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Sermon January 22, 2017

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1286

January 22, 2017 Psalm 119:25-32

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“Clinging To God”

 

  • Worthy of the Call

 

Last Sunday I began a New Year series on the topic of becoming worthy of our call in Jesus Christ. We heard from the apostle Paul three passages that use the phrase, “worthy of the call”. Live your life in a manner worthy of the call you have received. Live your life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And perhaps most important, God is at work in us making us worthy of the call. I suggested that we consider praying for ourselves and for one another that God would make us worthy and “fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thess. 1:11-12). All of this is for the sake of God’s glory in Christ.

I then noted four categories we would cover beginning today with having the mind of Christ. In the following Sundays we will consider the manner of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, and the witness to Christ. For today – The Mind of Christ. Just think about that for a moment and what Christ’s mind is like. This is the mind of God, the mind of the Creator, the mind of the Savior, the mind of the Spirit. It is more than we can even comprehend for God has said, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”(Isaiah 55:8-9). But also remember that these verses are in the midst of calling a sinful people to repentance. Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Is it possible that the reason our thoughts are so far from God’s thoughts is because of sin and that when God forgives our sins and draws us closer to Him that our thoughts then come closer to His thoughts? With God all things are possible! This is why Paul is able to tell the church in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that we have the mind of Christ. We have the mind of Christ because we have the Spirit of Christ. In light of this let’s consider some aspects of what it means to have the mind of Christ.

 

 

  • The Mind of Christ

 

One of the first things that comes to mind is that Jesus knew God’s Word, the Torah. He would have learned the scriptures, as all Jewish children did, and we know from Luke 2 that Jesus was well versed in the Word as the teachers marveled at Jesus’ wisdom as early as age twelve. Later Jesus would consistently stump the Pharisees and scribes with his knowledge and interpretation of scripture. Jesus had a knowledge steeped in every part of the Old Testament and I have selected Psalm 119:25-32 to show some ways that we too can have the mind of Christ.

Verse 25 begins, “My soul clings to the dust”. The word cling in the ESV is “cleave” in other translations. It is the same word used in Genesis 2 when a man and a woman are to cleave to one another in marriage. It literally means to adhere to, to stick together. When the Psalmist says he clings to the dust I see that as a time of trouble, gripping the dust as a reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return. He is facing a life threatening situation, because the next half of that verse seeks life. “Give me life according to your word!” He grips the dirt, the dust, in despair and yet knows that he can only find life according to God’s word. Now look down to verse 31 in Psalm 119, “I cling to your testimonies, O Lord.” Same word, cling, cleave, adhere to, grasp, and we might take that to mean, holding fast through knowledge of the word. Then the second half of that verse, “let me not be put to shame!” The plea is that trusting in God’s word will not lead to shame or failure or back to the dust.

Whether this is a physical threat or a spiritual threat, we do not know, but one thing is for sure. It is the soul that is affected. Look again at verse 25, “My soul clings”...and then at verse 28, “my soul melts away for sorrow.” The soul is in danger when not engaged and enthralled with the word of God. In these eight verses we see the answer to the trouble the Psalmist faced – knowing God’s word. See verse 25 - Give me life according to your word; verse 26 - teach me your statutes; verse 27 - make me understand the way of your precepts; verse 28 - strengthen me according to your word; verse 29 – teach me your law; verse 30 – I set your rules before me; verse 31 – I cling to your testimonies; verse 32 – I run the way of your commandments.

The section ends with the assurance that God enlarges the heart, that is, our understanding grows. In God’s word our hearts and minds are set free for wisdom and knowledge. In God’s word our hearts are fashioned to greater love through this constant meditation on the Word. Jesus knew this. Jesus thought in this way and as his disciples we are seeking to think in this way, in the way of scripture. This is why the Bible says we will suffer for the faith, because the Christian faith thinks differently than the world. The faith thinks in terms of the Bible and if we have seen anything at all in the last few years it is that the world hates the way the Bible thinks. It is why the world desires the destruction of infant lives through Planned Parenthood, and why same sex marriage is accepted, and all the other biblically opposed thoughts continue to strive for acceptance, because the world hates the way the Bible thinks. This is the mind of Christ, the mind that thinks biblically and the mind that yields to the way of God.

