Humble and Trembling (Isaiah 66:1-2)

God is sovereign and supreme, yet He delights in making Himself available to His people in powerful and intimate ways.  His delight is not in religious duties performed to curry favor with Him. To taste God’s intimate presence is not to be in a building going through motions of religious duty. To taste God’s intimate presence is to be humble and broken before Him and to obey His Word.

We can experience the intimate presence of the living God when we gather together in a building or when we are scattered throughout our cities. And we can miss the intimate presence of the living God when we gather in a building and when we are scattered throughout our cities.  Our intimacy with God is not supremely settled because of our location.  The key to our intimacy with God is supremely settled through a heart that is humble and obedient toward Him.

1. God makes His home in humble hearts.

God draws near to those who are humble and contrite. He sets His gaze upon those who see themselves properly in the light of God’s holiness.

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

The opposite of “humble and contrite” is proud. Pride is more than merely the first of seven deadly sins.  It is the essence of all sins. God declares that He opposes those who are proud. We are proud when we look at the work of our hands or those things which bring us delight, but fail to set our focus on God’s glorious person and work.  We are proud when we fail to confess that God is the reason for our life and the source of all that is good.

“In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death, and he prayed to the Lord; and He spoke to him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was proud; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 32:24-25)

Pride is a reflection of a crooked soul. Rather than focusing on the glorious work of God, rather than reflecting on the grace of God’s rescuing love, rather than serving God, the heart of pride seeks to gain prominence over God’s rule in his life.

“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

The humble heart bows before God in absolute dependence. The humble heart seeks God’s glory, purpose, and desires above all else.  The humble heart is broken over its rebellious moments.  When we understand and live as one who is broken and in need of repair that only God in His grace can provide, then we are truly humble. This is the heart that God makes His home.

The pathway to humility begins with the gospel. It is the gospel of God’s glorious grace through Christ Jesus that shows us our sinfulness and God’s holiness.  It is the gospel that declares our guilt and God’s just judgment.  It is the gospel that provides our forgiveness through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  And it is the gospel that constantly reminds us of our need of God’s grace each day of our lives.

2. God makes His home in obedient hearts.

God makes His home in the heart of those who tremble at His Word. God is looking for men and women who humble themselves before Him and obey His Word.

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’” (John 14:23)

To tremble at God’s Word is a picture of a heart that understands the severity and intensity of obedience to the One who has given us life. It is doing what God says, even when it’s not what we want.  It is living our lives through the lens of Scripture.

The challenge that we face as followers of Christ is to think biblically. The reason this is challenging for us is that we have allowed so many other things to determine how we live, what we believe, and how we feel.  But followers of Christ must constantly renew our minds and lives according to God’s Word.  If we are to live faithfully, then we must think biblically.

Humble and obedient hearts invite God’s favor. What makes the church glorious is not our buildings, programs, innovation, or style.  What makes the church glorious is a congregation of tremblers, humble and broken, before the One who sovereignly and supremely rules over heaven and earth.

 

Heart Cry (Psalm 25:16-22)

When we consider the right decisions that we need to make each day, there are countless opportunities for God to shine brightly in the shadowed uncertainties we face. Yet, for those of us who seek to honor Him, we are forever confronted with the fear of the unknown and the challenge of circumstances beyond our ability to manage.  It’s a lot like every day for me.

So, in the final few verses of David’s psalm, we hear a cry to the Father from the heart of His own. It’s our cry each morning when we consider the challenges that each new day presents.

1. Turn to me, O Lord! God promised the Messiah who would come to bring good news to the poor. The dawning of Christmas is the in-breaking of God’s gospel into the world of people who are destitute and in need of help.  We hear this prayer of the “poor” ring out from the pen of the psalmist.

 

“Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses! Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive all my sins. Consider my enemies, for they are many; And they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You. (Psalm 25:16-21, NKJV)

The psalmist knew that he was in trouble, and he was at the place where he acknowledged his dire straits. For many of us, such a confession seems out of place in our lives.  Rather than asking for an intimate encounter with God, we shrink from it. The gaze of His loving eyes would be too much for us.  It would cause us to see ourselves too clearly.  We would see without any shadow that we are truly in need, and that we cannot help ourselves out of our mess.  As much as we try to acquit ourselves, God’s gaze would dismantle every loophole in our self-defense.

Perhaps we do not understand what it means to be “poor.” When the psalmist cried out for an intimate encounter with God, he understood that he was “desolate.” He was isolated and lonely.  The “poor” are those who are alone. Consumed by their loneliness and isolation, they have no hope for intimate community.

