Articles

Celebrating Sanctification

Psalm 95 (ESV)

Let Us Sing Songs of Praise

95 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;

let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

     Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

     For the Lord is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

     In his hand are the depths of the earth;

the heights of the mountains are his also.

     The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands formed the dry land.

     Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

     For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

and the sheep of his hand.

Today, if you hear his voice,

          do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

     when your fathers put me to the test

and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

10      For forty years I loathed that generation

and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,

and they have not known my ways.”

11      Therefore I swore in my wrath,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

 

I.   A summons to sing praises (v. 1-2)

The Psalmist begins with a summons.

The people are encouraged to sing songs of praise to God.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;

let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

     Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

 

Notice that singing is not simply something that we work up.

It is to the Lord.

He is the rock of our salvation.

In thinking about what He has done for us, His people, joy should be bubbling up.

It ought not to seem an effort to praise God.

 

II.  There is no God but our God (v. 3-5)

Our next section teaches us that God has no peers.

There is no God but our God.

     For the Lord is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

     In his hand are the depths of the earth;

the heights of the mountains are his also.

     The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands formed the dry land.

I believe that much of our sin comes from thinking of God as too small.

One of the ways we make God small is to assume He doesn’t really care whether or not we put other things in front of Him.

What’s the first commandment?

Exodus 20:2-3 (ESV)

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.   “You shall have no other gods before me.

 

Look, God’s not saying:  I’m OK with you worshipping other things as long as I’m first.

God is actually saying:  “No, I mean, don’t even bring those other gods of yours into my presence.  You are not to worship anyone or anything except Me!”

 

III.  Worship the Lord and Him only (v. 6-7)

This leads us into the next two verses where we confess that we worship God and Him only.

     Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

This is not an invitation.

It is a command.

A.  He is our God (v. 6)

We have this idea that we pick our God.

Each of us has just sorted out the same things in life and we found a place that fits who we are.

But the Scriptures teach us that God Himself calls the people of God into existence.

His Word creates life.

His Word creates the people of God and governs its action.

The basic message of the Scriptures that pervades from front to end is:  I will be Your God and you shall be my people.

Bowing down to the Lord means casting aside all other idols and sins in our life.

Why is it so easy for us to think we have really become the Lord’s when other cultures seem to understand the consequences?

Do we really believe that God is our Lord?  Our Maker?

Do we really bow down?

Have we taken a stock of our lives and asked ourselves if we’re bringing idols into the presence of God?

Are there really some things that, if God was to ask us to surrender them, it would be worth more than God.

Is there a part of our heart where we say:  You may have created the heavens and the earth but this part of me is off limits.

B. We are His dear possession (v. 7)

 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

and the sheep of his hand.

But it’s not just that He’s our God but that we’re His very dear possession.

God has every right to simply make us servants.

But the glory of the Gospel is that He frees us from slavery to sin in order to make us a very dear possession.

As we learned last week, our goal in the Christian life needs to be one of reaching out in desperate need to our God.

We don’t feel at times that we’re His dear possession.

We have a poverty of the sense of God’s favor in our lives.

And that lack of favor stems from the fact that we are still holding on to many things.

We don’t really desire to be God’s possession because there are times when our affections are much more intense for other things.

But, you see, beloved, when we’re called into God’s Kingdom, the Church, His goal is to perfect us.

His goal is to purify us.

His goal is to destroy those other things that we love, very often, more than Him.

His goal is that our vision of Him would become so large that it would drown out all those other things into insignificance.

Because He’ll have no other gods before His face.

But, if we have trusted in Christ, He thinks of us as His children.

And so what does a loving Father do if He wants to train His children in what is good?

He disciplines them.

He purifies them.

He sanctifies them.

It’s not because He doesn’t love us that He sanctifies us but because He loves that He instructs us and often chastises us.

In Romans 6, we’re seen as dying to the slavery to sin and rising again in Christ with an indestructible life that is to be bent heavenward.

We are to learn to increasingly let go of the things of this world and hate our sin.

Dying to sin and slavery to Christ is not something that we do in our spare time.

It is who we are supposed to be because we are in Christ.

It’s not that we are saved by these things.

Faith in Christ alone saves us.

But Christ saves us that we might be set free to obey.

We have been saved by dying to sin and rising again in Christ.

And we are being saved in the sense that we are being conformed to that image.

One of the problems many Christians face is that their orientation to the Law of God is all out of whack.

There is almost an allergic reaction to the Law of God in our circles today.

