A God to Worship
Sermon for November 29, 1998
Text: Psalm 145
What we need most is a vision of Godís majesty which moves us to worship. That vision is supplied is in the supreme act of His greatness: the cross of Jesus Christ. This event far more than the splendors of creation, far beyond the wonders of preservation by which all life is fed as it were from His hand. . . the cross is a work of greatest greatness! All superlatives must fail for no words can approximate, nor hope to convey the costliness to God of our redemption on that cross. In a sense our redemption cost God everything and yet to us it is free. We, in absolute, spiritual destitution, cannot warrant, earn or deserve in the slightest that grace which saves us. And while we may long for all that redemption secures, we also resent fiercely the death of pride entailed in trusting the Crucified only. But, I must impress upon you, God expounded all His majesty through the misery of the cross . . . there in the least likely of places raised up the standard. Christ crucified is all the Christ you need. There, on bloody Golgotha, God proclaimed for all eternity through the tortured and abused body of His Son, "Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." (Isaiah 45:22)
When we thus meditate upon the tragedy of the cross, its divine and inestimable cost to God, we come to the power plant of God. All the spiritual energy we need to holiness, for obedience, for overcoming all lifeís obstacles to walk in fullness of life is available there; it will come to us as we look to Him because the cross is fully capable of doing its work in us. I do not mean by this that victorious living is trouble free, happy and full of material blessings. . . no, not at all. For it is a far greater testimony that we have victory in the midst of suffering, victory in our travailing place of soul. It is far better that we walk by faith, echoing Jobís world shattering, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." (Job 13.15) Or utter with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, "Our God is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18) For it is tested faith, faith that pleases God, which declares that God is good in the face of contradiction. . . that God is just in the face of pervasive and blatant injustice. . . that God is loving when all the circumstances around you shriek of lovelessness and cruelty. . . that God is light from the midst of impenetrable darkness. Our God is not the god of easy believism. Our God rather insists that you trust your faith above your senses, beyond your feelings and even more than reason. For you are to put your trust in nothing fleshly, not your mind, nor your intuition, not your doctrine or habits of virtue, nor even your emotions but only in Him. "Look to Me and be saved."
If you want hope, go to the cross. If you want truth, you will find it there: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have ever lasting life." (John 3:16) If you want peace, offer God your greatest worship: believe He is who He says He is, and that He has done what He says He has done.
When God proclaims "He will save them," the word "save" approximates New Testament usage. The desires which God purposes to satisfy are suitably spiritualóit is never the case that we can simply long for some outward thing and expect God to deliver it to us! That would be the worst possible arrangement! We would never rise above the status of spoiled children. The desires in view here spring from the love and fear of the Lord. The object of desire would be God whether we are searching out love, or fear. The desire of the righteous man is righteousness. And so on. These are the desires that our Spiritual Father wishes to fulfill towards us. There is only one safe place to cherish longings then, and that is the region of the spiritual life wherein God imparts Himself! Everywhere else there will be disappointment. We should thank God for those disappointments because they train us to seek more earnestly the spiritual things of our truest nature. The spiritual man absolutely will not be disappointed in the spiritual desires of his heart. Desire is the measure of possession and in the Christian life to long is to have.
Given these truths it appears all the more foolish that we should set so much stock in things both uncertain and temporal, the possessions of incomplete bliss. By having many wants, we tend to dissipate ourselves even where we do ask amiss. But if we were to "delight ourselves in the Lord," we would form a single river and find a sure pathway to the sea of destination, Him and Him only.
While speechless nature only has to look mutely to God and her food arrives in due season, we, humans, are privileged to compel our wishes into words. "He also will hear their cry." We are to press our desires into speech, to make clear our thoughts about those desires, and to strengthen our pursuit of them. Some things we might impulsively think we want will, pressed into consciousness, fail the test of appropriateness. We will see at once how far off the mark an unspiritual desire is, and subhuman, and so instantly wish it both dead and unspoken. Disciplined by speech, our prayers relating to these desires become straightforward, earnest and real. The result is less dithering and wandering. We should love, fear, and definitely cry out. . . for that is what God answers, the cry and not the silent apprehension only.
If we want food, it is enough that God opens His hand to us as unto other life forms. But the desires of our hearts are another matter entirely. Food can be gathered. Food chains form and modulate. Plainly, vegetative life yields mute abundance freely. But for us, the aspirations of love and fear and longing for righteousness to be fulfilled, God must breathe Himself into us. We are to know and care about God. Godís best gifts are inseparable from that impartation of Himself. We have to be prepared through discipline, even suffering, and quickened by faith to receive those highest gifts. Sometimes our lower desires must be denied, sometimes we are to journey in dissatisfaction. We need to redirect our desires from earth to heaven. If fine wine is being poured to replace the house wine, you empty the wine glass of all that is inferior before you refill it with that which is more precious. Not only do you empty the wine glass, but your purge and purify it. Just so, God empties us. He removes the creatures, subjects them to death and decay, so that we will turn from them to the Creator who is beyond death, and is ever a source of life to us.
More than this, God has placed all the greatest of His gifts into a splendid and wonderful storehouse. So He does not give us peace and righteousness, a growing knowledge of Himself, spiritual union and all the blessings of the Christian life as it were from an open hand. No, He conveys these things to us in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we can find as much as we want of blessing. . . though few find as much as they can, and no one finds all there is to be found. It is up to you to pursue, to expand your desire, to plumb the depth and span the width of Godís kindnessí thus conveyed. The supply of all our need is there. He is utterly satisfying and completely whole . . . He mends all that is broken in us by uniting us with Himself. There we find our oneness, our origin and our end . . . where Christ is all in all.