The soul of the “poor” has shrunk into the corner of life because of internal distress and external struggle. They are afflicted.  In some ways, this is a picture of the person who lives out their days unable and unwilling to move forward in life.  They long for an escape, but they feel utterly powerless to navigate toward rescue because they are pummeled by the misery of their soul.

The poor have troubles that grow instead of shrink. The boundaries of their heart somehow expand to hold all the raging anxiety and anguish of life.  While the tight places of their life become more and more confining, the cancer of fear and anxieties spreads maliciously through their heart.  In the tight places of life, the “poor” see the marauding maladies of life and feel the weight of their plight.

Affliction and pain are combined forces that sweep the “poor” into an ever-increasing, chaotic vortex of misery. They are kept in the cage of internal distress and external struggle which leads to a lack of satisfaction in the daily routines of life’s day. In the misery of the soul, the work of the hands is filled with sorrow.

Sin comes into the description of the “poor.” Sin is the main force behind the affliction that the “poor” encounter. Sin is our greatest enemy!  The grief and the pain that dominates the soul of the “poor” with a destructive force is sin’s bitter fruit.

Added to the overwhelming dirge of life-eating struggle for the “poor” is the hatred and hostility that permeates their life. Their heart was the playground for anxiety, but their enemies also jumped into the fray, hammering them with the fiery flames of hate.

This is the life of the “poor.” Isolated and alone, they feel powerless to manage life’s struggles.  The noose around their soul strangles their hopes as their anxieties go on a feeding frenzy, devouring any remnant of peace in the heart.  Sin delivers the permeating and pummeling pain of shame, robbing them from even small joys in daily work and life.  Hostility and hatred team up to ram them with condemnation.

For the “poor” to find help and hope, they need God’s intervening love and favor. So, the psalmist cries out for God to stoop toward Him to rescue him.  The prayer of the “poor” is for God’s intimate presence to shelter us, and for His favor to saturate our soul with His power.  The answer to this prayer is realized in the coming of Jesus Christ, who is God’s favor in flesh and bone.

2. Deliver me, O Lord! Our heart must cry out for the Lord to keep hold of our life and bring the victory. When we trust in the Lord, we can be confident that He will deliver us.  He will consider our life consumed for His honor and seeking His path for living.  God’s faithfulness is forever foremost in our hearts.  And we wait for Him to move with power in our lives.

The hope of our heart is God’s work of redemption and deliverance. Because He is faithful, we cry out with confidence for His deliverance.  And God delivers!  When the sun sneaks across the horizon and blazes its course across the sky, we can live with the confident assurance that we will make the right decisions when we live for God’s honor and fame each day.

 

Heart Work (Psalm 25:6-15)

My car was rattling and clanging. At first, I didn’t do anything about it.  I would drive it to school and ignore the sounds that the engine made.  Eventually, the smoke pouring out from under the hood convinced me that it was time to fix the problem.

When I took my car to the mechanic, he took one look and offered me $500 for the car. I told him that I was there to fix it, not to sell it.  He giggled a little (irritation was the emotion that I was feeling), and he told me that he would have to replace the engine block to fix the car’s problem.  I learned an important lesson about cars that day.  You’ve got to tune them up regularly to avoid disaster.

The same is true about our heart as followers of Christ. If we’re going to experience the best in our life, then we must tune up our heart each day.  David helps us with some of this heart work as he leads us on a journey through his own experience.

Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. He himself shall dwell in prosperity, And his descendants shall inherit the earth. The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.” (Psalm 25:12–15, NKJV)

1. Tune our heart to who God is and how He works. A heart out of tune with who God is and who He works will sink into despair or be filled with pride. The psalmist helps us understand the nature of God and how He moves in our lives. And we must tune our heart to His character and His activity.

The psalmist called upon the Lord to remember the tender mercies and steadfast love that is His nature (25:6). He has a deep love for those in whom He has established a relationship.  This unbending nature of God moves with power toward those who have embraced Him as their King.

The bottom line for us this morning is that God loves us, and His love brings relief to us, even when we do not deserve it. He works in our lives with the compassion of a father who cares absolutely and perfectly for his children.  It is this character of God that compels us to follow His instruction and turn toward Him in repentance when we have sinned against Him.  God loves us!  As we focus on His love, we beg for Him to consider us, not according to our sin, but according to the love that forged the fellowship between Him and us (25:7).

The psalmist then declared that God is good and upright (25:8). The goodness of God means that He is absolutely free from anything wicked or evil, and His intention for us revolves around His delight in doing what is best on our behalf.  In goodness, God is always just, displaying integrity in His dealing with you and me.  It’s His nature of goodness that delights in delivering the best on our behalf, and it’s His justice that compels us to follow His ways.

