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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1185

October 12, 2014                                                                                            Psalm 27

Dr. Ed Pettus                                                                                                  Colossians 3:1-17

 

“What Do We Seek?”

 

Last Sunday we examined those whom the Lord seeks.  In John 4 we read that the Lord seeks those who worship in spirit and truth.  In Luke 19 Jesus seeks the lost and saves them.   Those two passages are essentially the only two that speak about those whom the Lord seeks.  God does search hearts in other parts of the Bible, but only those two passages specifically talk about people he seeks.  Today I want to flip the coin to the other side and ask: what do we seek?  What does the Bible reveal about our search?  God seeks us to save us; God seeks those who worship him in spirit and truth, but what then does the Bible say about our seeking? 

 

We certainly seek lots of things in our lives:  security, wealth, comfort, companionship, friends, belonging, food, shelter, clothing, pleasure, possessions, health, joy, peace, justice, and love.   There are certainly more things we seek.  Each of us would add to the list that which is uniquely ours.  We also know that sometimes we seek the wrong things, or maybe the right things in the wrong places.  You may remember the old song sung by Johnny Lee, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”  Other times our passions are misguided – we seek things that glorify self, for instance, instead of bringing glory to God.  We are all seekers.

 

Too often we seek that which we think will give us life without realizing we are seeking to replace God.  It might be glory or fame or riches.  It could be dominance or power.  And we might look to the culture, to ourselves or others, to drugs or anything addictive.  What we seek is wholeness and fulfillment and we will try lots of things in this world until we come to realize that nothing suffices outside of God himself.  This is why the Bible says many times to seek the Lord.  It is expressed in lots of ways: seeking God in prayer, in worship, in his word, in praise, in his kingdom, or in things above. 

 

            Take for example a situation where people had acted inappropriately:

2 Chronicles 30:18-20 (ESV)

18 For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed.  For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's rules of cleanness.” 20 And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

 

In this case the people had their heart in the right place, but they failed to follow the rules of cleansing prior to eating the Passover meal.  But because they had set their hearts to seek God, he healed them!  We might mess things up, but a heart that seeks God can overcome a lot of our failures.

 

            Far too often God sees our failure:

Psalm 14:1-3 (ESV)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.  The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

 

            Perhaps we learn from Psalm 14 that when we fail to seek after God we become even more corrupt.  We forget God and we become foolish.  Thankfully, the Lord loved us to the point of seeking to save us through Jesus Christ.

 

            One who properly does understand and seeks God often does so in the context of worship.  So I want to lift worship as the first point for this message on seeking God. 

Psalm 63:1-3 (ESV)

63 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

 

            We recognize that, at our deepest level, the soul, we have a thirst for God.  We have a hunger for God.  The Psalmist sees the power and glory of God in the sanctuary, the place of worship.  It is in this context that we learn the truth that nothing else in this world can satisfy the soul.  Nothing else we might seek can fulfill the deepest self.  We might look in other places for a time, but when we truly understand the way, and the truth, and the life, we know that God is our only hope and salvation. 

 

Turn with me to Psalm 73, (pg. 465). This Psalm is also a game changer when the Psalmist enters into worship.  Start at verse 3…

 

For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.  Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.  Their eyes swell out through fatness;
    their hearts overflow with follies.  They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.

 

The Psalmist is envious of all the wrong things.  He is looking in all the wrong places for life and security and goodness.  Prosperity, as he saw it, means no pains, no troubles, no problems.  And so he languishes because he was seeking to live a good life.  He says in verse 13…


13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.

 

What’s the use if I live a good life and the wicked do not but they get all the goodies?  His search has led to confusion.  Then he goes to worship!  Verse 16…
 

16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.  18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.  19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!

 

            Seek the Lord in worship – to praise, to pray, to give thanks, to celebrate God.  Worship in spirit and truth and things will gain their proper perspective.  Worship is one key to seeking God.

           

Second, there is a connection between seeking God and the word of God.  Psalm 119 is a strong advocate of this! 

 

Psalm 119:1-3 (ESV)

 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!

 

Psalm 119:154-156 (ESV)

154 Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!  155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes.  156 Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your rules.

