Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1274
October 9, 2016 Psalm 13
Dr. Ed Pettus Romans 8:31-39
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“The Love of God in Christ Jesus”
I would like to suggest that Psalm 13:1-4 is a fair representation of the concerns we have over life in America. We are wondering, if not outright asking, how long will God let this mess continue? How long will this go on and how bad can it really get? But then I think that I could be over doing it a bit. We all handle life's situations differently. We all react to social changes and family crisis and personal dilemmas in ways reflective of our personalities, faith, experience, and thought process. What the Psalms do for us is bring the language that we may not have to express our pain and anguish over problems that come. What the Psalms offer is the courage to pray our frustrations and yes, our worries. How long, O Lord, will we have to deal with this societal change that confronts Christian faith? Will people ever again recognize the value of faith in Christ and in the importance of that faith in our nation’s history and character?
The Struggles of Life
Christian people who have not given in to cultural currents feel like they are swimming upstream against the likes of political correctness, sexuality agendas that conflict with biblical wisdom, and the general affront to all things Christian. We are like a salmon swimming against the current. Salmon swim by instinct, we swim by faith and obedience. Salmon swim to bring new life. We do as well, we swim against the current of false doctrines and lies that seem to be prevailing in our time. We swim with the gospel as our instinct. Making the gospel instinctual takes discipline and love. It means growing in our discipleship and in love with Jesus Christ our Lord. It means growing to have the mind of Christ and the faith of Christ so that living the faith is as natural as breathing.
But we know it is not easy. The struggles in our lives are real and growing. The American way is denying Christ at every turn. Sometimes we face hardships in lost loved ones or other things like financial concerns. On occasion we might have sleepless nights because a child is sick or we are unsure about the future. One of the greatest fears for people is facing an unknown situation. I'm like that especially when I travel. If I have been somewhere before and know my way around, I have no fear. But if I've never been to a particular city or country, I am anxious about it usually until I arrive and get my bearings.
More serious concerns arise for us when the unknown is a health issue. One of the most fearful experiences we can know is when we do not know what is wrong with our body. The frustration and the “what if” are difficult. It is amazing how comforting it is to know what's wrong, even when that news is bad news, at least we know and can deal with the known disease.
That's what we are dealing with today, a dis-ease about life. The sin that clings to humanity, the rejection of God and His Word, cultural change, political uncertainty, and all that comes with these issues.
Those Opposed to Christian Faith
Society's rebellion and the overt opposition to all things Christian has us wondering how long. Hear the longing of Psalm 13,
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, 4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
We could easily change the pronouns to plural and make this our prayer today, “lest our enemies say, 'We have prevailed over them,' lest our foes rejoice because we are shaken.” The attacks on religious liberty are real and they stem from the push of groups that seek to destroy God's design of sexuality and identity. But as I have said before, such attacks are no threat to God and His Church.
But they do shake us up. I like the word shutter, as in, “I shutter to think what will happen if...” You can fill in the blank. Shutter to think if one or the other is elected president. Shutter to think if judges continue to strip Christian ideals from society. Shutter to think what our future holds. The prayer hopes that God may prevent what causes us to shutter or be shaken, and there is only one way we can know the power of that answered prayer.
Standing Strong in God’s Love
While Psalm 13 begins with the prayer of “how long”, it turns dramatically with verse 5,
The struggles of life are real, the pain is real, but there is a reality that overcomes all the troubles. What causes me to shutter is silenced by three things that are true before all else: (1) God's love is trustworthy, (2) God's salvation brings joy, and (3) God's deals graciously with His people. Look at it this way, there is yearning for God to take action and to answer the prayer. Despite it all, no matter the situation, God's love and salvation are the truth.
The same truth holds for us today. We may look at all that is happening in our nation and pray that God will bring His Truth to bear on every situation. In that prayer we recognize the love of God in which we trust. In God we trust. Some of our money still holds that truth in printed form. Some state license plates still proclaim the trust we have in God, and this is still our message to the world, God's love. The pattern of the Psalm is the honest struggle that is acknowledged through prayer, “How Long?” But, “but” is the pivot of faith, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love…” Lament over the situation is quickly turned to faith in God’s love.
The God For Us
The same message in Psalm 13 is reiterated in Romans 8 (and throughout the Bible). Romans 8 begins with teaching about life in the Spirit of God. Because of that life we know that God is at work, working to bring all things to the good for His glory. Paul then asks in verse 31, What shall we say to these things? And what he says is that God is for us. From more of scripture we might expand Paul's thought to say God for us, God with us, God in us, and God working through us.
Romans 8:31-34 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
The promise is that God is for us and no one has any power over us. This is what brings confidence, faith, hope, love, energy, and perspective to our lives. When we are facing an unknown future, we take comfort in knowing that God is for us. God gave his only Son so that we might know this truth of His love. And Christ is interceding for us! How cool is that? John said it this way in 1 john 4:4, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” If God is for us, who can be against us? We take joy in knowing that God loves us. And, furthermore, that love can never be taken away.
The Love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord
Nothing that happens in this life or in the life to come will separate us from God.
Romans 8:35-39 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing that happens on November 8 will separate us from God's love.
Nothing that happens in the public square will separate us from God's love.
Nothing that threatens our future will separate us from God's love.
Paul covers everything in demonstrating that nothing that happens and none who oppose Christ will be able to separate us from God’s love.
This is the good news of Christ our Lord, God's love is steadfast. God's love is truth. God's love is what will sustain us through all our troubles. Let us continue to trust in the steadfast love of God, to rejoice in the salvation that is ours in Christ, and give thanks for God’s bountiful grace.