The reality is that, when we read the Scriptures carefully, the Law of God represents the character of God.

Increasingly, however, instead of looking at the Law as a picture of the holiness of God we see it as stifling.

We see it as confining.

Where the Scriptures define liberty as the ability to obey God, we often think of liberty as doing whatever we want because Christ has paid the penalty for sin.

Any serious discussion about a Christian’s pursuit of holiness through studying what God’s Law demands is met with extreme suspicion.

What is that suspicion?

Legalism.

Beloved, a love of God’s Law is not legalism.

Obedience to the Law of God is not legalism.

If God says:  “I hate adultery” then, because I love my Father, I want to know what I should learn to hate.

What is legalism?

Thinking that we are accepted by God BECAUSE we obey the Law is legalism.

Thinking that we can be saved by the KEEPING of the Law is legalism.

But the law was never given for either purpose.

The law was given to a people already accepted as the Seed of Abraham by faith.

God never said:  by keeping the law, you will become my dear possession.

 

Remember what God says at the beginning of the Ten commandments:

Exodus 20:2 (ESV)

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

 

He was already the Lord their God.

They were already His people.

Notice, in that light, what God says at the end of the giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:20, which was our meditation verse:

Exodus 20:20 (ESV)

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”

 

What’s the first thing He says:  Do not fear.

Search the Scriptures for how often Christ told his dear disciples the same.

God tells His dear ones here at Sinai:  I’m not going to destroy you.  Do not fear.  You’re my dear possession.  I’m giving all of these commandments to you so that you might fear me and that you might not sin.

Beloved, the fear of God is the beginning of understanding.

He’s teaching His dear ones how to begin to pursue wisdom.

Read the book of Proverbs.

It’s clearly written by a father who dearly loves his son and one of the first things he tells him is:  Son, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

We are the creatures.

There isn’t an encounter with the living God that doesn’t fill the worshiper with a sense of holy fear.

Oh, that the fear of God would be our possession.

God then tells the people that He wants them to fear Him and that these commandments are given that  you might not sin.

Again, look at the beginning of Proverbs as the loving father tells his son about how Wisdom calls from the head of the Streets and is trying to get him to turn aside from folly that would entice him to sin.

The father is not giving the son “law” so he might become a son but because he is a son, he instructs him in the law of God which makes him wise.

You see we have this myth that the people in the Old Testament were given this list of rules by which they might be saved.

That was never the case.

Abraham and all those who descended from Him were justified by faith.

They were to trust in the God of their salvation.

They were saved by Christ.

The Law was not added to improve upon their salvation but as a means that they might learn to put away sin.

It was a light unto their path that was given to keep their eyes fixed on the God of their salvation and away from their idolatry.

Yes, I know that many of them started treating the commandments themselves as if they were contributing to acceptance before God but that wasn’t the intent.

Clearly, there were peculiar ceremonial laws and dietary restrictions that were fulfilled in Christ but the moral law was given that we might meditate upon the character of God and see in it the object of our affection.

In light of all of this, when we get to verses 8-11, it doesn’t seem like such an unnatural break.

If we have a proper view that God is serious about growing up His children by His Word then we can look at these warnings as a Father sitting down a child that He dearly loves.

Have any of you had talks with your own children where you said:  “Son.  Daughter.  You really need to pay attention to this because you’ll be tempted to do something that your heart or the world is telling you is OK but, if you give in, it could destroy your life.”

Your Father has you on His knee now and is having a very serious conversation with you.

Please, let us pay attention.

IV.  Today, Do not harden your hearts (v. 8-11)

Today, if you hear his voice,

          do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

 

Look, it’s not that we don’t believe in God but I think we often don’t think that God is alive.

We were serious yesterday or last week about the things of God but we’re taking a break today.

We gave completely of ourselves to Him last week but today is ME time.

God warns us that Today, however, is a day to pay attention.

Every slide into destruction begins by assuming that Today is a day that can be all mine.

Today will be a day when God will not be God but something else will grab my full attention.

God says:  “No child.  Today, do not harden your heart to me.”

A.            Stop your whining (v. 8)

One of the things He reminds His children to stop doing is whining.

Meribah and Manasseh.

The people are in the desert.

And they think they’re going to die of thirst.

And so they complain against the Lord.

Did the Lord bring us out here to this desert just to kill us?

Were there no tombs in Egypt?

Over and over, they complained to God.

They assumed that dying of thirst was more urgent than remembering that God is God.

They thought they had a right, Today, to harden their hearts.

Water is everything and so how dare God keep us from it?