 

The first (vs. 1-3) is a positive note of seeking God by walking in the law and keeping his testimonies.  The second (vs. 154-156) is a negative note in that the wicked are far from salvation because they fail to seek God’s word.  There is life in the word and death apart from it.  There is the news of redemption in the word but salvation eludes those who ignore God’s commandment.  I would encourage all of us to enter into God’s word as a way to seek after God.

Worship and Word – ways we seek the Lord.

 

            Our two readings for this morning center around two things, seeking the things that are above and seeking the face of God.  Let’s look at Colossians 3.  Turn in your pew Bible to page 957.

 

Colossians 3:1-3 (ESV)

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.

 

Our lives are in Christ, therefore, we are called to seek those things above, to set our minds on things above.  Now the question you might ask is: what are those things?  Well, I think the rest of Colossians 3 gives us at least part of the answer.  Avoid the things of the earth and, instead, seek the things above.

First, what does Paul reveal about the things of the earth?  Look at verses 5 and 8…

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

 

            This is a list of behaviors.  It is not necessarily the things of earth, but the things of our way of life.  Get rid of those things that bring problems and pain to relationships and to our relationship with God. 

 

Second, Paul points us to the things above, verses 12-17.

 

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Once again the things above are examples of the way we ought to live: compassion, kindness, forgiving, patient, and above all, loving.  We do that by letting Christ rule in our hearts, by giving thanks, and by being in the word of Christ.  We do that by singing in worship.  What we see here, as well as in the Psalms I mentioned before, is that we seek God in our worship and in his word.  This is how we seek the things above.

 

            The last part that I want to highlight this morning is seeking God’s face.  Two places mention seeking in Psalm 27: verses 3-5 and 7-9.  Look again at this Psalm (pg. 437).

 

Psalm 27:3-5 (ESV)

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.  For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

 

            We have seen this before, again, in the context of worship.  God is sought in the temple and God is understood as a protector.  The Psalmist, as in Psalm 73, seeks God in worship and God reveals himself as a refuge.

 

Look now at verse 7…in the NRSV it is a little different than the ESV…what they have in common are the three mentions of the word “face”.

 

Psalm 27:7-9 (ESV)

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me!  You have said, “Seek my face.”  My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”  9Hide not your face from me.  Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help.  Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!

 

The first observation is that God says, “Seek my face.”  God commands this. 

The second observation: my heart says to God – “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”  Now we might think that this is similar to our soul seeking after God, and I believe it is.  It is again the recognition that the deepest part of our self knows the true One to seek.  Our God is the only one worthy!

The third observation: the pray-er pleads with God not to hide his face. 

 

What does it mean to seek God’s face?  The face represents the presence of God.  We are only truly present with one another when we are face to face.  I’m sorry to tell you technologically savvy folks, but Facebook is an illusion!  We cannot be present through means outside of physically in the same place.  Something is lost in our world when we can operate without seeing another’s face.  Self checkout, ATMs, drive thru, emails, chat rooms, all these kinds technological things are chipping away at the human element of face to face presence.  Now, there are many advantages to technology, but we cannot let that technology destroy the power of being present and seeing the face of one another.  Facebook is a great title simply because we know in our hearts that seeing the face brings us closer together.  You know, I could just email this message to you and we could save all this time of gathering together to see one another’s faces.  But there is something to this worship hour that is like no other hour in your week.  There is something powerful in seeing one another and seeking each other’s presence and together seeking the face of God in worship. 

           

            Seeking God’s face is basically seeking his presence, not a literal face.  We seek the face of God in order to know God and for God to know us.  We turn our face to God, that is, we turn our life to God worshipping in spirit and truth.  We seek God to turn his face to us, to turn his life giving presence toward us.  This is why Psalm 27 says, “Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help.  Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!”  In God’s face, that is, in his presence, there is help and salvation; there is life! 

 

Two quick references for you: Psalm 30:6-7, “As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’  By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.” 

 

Another is Psalm 104:27-29 where people and animals look to God for everything, “These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.  28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.  29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.”

 

            When God hides his face, that is, when God’s presence is no longer with us, we are dismayed – we die – we return to the dust!  We cannot live without God’s presence; therefore, we seek his presence continually.  We seek his face.  We seek the Lord.

 

Seek the Lord in worship and word.  Seek the Lord in the things above.  Seek the Lord by seeking his face and may God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us (Psalm 67:1, ESV).  Amen.

 

Benediction:

Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.