows what I know. If you’re looking out into some future experience, waiting for your home on high, that is not enough. God desires more than that. So should we. You don’t have to wait until you die to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of your life. The future is here and now. How will we someday live with God if we have never learned how to live with God? This begins with a heart change, evidenced by the desire to be with God and God to be with you.
The benefit of dwelling with the LORD is to experience the fruit of worship. When we rightly bear the good fruit of godly worship we will reap an unsurpassed harvest in our human experience. The right worship of God can bring us into the deepest places and set us upon the highest places. When we worship the LORD it brings Him glory and it brings us blessing. The temple of the LORD was still a future reality in David’s time but it was a yearning of his heart nonetheless. But God had gently told David that it wasn’t his job to build Him a temple. A house is just too small for a God who has the whole earth as His footstool. The LORD reminded the Psalmist, even though he was a king in his castle, that the LORD was building a place for His people to dwell…in Him.
The psalmist seeks the face of the LORD in order to behold His beauty. In the late twelfth century, about the time of the Crusades in the region known as the Holy Land, a young boy named Baldwin the Fourth was named King of Jerusalem. When this boy began to ascend to the throne as a teenager it was discovered that he was infected with leprosy. He was historically known as the Leper King. The fictionalized version was made into a recent movie named The Kingdom of God. In the movie King Baldwin wore a mask to conceal his hideous image. The mask was an invention of the movie creator and in the story he depicted Baldwin as essentially a peace-lover instead of the warrior king that his claims that he was. His disability as a leper was also diminished. But leprosy was a sorrowful state of life. In Biblical times, leprosy was a visual picture of sin in action. A physical picture of a spiritual reality. Sin conceals itself from us as to what it really is. As we think through this illustration consider that apart from God’s ability to illuminate our darkened minds, we have the appearance of this world seen through eyes that cannot see the truth. The eyes of sinful humanity have been opened to that which should have remained closed and have been closed to the truth of the Living God. The true Leper King, the ruler of this world, surely wears a mask. And the psalmist has seen enough of the ugliness of this world to desire something different. Are we more like the psalmist who knows that the LORD is good and His goodness is greatly to be desired? Or do we even think about the beauty of the LORD and its effects on our lives? Only God’s goodness is beautiful. The mask is off. The ruler of the world has been exposed to us. Do not be satisfied with what the appearance of our culture displays in its hollow promises and flashy presentations. Behind the scene there is a Leper King who has come to kill and steal and destroy. The LORD, the High King of Heaven, reveals His beauty to the ones who will seek His face!
The psalmist is talking about a time when he feels the most alone. His mother and father have forsaken him. Perhaps he has lost them to death. Many of you know that some of our loneliest times are times when we remember that our mothers and fathers are no longer with us in the land of the living. David proclaims that there is a future hope…the LORD will lift our heads …the LORD will raise us up. David saw a future day in the Presence of the LORD beholding the face of God. In two thousand years of funeral services multitudes of preachers have proclaimed the words of Jesus in John 14:
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. These words of Jesus have comforted untold multitudes of mourners. For some of those who mourn the death of loved ones, there is a promise of a place for them and their loved ones. They will see them again is part of their understanding. But the truth of the words of the LORD brings us to a deeper meaning. Heaven is a place for the people of God…to worship the LORD…it is the place for which we have been created to be…in the Presence of the LORD…living with Him…seeking His face!


Desperation is a powerful motivator of human behavior. Listen to the heart of someone seeking holiness: I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. It is more than probable that David came to this understanding after his great sin of adultery and murder. After this incident, the life of God’s good king spiraled downward. It was never the same. Sin and shame not only broke his heart, its destructive impact left its mark on his children and his children’s children. How could a man after God’s own heart be in such a desperate and sinful state? No doubt he became too distracted to seek the face of the LORD. He lived for a season under the wretched burden of his sin. In Psalm 51 listen to his heart cry:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)

Our desperate condition as sinners takes us to a lowly place. If you have ever been under conviction of the Holy Spirit, if you had ever been in a place where you thought you would surely die…then you have never had the depth of your sin revealed to you. When we have enjoyed living with God, seeking His face, we know that when He comes to us to reveal our sin, it exposes our desperate condition. The next thing we do when we see our souls in misery determines whether we will bear godly fruit. We must be restored. And the good news of our condition is that the Word of God reveals a gracious and compassionate God.
The psalmist had come to believe in the will of the Living God to not only restore but sustain. We too must come to believe that it is God’s will for us to live…and not die. Do you believe that the goodness of God is greater than your present circumstance? We can trust the LORD. We can seek His favor.
Trust is the fruit of a human being seeking the face of the LORD. The psalmist had discovered that in times of despair that he could trust God to help Him. His testimony is that God Himself helps us to persevere. It is here that our spiritual lives will struggle the most. We often are like children. We have not learned the discipline of waiting.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.

It is the mark of a spiritually maturing disciple to understand that God is doing something with our lives. He is developing a trust level that was broken at the beginning of humanity. It takes time and trials. When we wait on the LORD we take our place in the universe. Waiting is necessary to hear Him say, “Seek My face.” Consider your response to Him today. Can you hear Him? Are you still enough to hear His still, small voice? Do you know that it is the will of God to seek His face? He would not be saying it if He did not mean it. Look now and behold the favorable face of God.
Finally, I have discovered this great truth from spending time with the Psalmist. A man’s spiritual life is shaped by talking about God and talking to God. It involves two great parts of one great theme. Both are necessary and need to be cultivated for the Kingdom Culture Disciple to bear good fruit. If you only talk about God to others, about how much you love Him and trust Him, and never talk to Him, there is a serious disconnect in this relationship. If you only talk to Him without talking to others about Him, this falls far short of His purpose for the lives of His people. We are to be fruitful and multiply, sowing the good seed of godly fruit, growing up into God and God’s word as our witness growing out of our hearts.

As we move to concluding this message let us reflect and practice what the LORD has spoken to us in His word: Let us seek His face…Let us savor His favor… We have found Him in His word…let us seek Him in our prayer.

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”