Our children can become an idol and so how dare God take any time away from them when we’ve determined it will be our time.

We work hard and so how dare the Word claim that the first day of the week is the Lord’s day.

How dare God claim that day for His worship and that we would delight in Him.

It’s part of my weekend.

Today, then, I will decide what I will give to the Lord and what I will withhold.

I love this young woman but she’s not a Christian.

How dare God tell me that I ought not marry her as she could lead my heart astray from following Him.

Today, love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Today, I choose the love of a woman over my Savior.

B. Do not provoke your Father (v. 9)

And so we start arguing with Him because He just demands too much of us.

He would sanctify us by His Word but it’s too much.

And then He says:  My child, do not provoke your Father.

Verse 9:  when your fathers put me to the test

and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

 

We start arguing with God’s Word.

If sanctification demands that much radical commitment then it can’t be good.

Blessed are the moderate for they shall not tip over.

God says in Exodus 20:20, I’ve given these things to you that you might fear me and not sin.

But it’s just too much.

Fear the Lord?

That’s too depressing.

Not sin?

A loving God wouldn’t make so many demands.

And so we keep pushing.

Long ago we grew accustomed to the idea that there would be a Today when we would refuse to hear His voice.

We would have our ME time.

And so we create these places in our lives where, increasingly, our affections grow for them.

When God comes near to them we yell “Mine!”

That’s everything to me.

As soon as we’ve given all our energy to the things that are really important we’ll give God some quality time.

But God, now that I’m here, I need you to prove that you’re relevant to all the other things I’ve got going on.

And we become so comfortable the idea of bringing other gods before Him that we don’t even notice that His anger is being provoked.

C.            Stay where your Father can see you (v. 10)

God summons us again and says:  You are really departing far from me.

You really need to stay close by Me.

You’re my dear possession.

Your possession, God?

Seriously, I’m my own man.

How arrogant of God to presume to call me out for what I’m doing with my life.

10 For forty years I loathed that generation

and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,

and they have not known my ways.”

Beloved, this strikes dread in my heart.

This was a people who once had excitement about the things of God.

He saved them from slavery to be His own dear possession and they went astray in their heart.

Adding God to their pantheon of daily concerns was all the God they wanted.

But the fear of God?

Too much.

The law that would teach them not to sin?

They loved their sin too much.

And it’s a warning to all of us who begin the race and then, Today, harden our hearts.

The final warning comes.

D. Do not play with fire (v. 11)

There are people who think that, when the time comes, they’ll be able to give up every sin that ensnares and trust Christ.

That they’ll see all the sin that they hoarded as a dear possession and at the very end, hate it all, and say:  God take it away, it is killing me.

But the real warning of the Scripture is that apostasy is a real danger.

How do we know this?

Because God says in Verse 11:

11      Therefore I swore in my wrath,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

 

An entire generation of the Church lost to their sinful appetites.

Had they seen the end from the beginning they might have really believed God when He said:  No really, you’re my people, I’ve given these things that you might fear me and not sin against me.

 

I don’t want you to conclude the wrong things from all of this.

I really, truly believe that God, when He redeems a man, woman, or child saves them to the uttermost.

They will persevere.

But, beloved, God places His children on the path and says:  The way you will persevere is through pursuing Me.

I will be your God and you will be My people.

I will put in you a desire to be My people.

And so He gives us stern warnings as a father would to a child he loves.

Son, if you listen to your friends who encourage you to drive like an idiot then you’re going to end up dead.

Daughter, if you listen to that boy who tells you everyone else is doing it and that he loves you and that it really doesn’t mean anything then it will lead to severe consequences.

God loves us so much, beloved, that He doesn’t want us to be comfortable with sin.

He doesn’t want us to grow accustomed to loving things more than Him.

He doesn’t want us to think there’s ever a day when it is OK to think:  Today, I will not listen.

Today, the law of God is too much.

Today, I love this more than the things of God.

Christ has redeemed us from slavery to sin so that we might not walk any more in it.

Let us not consider it a burden that Christ calls us to love His Father.

He tells us that the one who keeps His commandments is the one who loves Him.

It’s not because we’re saved by the keeping of the commandments.

But because we have the life of Christ coursing through us by the Spirit, we ought to be In reckless pursuit of holiness.

Let us then lay down those sins at the foot of the Cross.

Let us turn, Today, from every idol of the heart that would compete for our affection with God.

Let us consider it good that God would discipline us by His Word.

That we might be His.

That He would be God.

And we would be His people.

His very dear possession.

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