2. Confess and turn from your sin. A prominent feature in the work that has to take place in our heart is confession and repentance. Because we are sinners, we must regularly and radically deal with our sin.  The psalmist acknowledges his sin, both from the past and in the present (25:7).  He asks the Father to pardon his great sin (25:11).

We should tune our heart to who God is and how He works. Because He is good and upright, we see our sin in the light of His goodness and righteousness.  Because He is faithful in His love and delights in the best for us, we can confidently count upon His forgiveness and the restoration of fellowship with Him.

The solution for our heart cluttered by sin is God’s gracious favor and goodness in our lives. God longs to create in us a heart that is clean.  A heart that is a reflection of His goodness and love.  When we are aware of who God is, His love and His holiness, then we will experience the pangs of our sin in the deepest part of our soul.  We will come to know the misery of sin, which will draw us to confess and to repent.  We will long for His forgiveness to cover us and deliver the solid life that satisfies (25:18).

We must confess our sin and turn from it. Through confession, our heart tunes to the way of God.  Through repentance, our heart finds cleansing from the stain of sin.  God works through the power of His Spirit to open our eyes to His ways and how we have walked in disobedience and rebellion.  And it is through the power of His Spirit that we find the courage to turn from our sin and embrace once again the path that God has called us to walk in concert with His character and sovereign desire.

3. Tune your heart to what God wants continually. A heart out of tune with what God wants is destined to repeat the cycle of sin and shame that His grace and favor have resolved. But, because God is good and just, He teaches sinners the way to live in concert with His desire (25:8b).  The more in tune our heart is to God’s nature, the more we will learn the pathways that He calls us to follow.

When we humble ourselves before God each morning, He will open our eyes and heart to the steps that He has mapped for us (25:9). These pathways are saturated with the loving protection and compassionate care of the Father, and they are always reliable and trustworthy (25:10).

The essence of tuning our heart to what God wants is bound up in the phrase, “fear the Lord.” The fear of the Lord is the absolute respect and awe for God flowing from a relationship with God and resulting in obedience to God. When we live in the fear of the Lord, then we will experience a life that is filled with blessing (Psalm 128:1).  The psalmist points out the nature of our obedience that leads to blessing: the one who “fears the Lord.” It’s who we are, not merely the things that we do.  In our heart, we fear the Lord.

A person who fears the Lord listens to One voice. That is the voice of God, directing our steps and leading us through life for His honor and glory.  It is through God’s grace and for His glory that you and I become those who fear Him.  It is not the work that we do that makes us fear the Lord.  It is His mighty work of grace in our hearts when we surrender ourselves to Him through faith in Jesus Christ (Jer 32:38-40).

Our heart is fixed on God’s command. When one “fears the Lord,” he becomes consumed with the desire to please the Father by obeying His commands.  Our heart’s affection is upon our Lord, and our desire is to follow His commands.  Our heart has been changed by Christ’s salvation to cling to what God wants as the very breath of life.  We find joy of God’s blessings when we open our heart to His commands.  His desire is our desire.  His calling is our vocation.  His command is our obedience.

The fear of the Lord produces the best in life. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.  When we fear the Lord, we find the fullness of life in every part of our day.  We will live in concert with God’s purpose and perfect plan.  Our lives will be tuned to His desire and we will taste the abundance of life that He produces.  Today, let’s fear the Lord.

 

Follow Instructions (Psalm 25:4-5)

The words were scrawled on a paper napkin. It was late and dark, and I was straining to make out the scribbled letters.  I was on my way to a retreat center, and I knew that the students were waiting on me to get there.  I was the speaker at the weekend conference.

When the leader of the conference had asked me to speak, I was very honored and excited. He sent me the directions to the retreat center.  But as I was preparing to leave, I was in a hurry and didn’t want to take the time to fire up the computer and print out the instructions.  So instead of printing out his clear, step-by-step instructions, I decided to scribble them down on a napkin.  And now, I was struggling with the road-signs and turns.

The good news is that every day, God gives us instructions to follow. But will we follow His instructions?  The right decision is to focus on those instructions and follow His advice.

Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25:4–5, NKJV)

1. God provides guidance for living. David’s request was for God to cause him to know the ways that God desired for him to walk. David wanted to know the journey he must make for God’s pleasure. And David had the certainty that God would do that very thing.  Like a young student learning grammar from his teacher, we must be students of the Lord learning the pathway to His pleasure.

It is with this expectancy and certainty that we move forward on our journey each day. We ask for God to make known to us the way that we should live for His pleasure.  When we know the way of the Lord, then we can make the right decision no matter the circumstances we face.