 

  • Clinging to God’s Word

 

Cling to God’s Word. Let’s examine a few other passages that help us in this thought. The first is Psalm 1. Let’s turn there. Like Psalm 119, this Psalm which begins the Psalms, is focused on the word of God. Let’s read verses 1-2, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Two verbs might draw our attention, delight and meditate. Is the law of God a delight for you? If not, pray that it becomes a delight. One way to help that along is through the second action, to meditate on it. Meditation means to contemplate, to think about it, to let it marinade in our hearts and minds. We can memorize scripture or write it down on a note card or carry our Bibles or download an app on your smart phone, there are all kinds of ways to keep the word before us daily. Meditation leads to delight and delight will lead to more meditation.

Flip back over to Psalm 119:30, from our morning reading, “I set your rules before me.” We need to set the word before us. We have to open the book! We have to set aside other things that may distract us. The previous verse prays away distractions, vs. 29, “put false ways far from me.” This is really our battle, to discern false ways from God’s ways. We see this battle going on in the world every day between Christians and non-Christians, between ways of thinking in politics and business and other fields. Our task is to cling to God’s Word that we might walk in God’s ways.

Let’s look at a couple of New Testament passages, first from Romans 12:1-2.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We have the mind of Christ when we are renewed in our minds toward God’s word and God’s thoughts. I have a hard time understanding some people who think that we should not be thoughtful about the faith, meaning that we truly think about our faith and why we believe and what we believe. Clinging to God’s word requires us to think about it and think inside of it that our minds might be renewed.

2 Corinthians 10:5b even tells us directly to take every thought captive.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”

Isn’t this interesting? Our warfare is in the area of thoughts, to destroy arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God. We argue against abortion because abortion goes against the knowledge of God. We argue against same sex marriage because it goes against the knowledge of God. We argue against all the lofty inane opinions of the world because they go against the knowledge of God. And the goal of Paul’s word here is to take every thought captive to obey Christ. Imagine our country if every person took every thought captive to obey Christ. Might eliminate much of the Democratic party! Might eliminate much of the Republican party! Probably would completely destroy Hollywood!

 

 

  • Clinging to God’s Will

 

Next is to cling to God’s will. The most dramatic example we have of this is when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:42, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Jesus adhered to His Father’s will. Even when it meant His path to the cross, He clung to what God desired of Him. This is the mindset that Paul encourages in Philippians 2,

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

Have this mind, have this attitude that clings to God’s will...for Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” There is much to say about God’s will but one thing for sure is obedience is a key to clinging to God’s will.

 

  • Clinging to God’s Kingdom

 

As we cultivate the mind of Christ as the way we think, we need to cling to God’s kingdom. Two scriptures come to mind as we think on the things of the kingdom. Look with me at Colossians 3:1-3, If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

 

Or Philippians 4:8-9,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

We know how we might be drawn to the things of the world. We are a people easily distracted. The world works to draw us in. Seeking the things of God's kingdom is often perceived as a waste of time. There appears to be no value, no visible production. But seeking the kingdom of God means we go against the grain of the world. Jesus promised that if we seek God's kingdom, everything we need for life will be provided for us (Matt. 6:33).

 

  • Clinging to God

 

In essence this is all about clinging to God. We cling to God by clinging to his word and his will and his kingdom, and we can also think about clinging directly to God.

 

Psalm 16:8 I have set the Lord always before me;

 

Keep our focus on God.

 

Deuteronomy 4:4 But you who held fast (cleaved) to the Lord your God are all alive today.

 

Keep our hold on God.

 

Mark 12:29-31 We set the Lord before us and cleave unto Him by loving Him with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul. ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

 

Keep our love on God.

 

If we want to live in a manner worthy of the call of Jesus Christ, we must seek the mind of Christ by clinging to His Word, His Will, and His Kingdom, which, in the end, is clinging to God Himself. Hold fast , Cling!, and enjoy the journey! Amen.