This sermon is from the series WHAT FAITH KNOWS ABOUT GOD and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on Sunday, January 5, 2014 by Pastor Paul Mims. You can hear this sermon at www.csbccl.org
Psalm 23:1My step-father “Wilkie” operated a clothing store in our town of Quitman, Georgia. He was a member of the local Rotary Club which is an outstanding service club in any community. I went with him several times to their meetings. As you may know, the club is made up of various categories of business people. I learned of a joke about a new pastor that was invited to attend the Rotary Club as a guest. He wanted to become a member but was told that they already had their quota of ministers. Later, they created a category of “hog caller” and invited him to join under that title. After some hesitancy the minister accepted and said: “When I came here, I expected to be the Shepherd of the Flock, but you have lived here longer and I guess you know the people better than I do!”
The Bible always honors God’s people. Although many comparisons are made to the agricultural life of Israel, the most tender of relationships is used to convey the relationship of God to his people – that of the shepherd and his sheep.
Today, we begin a study of the 23rd Psalm. It was written by King David as he looked back over his life and remembered his days as a shepherd. This psalm is written from the standpoint of a person telling what he has come to know about God. He uses the imagery common to Bible times of the Shepherd and his Sheep, but he is talking about himself and God.
So in the coming weeks we shall benefit from what this Old Testament servant learned about God. The twenty third Psalm is perhaps the most familiar passage in the entire Bible, but often when we study it, we end up knowing more about sheep than about God. Therefore, we shall approach the Psalm from the standpoint of the activity of God in our lives and not major on the sheep-shepherd motif.
The theme for this first sermon is Assurance. This is the overall benefit of faith. As helpless sheep need the presence and guidance of the shepherd, so do we need the assuring presence of the Lord in our lives. We need to be assured that he cares about us and that we are vitally linked to him by his grace.
I. MY ASSURER – “THE LORD”
“The Lord” – but who does he mean? What is he like? What can he do in my life? We have a tendency to humanize God. Therefore it is helpful for us to look afresh at the Biblical portrayals of God. “The Lord” is presented in scripture as GOD THE FATHER – who is the architect of the universe; GOD THE SON – who is the artisan who created all that exists; GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT – who is the agent by which God deals with his creation.
Picture David on a Judean hill looking up into a star filled night and saying, “The Lord” – the one who is behind all of this is the ONE I know. When we consider the vastness of space our minds are stretched as to who the Lord is.
With the unaided eye we can see about 2500 stars as David did. But now we know much more about the vastness of space than he knew. When we look at the stars we are looking deep back into the past. The light that we see from most of them began its journey long before we were born. Even light from our nearest star, our sun, takes eight minutes to reach us travelling at the speed of 186,000 miles a second. Venus, which we see as one of brightest stars varies from a distance from earth of 162 million miles to its closest point of 25 million miles.
But because of the vast distances in space a unit of measurement larger than the mile is needed. Astronomers use the “light year” term which is the distance that light travels in a year at 186,000 miles a second. In these terms some of our close stars are four and one third light years from earth. The distance from earth to the bright star Altair is about 16 light years, to Vega 26 years, and to Deneb is 1500 light years. Some of the stars of the Milky Way are so distant that their light takes thousands of lights years to reach us.
The Milky Way is a vast rotating system of a hundred billion stars. It is just one galaxy of billions of others in the universe. There are Galactic structures that contain mammoth clusters of as many as 500 galaxies.
Our solar system which is made up of our sun and its nine planets is just a faint dot in our Milky Way which is 27,000 light years from the center. Certainly, the One who controls the planets in their orbits, the stars in their courses, and the galaxies in their expansiveness can deal with the things that I face every day. “The Lord” who created it all assures me that he is interested in the details of my little life. Go out on a clear, starry night and quote the 23rd psalm. You will come close to what David meant when he said, “The Lord.”
II. MY RELATIONSHIP – “IS”
The whole purpose of this poem is to convey the “isness” of my relationship to “The Lord.”
Does God really care about me? As David considers this personal question you can see that he answers with a resounding “YES.” He does not just watch over me passively, but takes the initiative to come to me and lead me along his way.
