Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1355
June 17, 2018 Psalm 25:1-15
Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
Rightly Related to God
Friendship with God is less about right theology and more about right relationship. Too many people think that we have to have everything right about what we know or even what we might say about God. I know that many of the things I once thought I knew about God early on in my Christian life I would not longer say. What I thought I had right was, at the very least, not the best representation of God or the Bible. What I believe God desires is to know us and be known by us. We use terms like covenant to describe our relationship and rightly so. Our relationship with God the Father is as varied as the multitude of metaphors in the Bible. Sheep to shepherd. Sick to healer. Lost to redeemer. Today I want us to focus, on this Father’s Day, on the relationship of children to Father.
Friendship with God is more about right obedience than right knowledge. One thing we do see throughout the Bible is the call to obedience. Isn’t that one of the greatest desires of parents when they have children, that those children to act in obedience to what we desire? We hope that our children will respect the rules of the family and of the Bible and of society. This is also one of the greatest characteristics of our relationship to God the Father. It was one of the primary behaviors of Jesus when He kept saying that He came to do the will of His Father. He came to show us obedience among many other things. This is also the way we demonstrate a healthy relationship with God. Jesus said, Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14.21). Keeping commandment, that is, being obedient is a proper relationship with God. 1 Samuel 15.22 also reveals this from the Old Testament, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” Being rightly related to God means obeying God.
Friendship with God is more about personal relationship than what we do for God. God desires a people who worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4.23-24). God seeks those people. God seeks those who are humble in spirit (Isaiah 66.2). God seeks the lost in order to save them (Luke 19:10). The Lord desires that we seek His kingdom (Matthew 6.33), seek His Word (Psalm 1.2), and seek to do what God commands (John 14.21). All of this is to bring about a personal relationship with God. Psalm 25.14 uses the word friendship to speak of those who fear the Lord and know the covenant relationship, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” On this Father’s Day I want to suggest how we are related to God the Father in the next three points in our outline, a “haunting” friendship, a trusting friendship, and, as we have already heard, an obedient friendship.
A “Haunting” Friendship
Let’s look at what might first sound like a strange description of our relationship with God. A “haunting” friendship. This might relate a bit to the text in Psalm 25 that our friendship is for those who fear God. I was reading recently in Oswald Chambers devotional book where he writes that we are all haunted by something. I think he meant to convey something like what I experienced as a child with my own father. When I was young I was “haunted” by my father’s voice, you know that voice that called out your full name when you were in trouble. It got to the point that I would hear that voice even when he had not called me out. Sounds like I was in trouble a lot, but no, just the haunting voice stuck in my head. As a child you sometimes feel like you’ve done something wrong even if you have not. In a sense we are “haunted” by the presence of God, by the voice of God, by the Word of God. Not haunted in the evil sense of horror movie nonsense, but haunted in the sense that we “look at everything in relation to God” (My Utmost for His Highest, June 2, pg. 154). Haunted here means to constantly have on our minds, or to inhabit, or be constantly present. Chambers calls this haunting “the abiding consciousness of God”. Perhaps we would prefer something like “God is our refuge” in the sense that we are always under God’s wings. But refuge sounds too passive to me. Haunted is active, but haunted also has too much of a negative connotation in our time. But I still like it! God’s word haunts me. To say that is to say that God’s word is constantly with me, in some ways meaning that I cannot get away from it, like a ghost! But in other ways it is my constant companion. Therefore, God “haunts” us because He is always with us. God “haunts” us in that we stand in awe and deep respect for this God. We fear Him not with a frightened fear for our lives, but in the utmost reverence for the One who loves us and wants a relationship with us.
This “haunting” sometimes leads to conviction in our hearts, like that of Psalm 51.16-17, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” God’s haunting leads us to repentance which leads us to forgiveness all leading us back into proper and right relatedness to God. This is a positive even pleasant “haunting” that keeps us. Psalm 121 might be seen this way, as a “haunting” presence,
Or consider Psalm 139:7-10,
7Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
Let’s reclaim the term “haunting” as a positive relatedness to God.
A Trusting Friendship
Friendships flourish when there is trust between the friends. Let’s turn more to Psalm 25 here to think about who are the friends of God mentioned in verse 12 and 14? The common term between these two verses is fear – fear in the sense of respect, reverence, and what I want to characterize as trust.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. 13 His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. 14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
But what I want us to examine is whether or not we trust everything that Psalm 25 reveals about God. Let’s look at some of those characteristics and actions of God. To be a friend is to trust that certain things are true about the one trusted. We trust things about one another and sometimes might be disappointed or even feel betrayed if that trust is broken. Look with me at Psalm 25 and the long list of things to trust about God:
Psalm 25.3 God will not allow us to be put to shame.
25. 4 God makes His ways known and teaches us His paths
25.5 God leads us in truth and God saves us.
25.6 God is merciful and filled with steadfast love.
25.7 God forgives sin.
25.8 God is good and upright. God instructs us.
Every verse following has some type of characteristic or deed that God has or does. But this is enough to consider. If we were to take this Psalm and each thing listed and ask ourselves if we really trust God has or will do these things, we might be pleasantly surprised or disappointed in ourselves.
This is a bit off subject but I was reading about the Ten Commandments for a future sermon and came across this statement that keeping Sabbath demonstrates our trust that God will provide for us when we stop providing for ourselves. We might look at Psalm 25 in the same way, that we show our trust in God when we pursue His truth and follow His instructions. We trust in God when we accept His forgiveness and let not sin continue to rule in our lives. This is to say that we trust in God when we reflect the covenant relationship with God, the friendship of God, in the way we live and speak and trust.
An Obedient Friendship
To be His friend, we must trust it all. To trust it all is to be obedient to all. The example often given in scripture is Abraham who was obedient to do what God called Him to do.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Abraham believed, that is, he trusted God. And Abraham did what God told him to do, that is, he was obedient. Abraham was a friend of God.
Some might not want to think of God the Father as a friend. We may not think of friendship as a proper parent/child relationship, and I can understand this. I am not a fan of parents who try to be friends with their children rather than parents to the children. This nutty attitude that the children can set their own rules or determine their own sexuality or parents who abandon discipline and obedience completely. You’ve seen them in WalMart! But the earthly parent/child relationship does not include the exact same relatedness as the child of God/God the Father relationship. There are some ways we might compare them, but earthly and heavenly relationships also differ.
We are always under the discipline of God the Father, in a loving and compassionate manner. We are always seeking obedience to God the Father, because we revere God. We are always to trust in God the Father. God sets the tone of our relationship and God is the one who calls us friends particularly in Psalm 25. The word used there means “secret counsel”, the kind of things only shared between friends. Abraham was called a friend of God. God would speak to Moses as a friend. Jesus will later call the disciples his friends (next Sunday’s sermon!). God is a friend like no other. God is a Father like no other. The friend we fear/revere, the friend who helps us trust and obey, the friend who reveals to us His love and mercy and faithfulness. God is our friend through the characteristics of fear and right relationship: it is known in awe, reverence, respect, honor, glory, love, praise, thanks, covenant relatedness/friendship. We share a friendship like no other with the God who is our heavenly Father, the God who is the Creator of all things, the God who saves us and loves us. Let us be God’s friends in trust and obedience, in love and faith, in growing our relationship of friendship with God our Father. This friendship makes every day Father’s Day. Amen.