When we transfer our trust into the hands of God, then we can expect Him to bend our hearts to His truth. Truth that belongs to God is that which is solid, valid, and trustworthy, absolutely factual, and without error. David declares that his life must bend to what God says, for what God says is absolutely true (Jer 23:29).

2. We can rely on the One who saved us. It’s really simple. If someone has enough passion for us to deliver us from our greatest threat, then we can trust their heart to direct us to the best path on our journey. David declared that he would listen to God and follow His instructions because of who God is and what God is doing.

We rely on God because He is God. The specific name that David uses for God in verse 5 is Elohim. The name of God reveals His personhood and personality. Elohim points to the One who is the Creator (Gen 1:1).  He is the One who laid the foundations of the earth and who stretched out the universe on its line with absolute exactness (Job 38:4-5).  He is the Sustainer of creation and life (Isa 40:26).  He is sovereignly supreme and sure of all things.  He is in control of the entire scope of human history and life (Rev 10:5-6).  And because He is Elohim, we can rely upon His purpose and design as the very best for all humanity.

We rely on God because He is God, but He is also the God of our salvation. He is the One who has delivered us from sin’s embrace and given us victory through Jesus Christ His Son.  He cares so completely for us that He determined to save us from our greatest threat.  Paul said it this way:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32, NKJV)

The God who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe is the One who has brought salvation to sinners through Christ. If God cares so much to deliver us from sin’s chains, we can rely on Him to teach us the pathway to a glorious life each day.

3. Wait on His work in our life. So often, we want to hear what God has to say about our journey, but we get impatient. It’s like waiting for Thanksgiving dinner.  You know that the main course is coming, but you get impatient and start nibbling on the scraps around the kitchen.  Pretty soon, you’ve filled your stomach with scraps and can’t enjoy the banquet feast that has been provided.

When we look to God’s instructions, we need to be patient, expecting Him to clear the path for His work to shape and create a banquet feast for our day. If we try to take a short-cut through His guidance, nibbling on the scraps, we can miss out on the grandeur of the main course that He has prepared.  To follow God’s guidance means that we wait on Him to work through our day.  To move in such a way that His presence and purpose become crystal clear to us as we journey through the details of each moment.

So, we wait upon the Lord’s instruction and activity today. We depend upon the God of our salvation to bend our hearts and minds to the truth of life.  We listen and follow His instructions that will lead us to honor Him and bring Him pleasure, which is the aim for which you and I were created.  The right decision is to follow the instructions of God today.

 

Give ourselves to the Lord (Psalm 25:1-3)

If you had a trunk of money, what would you do with it? If that trunk of money was the only source of income that you had for the next decade, who would you trust to take care of it and increase it?  Obviously, you wouldn’t go to just anyone.

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.” (Psalm 25:1–3, NKJV)

1. Transfer your trust into the hands of God. When it comes to the treasure of life, the psalmist understood the power of transferring his trust into the hands of God. And this is the right decision for us every single day of our lives. We must transfer our trust for the treasure of life into the hands of God.  We give Him the whole of who we are, inside and out.

In fact, the psalmist shows us the nature of transferring our trust to God. He paints the picture of lifting up our life to God in order for God to possess and take as His own. This picture is amplified by the simple statement, “I trust in You.”  He lifted up the treasure of life into the hands of God with the confidence and expectancy that God would care for this treasure.

The right decision is to place the treasure of our lives and Christ’s church into the hands of God. Relinquishing ownership of this treasure into the hands of the One who can lead us along the path to great blessing is the first great movement forward as we embark upon the adventure of our day.

2. The Lord is trustworthy and reliable to direct us. When it comes to dependability and reliability, there is no one more faithful, more powerful, more loving, more wise than God (duh!). Well, why in the world wouldn’t we want to transfer trust of our lives into the hands of the Creator of the universe?

The psalmist draws a comparison in his request to the Lord. He asks the Father not to allow him to be put to shame. This is the request from the one who is lifting up his life to the Lord.  The other side of the request is that the enemies who “deal treacherously without cause” would be put to shame.  If someone places their trust in God, then the expectation is for God to bring them victory over the enemies and confirm His sovereignty over all things.  If someone doesn’t place their trust in God (seeking to double-deal for personal benefit), then God will demonstrate His justice and put them to shame.

The right decision is to lift up the treasure of our lives to the Lord and trust Him to bring the right conclusion to whatever we face. It is not our way that will lead to the right decision.  It is God’s way every day.  This morning, I pray that I would transfer my trust to the Lord who has already led me into triumph through our Lord Jesus Christ!