Our age has been described as one of cosmic loneliness. That is, some feel that whoever or whatever started creation has left us alone and does not reveal himself to us. Therefore, many people who do not know God feel that we are on our own and that there is no meaning to life at all.
That is not the belief of Christians. We believe that God has revealed himself to us in Christ and that he is involved even in the details of our lives.
The little word “is” describes what is. “The Lord” who made everything is my Shepherd, Guide, Protector, provider and lover of my soul. He is mine and I am his. I am in the fold – a sheep and not a goat – a saved person and not a lost person, a forgiven person and not a sin-laden person – a free person and not an enslaved person – a joyous person and not a joyless person.
“God is with me now,” I can say. When I wake up in the morning, I can sense his presence. When I go about my day, he is with me. When I go to sleep at night he watches over me. He is my Savior, my Lord, my Friend, my Hope.
It is important that we know these truths. A large percentage of church members are not assured of their relationship to “The Lord.” It is my responsibility to help you come to a true assurance and not to a false assurance. A false assurance arises when a person stakes his destiny on baptism and church membership when there is no deep love and service to “The Lord” or any spiritual change or growth in his or her life.
What is the state of your relationship with “The Lord?” Are you in the “IS” mode or is it in the “Used to be” or in the “more convenient time” in the future. There are many people who are in the “Used to be” mode. At one time they were Bible readers, prayers, witnesses, workers, and worshippers. But all of that used to be. In that state there is no sense of fellowship with God and no assurance. Some of these have fallen into a sin that has a grip on them. A true believer will repent and return to the Lord. One who was just a church member will not return.
In Deuteronomy 31:16 we read, “And the Lord said to Moses, You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, Have not these disasters come upon us because God is not with us? And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.” In Deuteronomy 32:37 we read, “He will say: now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in…Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter!” At this time in their history, Israel could not say, “The Lord IS.”
Perhaps you cannot say that either. The mode that you are in is “Might be in the future.” What are you waiting for? Are you self-sufficient on your own? Do you watch over yourself? Are you the captain of your own fate? Do you know what is best for you?
III. MY ASSURANCE – “I SHALL NOT BE IN WANT.”
Generally, we think of our material needs when we read that statement, “I shall not be in want.” It is true that is part of the meaning. But what David had in mind was more than freedom from poverty for he was the King of Israel. He meant that the Lord protects us from spiritual emptiness.
A few years ago, Billy Graham was given the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington. His message on that occasion was based on the 23rd Psalm. He said, “Almost 3000 years ago, King David, the greatest King Israel ever had, sat under the stars and contemplated the human dilemma. He listed three things that the world’s greatest scientists and sociologists have not been able to solve, and it seems the more we know, and the greater our technology, the more difficulties we are in. David touches on the three greatest problems of the human race: emptiness, guilt, and the fear of death. I stood on the campus of one of our great universities some time ago and I asked the dean, ‘What is the greatest problem on campus?’ And he said, ‘EMPTINESS.’”
I think you will agree that emptiness is a problem everywhere. That is why there is such a pursuit of spirituality apart from God. “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious,” we sometimes hear. Look at the religions of the world and you see the search and the emptiness. I see it at Wal Mart. It is the same thing that I saw in a Buddhist Temple in Japan and a Hindu Temple in India and an Islamist Temple in Jerusalem. The heart of man is the same the world over – seeking, seeking, seeking and yet empty. I’ve even seen it in church in those who refuse to allow Christ into their lives.
True faith knows that God can and does fill that emptiness when we allow him to do so.
Here are some scriptures that affirm the assurance that faith knows:
1 John 5:13 – These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
John 5:24 – Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
1 John 2:3-4 – And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
Ephesians 2:8-9- For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:
John 20:31 – But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
John 10:28 – And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand.
Titus 3:5 – Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
Romans 8:16 – The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.
Anna Waring expressed it like this:
Wherever he may guide me
No want shall turn me back,
My Shepherd is beside me,
And nothing shall I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh
His sight is never dim,
He knows the way he taketh,
And I will walk with him.
Green Pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen,
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
Where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
My path to life is free,
My Savior has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.”
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!